LAFAYETTE – No. 16-ranked Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Softball closed the Mardi Gras Invitational at Lamson Park with a split on Sunday, falling to Bradley on a late-game home run and posting a run-rule win over Mississippi Valley.
Maria Schroder’s two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning pulled Bradley ahead 2-1, which was the final margin for the Braves (9-6). That answered a bases-loaded RBI single by Louisiana’s Kelli Martinez which had broken a scoreless tie in the top half of the inning.
The Ragin’ Cajuns (11-4) wasted little time putting the loss behind them, scoring eight runs in the second inning against Mississippi Valley (2-11) and cruised to a 19-0 run-rule win in five innings. DJ Sanders homered twice as part of a 3-for-3 showing at the plate and tallied a team-high five RBI.
The loss to Bradley snapped the Ragin’ Cajuns season-high six-game win streak. The shutout of Mississippi Valley was the pitching staff’s second of the Mardi Gras Invitational (W, 3-0 vs. Maryland) and third overall for the season.
Louisiana now heads toward the final leg of its season-opening, 23-game homestand as the calendar turns over to March. Up next is the Ragin’ Cajuns Invitational set for Friday-Sunday, March 3-5 followed by a midweek doubleheader with Baylor on March 7 which closes out the homestand.
Louisiana vs. Bradley
The Braves pitching staff managed to keep the Ragin’ Cajuns off balance. They also worked around the heart of the order which led to Louisiana being walked 11 times total and notching only one base hit.
Alex Stewart, who scattered five hits over six innings, battled with Bradley’s Emily Visnic for the first 4-2/3 innings. Jaelen Hull was able to close the door for the Braves, escaping a bases-loaded jam after Martinez’s single broke the scoreless tie and stranding two more Cajuns in the seventh inning.
The Ragin’ Cajuns defense came through with key stops early to keep Bradley off the scoreboard until Schroder’s heroics.
Kara Gremillion initiated a double play in the second inning to close a threat after a one-out double. An outfield assist from Taylor Terrio threw out the lead runner at third base on a single with no outs in the fourth inning, then after an error placed another runner at third base Gremillion initiated a rundown that wiped out the runner.
After missing an opportunity to score on a bases-loaded situation in the fifth inning, Martinez capitalized in the sixth with a two-out slap single into shallow left field that plated Sanders (leadoff walk) for a 1-0 lead.
Kelly Kapp led off the Braves’ half of the sixth with an infield single. Stewart, who had allowed only one hit since the double in the second inning, surrendered a home run to Schroeder that allowed Bradley to erase the deficit.
Louisiana got runners aboard in the seventh inning as Hull worked around Aleah Craighton and Sanders with one-out walks. Daniella Chavez fouled out near the third base bag, after runners moved up to second and third on a wild pitch Beth Ashley struck out swinging to end the threat.
Louisiana vs. Mississippi Valley
Sanders capped off the scoring in the eight-run second inning against Mississippi Valley with a three-run home run and Louisiana was on its way to the dominant win.
The Ragin’ Cajuns would score in each of their final three at bats in piling up a season-high 19 runs. Nine different players contributed to the 14-hit attack including Chelsea Lotief (single) and Abby Sterling (home run) who each collected their first career collegiate base hit.
Five pitchers saw work in the circle with Alyssa Denham receiving the start. Macey Smith, who took over after the first inning, pitched two hitless innings of relief and was credited with the win.
After Lexie Comeaux delivered an RBI single and stole home on a double steal in a two-run third inning that brought the lead over the Devilettes to 10-0, Sanders’ second home run of the afternoon and a two-run triple from Kassidy Zeringue highlighted a five-spot in the fourth inning that grew the advantage to 15-0.
Louisiana tacked on four additional runs in the fifth inning with a moonshot homer over the wall in left center from Sterling providing the finishing touches.
The win moved head coach Michael Lotief within five wins of his 700th career win. His career record stands at 695-172-1 (.801). With eight games remaining on the season-opening homestand, there’s a good chance he can notch win No. 700 in front of the Ragin’ Cajuns faithful.