LAFAYETTE – Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Softball captured the 2017 Sun Belt Conference championship on Senior Day at Lamson Park following a 9-0 (5 inn.), 13-4 (5 inn.) doubleheader sweep of Coastal Carolina.
The 16th-ranked Ragin’ Cajuns (38-6, 19-1 Sun Belt) earned the program’s fourth consecutive Sun Belt Conference championship and 15th in the 17 seasons of league competition since 2001.
Louisiana also clinched the No. 1 seed – and bye from first round play – in the upcoming Sun Belt Conference Tournament being held May 10-13 in Troy, Ala.
Senior Haley Hayden moved into a tie with Nerissa Myers for the program record for career runs scored (243) after crossing home plate four times in the twinbill.
Louisiana and Coastal Carolina (29-21, 7-15 Sun Belt) are scheduled to complete the weekend series at 1 p.m. on Sunday, weather permitting. The game can be heard in the Lafayette area on SportsRadio ESPN 1420-AM and worldwide on the RadioPup app. A live video stream and live statistics is available at RaginCajuns.com.
Alex Stewart picked up both wins, improving her season Sun Belt record to 12-0 and her career SBC mark to 33-1. Stewart limited Coastal to two hits, struck out six and combined with fellow senior Victoria Brown for a combined shutout in Game 1. She then tossed three innings of relief in Game 2, yielding just one earned run and three hits after replacing Alyssa Denham in the second inning.
Daniella Chavez delivered a pair of multiple-RBI games and totaled four RBI on the day. Aleah Craighton teamed with Chavez to boost the offense in the opener, tallying three RBI and hitting a two-run homer in the fourth inning to reach the run-rule margin. Lexie Comeaux provided the big bat in the nightcap, netting six RBI off a two-run single and grand slam.
Louisiana reached double digits in runs for the 10th time in 16 games in April. The offense scored six-plus for the 34th time in 44 games (34-0 record).
Adding in the 22 runs scored on Saturday, the Ragin’ Cajuns have produced 62 runs over the past five Sun Belt outings (scored 40 in Georgia State series).
The recent trend of big first innings got Louisiana started on the way to the opening victory. The first eight batters reached base before an out was recorded and by the time the first putout was made six runs had crossed the plate.
After Kara Gremillion and DJ Sanders singled, Hayden drew a walk to load the bases. Walks to Craighton and Comeaux brought home the first two runs. Chavez then floated a two-run single into right field – the first of three straight singles that pushed the early margin to 6-0.
The Chanticleers lone threat came in the third inning after a two-out bunt single from Taty Forbes followed by a double from Adriana Toro placed runners at second and third. Stewart induced a grounder from Kailey Mellen to close the frame unharmed.
An RBI ground out from Gremillion increased the lead to 7-0 in the bottom of the third. Two batters into the fourth inning the scoring was completed as Hayden led off with a single into left field and Craighton deposited a two-run homer over the right field wall.
Brown worked around a pair of one-out walks to close out the pitching staff’s 11th shutout of the season. After a pop up from Toro, she fanned Mellen for the final out.
Forbes led off Game 2 with a bunt single, stole second and scored on a Mellen sacrifice fly as Coastal took the lead in the first at bat.
Chanticleers starter Ashley Guillette came within a strike of keeping the early momentum on her team’s side. However, Comeaux connected on a 1-2 pitch and looped a single into shallow center field to score Sanders and Hayden, who both walked, for a 2-1 lead.
A Chavez RBI double after a dropped foul ball made it 3-1 before the first inning finished, then the Ragin’ Cajuns ran away from Coastal with a pair of five-run frames.
Guillette was a victim of two-out production again in the second inning. A two-out bases-loaded walk issued to Craighton kept the inning alive for Comeaux who hit a line drive grand slam into the left field bleachers to extend the lead to 8-1.
Coastal received a home run from Mellen in the top of the third inning. Louisiana’s second consecutive five-run inning followed in the bottom half and led to an early finish of the contest.
Hayden opened the scoring in the third inning with an RBI single and later scored on a wild pitch, a run which tied her with Myers for the program’s career record for runs scored.
The Chanticleers took advantage of a pair of two-out errors by the Cajuns defense in the fourth inning to plate two unearned runs and cut the deficit to 13-4. Senior Macey Smith worked a 1-2-3 fifth inning to finish off the sweep.
– Louisiana and Coastal Carolina met on the softball diamond for the first time in program history.
– The Ragin’ Cajuns extended the school and Sun Belt Conference record of consecutive conference series won to 36 straight (dates back to March 2013).
– Prior to the start of the doubleheader, the Ragin’ Cajuns 2017 senior class was recognized in a pregame ceremony. The nine seniors include: Sarah Arceneaux, Victoria Brown, Haley Hayden, Kendall Smith, Macey Smith, Alex Stewart, Taylor Terrio, Corin Voinche and Kassidy Zeringue.
– Louisiana has now scored in the first inning 22 times this season. The squad has produced 31 runs in the first inning over the past five games (since Georgia State series).
– The Ragin’ Cajuns hitters drew 19 walks in the doubleheader (season-high 13 in Game 2). Louisiana has drawn 241 walks which moves the team ahead of Auburn (236) for the national lead.
– The Ragin’ Cajuns have been one of the nation’s most productive offenses in April. The squad has piled up 163 runs off 154 hits in 16 games during the month. Since April 1, Louisiana is batting .376.
– Haley Hayden is closing in on the program’s career Top 5 hits list. She added two more hits on Saturday to push her career total to 265 which leaves her 11 shy of fifth place (Jana Mower, 276).
– Alex Stewart improved her season record to 19-3. The senior hurler is one win away from posting her second straight 20-win season (went 29-6 in 2016).