LAFAYETTE, La. -- Amanda Minahan and Blair Johnson each delivered two-run home runs in No. 22 South Alabama 4-2, eight-inning win against No. 12 Louisiana-Lafayette in round-four action at the 2014 Sun Belt Conference tournament on Friday, as the two-seeded Jaguars fell the top seed to advance to the winner-take-all championship game.
USA (40-11) seeks its third consecutive SBC tournament title and will face the winner of six-seeded Louisiana-Monroe and Louisiana-Lafayette. ULM upset four-seed Western Kentucky in an elimination game to advance to the play-in versus the Ragin' Cajuns Friday night.
Hannah Campbell went the distance in the circle for USA, striking out three to one walk and allowing only a pair of runs (one earned) on 12 hits.
Campbell and the Jaguar defense snapped a 13-game Louisiana-Lafayette win streak and held the Ragin' Cajuns to their lowest run total in 39 games. The last time ULL was held to fewer than three runs was in a 3-0 shutout loss to James Madison on Feb. 22 at the 2014 NFCA Leadoff Classic in Clearwater, Florida.
USA tallied six hits on the day, Minahan and Emily Messer accounting for four of them, as the pair led the Jags at the plate on Friday, each going 2-for-3 and combining for two runs and two RBI. Johnson was 1-for-3 with two RBI and a run scored. Chloe Rathburn was 1-for-4 on the day, Gwen Jones pinch-running for her and eventually scoring USA's first run on Minahan's homer.
ULL jumped ahead 1-0 in the bottom of the second when Shelbi Redfearn scored on a one-out, bases-loaded passed ball after two singles and a walk. Campbell limited any further damage by forcing consecutive pop ups out of leadoff Natalie Fernandez and Hayley Hayden.
The Ragin' Cajuns stranded five runners to USA's two in the next five innings, until the Jaguars went ahead 2-1 on Minahan's one-out, two-run home run to left center that also scored Jones in the top of the seventh inning.
ULL tied scoring at two-all in the bottom of the seventh, however, after three consecutive no-out singles, the last from Samantha Walsh scoring Hayden to equalize. After Shellie Landry provided a fourth single to reload the bases, Campbell forced two pop ups and a foul out to keep the hosts from going ahead.
Earlier in the contest, in the sixth inning, specifically, Messer singled, moved to second on a Kaitlyn Griffith sacrifice and advanced to third on a Stephanie Pilkington groundout to second. Johnson was then brought to the plate facing two outs, but flied out down the right field line.
In the top of the eighth, the same sequence occurred, and this time, Johnson delivered.
Hayden singled with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, but Campbell scooped Lexie Elkins's grounder and threw her out at first to end the contest. Hamilton fell to 23-3 on the year after giving up four runs (all earned) on six hits.