Cajuns reach 40 wins, set Sun Belt wins record with sweep of ULM

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MONROE – Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Softball opened its final Sun Belt Conference series of the 2017 season with a 4-0, 6-5 doubleheader sweep of ULM on Saturday at Geo-Surfaces Field on the ULM campus.

With the sweep, Louisiana (41-6, 22-1 Sun Belt) reached 40 wins for the 19th straight season – a streak that dates back to 1999 – and for the 27th time overall in the 37-year history of the program.

The 15th-ranked Ragin’ Cajuns also extended their streak of consecutive Sun Belt Conference series won to 37 straight dating back to March 2013. It’s the fourth consecutive season (2014-17) that the squad has won every SBC series.

Alex Stewart (21-3, 1.89 ERA) pitched a four-hit shutout, improving her season Sun Belt record to 14-0 and her career SBC mark to 35-1, and Kara Gremillion (two RBI singles) and DJ Sanders (sacrifice fly, solo home run) posted two RBI apiece to lead the Ragin’ Cajuns offense to the 4-0 win in the opening game of the twinbill.

Haley Hayden’s team-leading 18th multiple-hit game of the season included a two-run home run that was part of six straight runs the Ragin’ Cajuns scored to open the nightcap. The Warhawks (29-25, 11-15 Sun Belt) chipped away at the lead with five unanswered runs in the middle innings, but Kelli Martinez robbed the hosts of a potential go-ahead home run in the sixth inning and Stewart completed a two-inning save with a perfect seventh inning to wrap up the sweep.

Louisiana and ULM conclude the weekend series, and regular season play, with a 12 p.m. single game on Sunday. Fans can hear the contest on SportsRadio ESPN 1420-AM in the Lafayette area and the RadioPup app worldwide. Links for a live video stream and live statistics can be accessed at RaginCajuns.com on the softball schedule page.

After Stewart and ULM’s Paige Porter Murray swapped scoreless frames over the first two innings of the opening game, the Ragin’ Cajuns were able to push across two runs in the top half of the third to end the stalemate.

Corin Voinchè led off the inning with a single up the middle, followed by an infield single from Kassidy Zeringue. A Martinez sacrifice bunt moved them to second and third, then Gremillion singled to left field for a 1-0 lead. Sanders scored Zeringue from third on a sacrifice fly and Louisiana led 2-0.

The Cajuns added two runs in the top half of the fifth, using the Gremillion-Sanders combo once again to extend their lead to 4-0. Zeringue led off the inning with her second infield single and scored on Gremillion’s second RBI single. Sanders followed with her nation-leading 28th home run of the season, which was changed to a solo shot after it was ruled that Gremillion didn’t touch second base.

Stewart held the Warhawks hitless until a leadoff single in the fourth inning. She collected three strikeouts and did not walk a hitter in the contest as she pitched a shutout for the third consecutive start.

Louisiana outhit ULM 8-4 in Game1, led by Gremillion and Zeringue with two hits each. Gremillion posted her 16th multiple-hit game, while Zeringue captured her 11th multiple-hit game overall and fourth over a five-game span. Sanders’ two RBI marked her team-leading 18th multiple-RBI outing.

Louisiana started the scoring early in Game 2 by plating three runs in the top half of the first. An RBI single by Aleah Craighton scored Gremillion (leadoff walk) from second base with the initial run and the Cajuns were able to add two more runs later in the inning on a misplayed fly ball.

The Ragin’ Cajuns extended their lead to 6-0 in the third inning, with the big blast coming on a Hayden’s two-run homer, her 12th of the season. Sanders who led off the inning with a single up the middle scored on the Hayden blast. Craighton also singled and later scored on an errant throw.

ULM got on the board in the bottom of the fourth as Sydney McKay led off with a double to left center field and later scored on a Jessie Watts sacrifice fly. A two-run double from Jayden Mount in the Warhawks next at bat trimmed the Louisiana lead to 6-3.

Sami Billeaudeau singled home Melanie Coyne with two outs in the sixth inning to draw the Warhawks within a run at 6-5. Martinez made the defensive play of the day to end the inning as she reached over the left field fence to rob pinch hitter Brie Wrobel of a potential go-ahead home run and keep Stewart’s save opportunity intact.

Stewart retired the Warhawks in order in the seventh inning to close the contest out and add a save to her shutout tossed in the day’s opening action.

Freshman pitcher Alyssa Denham improved to 15-2 overall and 7-1 in Sun Belt play with the win. She worked five innings, scattered five hits and struck out three.

Pitchers Rachael Murphy, Watts and game one starter Murray, who pitched in succession after starter Sydney Wader was pulled after the first inning, combined to hold Louisiana to three runs over the final six innings to give ULM a chance at the rally. Watts pitched four scoreless innings, allowed only two hits and struck out three Cajun hitters while the Warhawks made their push over the middle innings.

DIAMOND NOTES
– Louisiana extended its series win streak over ULM to 17 games. The Ragin’ Cajuns now lead the all-time series 104-27.
– Haley Hayden’s two-hit effort in Game 2 upped her season hits total to 58. She’s now two hits shy of posting a fourth consecutive season of at least 60 hits.
– Now at 28 home runs, DJ Sanders is two shy of joining Lexie Elkins (32 in 2015) and Danyele Gomez (30 in 2006) as Ragin’ Cajuns to hit 30 home runs in a single season.
– The Game 1 home run by DJ Sanders was her 50th career home run.
– Dating back to the Georgia State series (April 22-23), Alex Stewart has allowed just three earned runs and 14 hits over the last 31-2/3 innings pitched in Sun Belt play.
– Louisiana’s pair of three-run innings in Game 2 increased the total number of three-plus run innings over the last four weeks to 24.
– Kara Gremillion reached base in both contests to extend her string of consecutive game reaching base to 39. She’s reached base in all 23 Sun Belt games this season.
– The win in Game 2 was the Ragin’ Cajuns 22nd Sun Belt victory of the season, establishing a new record for league victories. The previous SBC-wins record mark was 21 recorded by the 2012 squad (21-3).

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