SOFTBALL: Cajuns complete sweep with power surge from Sanders

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LAFAYETTE – Powered by two home runs and a career-high seven RBI from DJ Sanders, 18th-ranked Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Softball completed a three-game Sun Belt Conference sweep of UTA with an 11-2 (6 inn.) win on Sunday at Lamson Park.

Sanders belted a grand slam in the third inning to open a 5-0 lead and later hit a three-run homer in the sixth inning to cap off the scoring for Louisiana (20-5, 3-0 Sun Belt) and end the game early by the run rule.

Alyssa Denham (8-1, 1.79 ERA) picked up her second win of the series, as she held UTA (15-13, 2-4 Sun Belt) to four hits over six innings, struck out six and allowed only one earned run. Denham started the contest with 3-1/3 innings of no-hit softball.

The Ragin’ Cajuns opened the series with a 6-5, 6-2 doubleheader sweep on Saturday which clinched the series victory and extended the program’s streak of consecutive SBC series won to 30 straight.

The game brought an end to Louisiana’s season-opening homestand which concluded at 25 games. The Ragin’ Cajuns now move on to their first road games of the 2017 season being held Saturday-Sunday, March 25-26 in Mobile, Ala., at South Alabama.

The run production increased Sanders’ season RBI total to a team-and Sun Belt-leading 30 RBI. She posted her 12th and 13th home runs of the season, also a team-leading figure.

Haley Hayden went 2-for-3 at the plate for her second multiple-hit game of the series and ninth of the season. She scored two runs to increase her career total to 217 which places her two runs shy of surpassing Holly Tankersely (218 runs) for third place on the career list.

Kara Gremillion was the third Cajun with a two-hit game. Gremillion finished 2-for-4 at the plate, picking up her fifth multiple-hit game of the month and eighth of the season.

Aided by a triple play in the second inning, after the bases were loaded with no outs, the Mavericks and starting pitcher Sam Clakley were able to carry a scoreless affair over to the third inning.

Denham prevented a momentum shift by continuing her early-game string of consecutive batters retired in the top of the third inning. Louisiana then jumped ahead in the bottom half with a five-run frame.

Three consecutive one-out singles from Kelli Martinez, Gremillion and Hayden resulted in the game’s first run for the Ragin’ Cajuns, then after an Aleah Craighton hit by pitch loaded the bases a grand slam from Sanders increased the lead to 5-0.

After the Mavericks picked up single runs in the fifth (bases-loaded walk) and sixth (solo home run), the Ragin’ Cajuns put the game away by the mercy rule with a six-spot in the bottom of the sixth capped off by the three-run home run from Sanders.

The early ending in the sixth inning was set up by back-to-back walks by Lexie Comeaux and Corin Voinchè and Kassidy Zeringue being hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs.

Pinch runner Chelsea Lotief scored on a passed ball, Abby Sterling lifted a sacrifice fly to deep left field and Gremillion looped an RBI single into right field to increase the lead to 8-2. Three batters later and Sanders’ second homer of the afternoon produced the 11-2 final margin.

Clakley was charged with her second loss of the series for UTA. She was responsible for seven of the runs Louisiana pushed across in 4-1/3 innings of work in the circle.

Sandra Mendoza, who drew a bases-loaded walk in the fifth inning, and Whitney Walton, who hit a solo home run in the sixth inning, accounted for both of the runs the Mavericks drove in.

Diamond Notes
– Kara Gremillion (4-for-10) and Haley Hayden (4-for-8) each led the Ragin’ Cajuns with four hits in the series.
– Boosted by the 7-RBI performance on Sunday, DJ Sanders closed the weekend with a series-high seven RBI.
– With the season just moving past the halfway point, DJ Sanders is five home runs shy of equaling her personal single-season best 18 hit as a sophomore in 2016.
– For the 25th time in as many outings this season, the Ragin’ Cajuns pitching staff held the opposition to five runs or less.
– With the two home runs from DJ Sanders, the Ragin’ Cajuns collected multiple home runs for the 10th time in the past 11 games. Louisiana launched five home runs in the UTA series, giving the team 34 dating back to the Mardi Gras Invitational (since Feb. 23).
– In her first career Sun Belt Conference series, freshman pitcher Alyssa Denham yielded just seven hits, allowed only four runs (three earned) and struck out 14 batters in 13 innings.
– Alyssa Denham record her top two strikeout performances of the season against UTA. She struck out a season-high eight in Game 2 on Saturday and fanned six more on Sunday.
– With the hit by pitch in the third inning, Aleah Craighton has now reached base in all 25 games this season.
– The six runs scored in the sixth inning increased Louisiana’s total runs scored over the final two innings this season to 55. The Ragin’ Cajuns hold a 55-21 edge in runs scored over the sixth and seventh innings combined.
– Corin Voinchè made her first start of the season, getting the nod at first base. With Voinchè starting at first base, Haley Hayden started in right field.
– Louisiana increased its all-time series lead over UTA to 24-5. The Ragin’ Cajuns now hold an 11-1 edge in Sun Belt Conference meetings.
– The three-game sweep of UTA moves Louisiana within 11 wins of the program’s 300th Sun Belt Conference victory. Now in the 17th season of regular season play, the Ragin’ Cajuns all-time Sun Belt record stands at 289-48 (.858).
– With a crowd of 1,908 on hand the Ragin’ Cajuns have now drawn at least 1,700 for all 15 playing dates at Lamson Park in 2017. The weekend series total attendance of 3,969 increased the season total attendance to 30,178 which is just shy of the school record 31,261 set in 2016.

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