SOFTBALL: Cajuns follow Stewart’s lead in SBC tourney opener

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TROY, Ala. – Alex Stewart struck out a career-high 13 and Aleah Craighton accounted for three RBI in 14th-ranked Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Softball’s 6-0 win over South Alabama on Thursday in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament at the Troy Softball Complex.

The win advanced No. 14 Louisiana (43-6) into the winner’s bracket final of the SBC Tournament on Friday at 11 a.m. The squad will face the winner of Thursday’s second winner’s bracket contest between Texas State and Georgia State.

Stewart (23-3, 1.69 ERA) was in control the entire contest, piling up 10 strikeouts through the first four innings and allowing only four base runners the entire contest. With the two-hit shutout of the Jaguars (34-19) she blanked an opponent for the fifth consecutive start.

Craighton’s RBI tally came off a two-run homer that opened the scoring in the first inning and a sacrifice fly in the fourth inning. She upped her season total to 50 RBI, marking the second straight season she reaches the mark (posted 56 in 2016).

Louisiana out-hit South Alabama 8-2 and got contributions from eight different players.

The Ragin’ Cajuns took hold of the lead in their first at bat when with two outs Craighton’s two-run homer and a solo shot from Lexie Comeaux came in succession providing a 3-0 lead.

Devin Brown relieved USA starting pitcher Destin Vicknair after the first inning and kept the Jaguars’ deficit at three runs over the next two innings.

Louisiana was able to create further distance from Brown and the Jaguars in the bottom of the fourth by posting another crooked number on the scoreboard.

Corin Voinchè led off with a double, then back-to-back infield singles from Kassidy Zeringue and Kelli Martinez loaded the bases with no outs. The Ragin’ Cajuns notched their second three-run inning of the game as DJ Sanders drew a walk, Hayden singled and Craighton lifted a sacrifice fly to push in a run.

Stewart closed strong pitching with a six-run lead. She retired nine of the final 10 batters faced over the final three innings and recorded the career-high setting strikeout after fanning Amanda Minahan for the final out of the sixth inning.

The Ragin’ Cajuns improved to 54-8 all-time in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. The squad won its opening game in the event for the eighth straight year.

Louisiana extend its current winning streak to 11 games and won for the 26th time in the past 27 outings dating back to March 18.

DIAMOND NOTES
– Alex Stewart, who finished undefeated (15-0) in regular season Sun Belt Conference play, remained perfect against league foes this season. In 82-2/3 innings against SBC competition, she has limited the opposition to 20 runs (15 earned) and 50 hits.
– Over her last five starts – all shutouts – Alex Stewart has allowed just 13 hits in 29 innings of work and struck out 35.
– Alex Stewart’s previous career-high strikeout total was 11 reached three different times over the previous two seasons: 2015 at Texas State and 2016 at Troy/vs. Texas State.
– Lexie Comeaux’s first-inning home run was her 10th of the season. The Ragin’ Cajuns now have four hitters with double digit home runs (Sanders, Craighton, Hayden).
– With three-run innings in the first and third inning, Louisiana has now produced 27 innings with at least three runs scored dating back to April 8.
– Aleah Craighton’s two-run home run in the first inning was her 17th homer of the season. She’s one shy of her career-high total 18 hit in 2016.
– Kara Gremillion had her consecutive games reached base streak extend to 41 after being hit by a pitch in the bottom of the first inning.
– The shutout was the pitching staff’s 15th of the season and fifth in the last seven games. Louisiana has held the opposition to two runs or fewer in 30 of 49 games.
– For the 21st time in 23 starts, Alex Stewart held the opposition to two earned runs or fewer. Stewart has been involved in 10 shutouts (3 complete game/7 combined).
– Louisiana picked up its fourth win of the season against South Alabama and extended its series win streak over the Jaguars to six games. The Ragin’ Cajuns now lead the all-time series 28-11.
– The Ragin’ Cajuns and Jaguars met in the Sun Belt Tournament for the eighth time overall and first time since battling for the championship of the 2015 event in San Marcos, Texas. The two programs are now event at 4-4 in SBC Tournament matchups.

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