COLLEGE STATION, Texas – An 11-run scoring spree over the first three innings, led by a career-high seven RBI from Haley Hayden, carried 17th-ranked Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns Softball to an 11-9 win over No. 4 Texas A&M Wednesday evening at the Aggie Softball Complex.
Hayden launched a grand slam in the second inning to increase Louisiana's lead to 6-0, then hit a three-run double to cap off a five-run third inning that upped the lead to 11-2.
The Aggies (37-5) avoided the run rule by scoring four times in the fifth inning, then closed within two runs in the seventh inning following a two-out, two-run single by Kaitlyn Alderink that trimmed the Louisiana lead to 11-9.
Alex Stewart, who took over for Alyssa Denham in the fifth inning, picked up her fourth strikeout in relief to record the final out and secure the Top 25 road win for the Ragin' Cajuns (33-6).
Louisiana returns to Lamson Park Saturday-Sunday, April 22-23 for a three-game Sun Belt series with Georgia State (28-17, 13-5 Sun Belt). There will be a 2pm doubleheader on Saturday and 1pm single game on Sunday.
Hayden's seven RBI increased her career amount to 204. The senior from West Monroe has now reached the 200-mark in career runs, hits and RBI.
DJ Sanders upped her nation-leading home run total to 24 with a two-run shot in the first inning that opened the scoring. She's now tied for the third-most home runs hit in a single season in program history (Lexie Elkins, 2015).
Denham, who started and worked 4-2/3 innings, collected her second victory over a Top 5 team in her rookie season (W, 7-0 vs. No. 4 Alabama on Feb. 19). She limited the Aggies to two runs while the offense built the sizeable margin over the first three innings.
The Ragin' Cajuns table setters, No. 8 hitter Kassidy Zeringue (2-for-4) and No. 9 hitter Kelli Martinez (2-for-2), combined for four hits and played a key role in turning the lineup over in the second and third inning outbursts.
Entering the second inning with a 2-0 lead after Sanders' home run, Zeringue singled into the six-hole to advance Corin Voinchè (leadoff walk) and Martinez laid down a sacrifice bunt which opened up first base leading to a two-out walk issued to Sanders. That set the stage for Hayden's blow which put the Aggies in a deep hole and chased Samantha Show from the circle.
Texas A&M used two-out run production of its own in the bottom of the second inning, with a solo home run from Kristen Cuyos being the first of four straight hits which resulted in a pair of runs trimming the Cajuns lead to 6-2.
Reliever Lexi Smith issued a two-out walk to Voinchè in the top of the third and the Zeringue-Martinez combo made her regret the missed opportunity to close the inning. Zeringue slapped the ball into the ground, got a high hop and reached first base with her second hit of the contest, then Martinez followed with a power slap into center field and the bases were loaded.
Smith hit Gremillion and Sanders worked a walk in an eight-pitch at bat to bring home two runs. Hayden doubled into right center clearing the bases, stretching the lead to 11-2 and knocking out the second Aggies pitcher of the game.
Payton McBride was able to create some stability for Texas A&M in the circle and slow down Louisiana's offense. She held the Cajuns to one hit over the final 4-1/3 innings while the hosts attempted an improbable comeback starting with the four-run fifth inning.
After a leadoff triple from Alderink in the bottom of the sixth and subsequent wild pitch which allowed her to score making it 11-7, Stewart steadied herself and fought through illegal pitch calls which wiped out two would-be putouts. She would go on to record three strikeouts dealing with the middle of the Aggies order to hold the lead at four runs.
- Since April 1, Haley Hayden is batting .531 (17-for-32) with three doubles, five home runs and 22 RBI.
- With the first inning home run, the last seven hits that DJ Sanders has posted have been home runs (dates back to last at bat of Game 2 vs. Troy on April 8).
- Adding in the combined 17 runs and 29 hits from the 2016 NCAA Lafayette Regional final at Lamson Park, the Ragin' Cajuns and Aggies have combined for 37 runs and 51 hits over the last two meetings.
- Louisiana improved to 29-0 when scoring six or more runs. The squad produced double digits for the 15th time.
- Haley Hayden's run scored on her second-inning grand slam was her 234th career tally. She heads into the final three weekends of the regular season nine runs shy of Nerissa Myers' program record 243 scored from 2010-13.
- DJ Sanders picked up three more RBI, marking the 11th time she's reached the mark. She leads Louisiana with 15 multiple-RBI games.
- Louisiana made its first appearance in College Station since March 2008. The Ragin' Cajuns increased their all-time series lead over the Aggies to 15-13.
- Wednesday's game marked the final non-conference game for the Ragin' Cajuns. The final non-conference mark of the 2017 regular season is 19-5.