LAFAYETTE – Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Softball produced another big-run first inning and received two home runs from Aleah Craighton in a 14-6 (5 inn.) win over Georgia State in the series finale on Sunday at Lamson Park.
After Georgia State took a 2-0 lead off a first-inning home run by Megan Litumbe, the 17th-ranked Ragin’ Cajuns (36-6, 17-1 Sun Belt) plated seven runs in the bottom half of the inning to take the lead for good.
Craighton, who homered in the seven-run first inning, belted a three-run homer in the fourth inning to help the Cajuns begin to pull away from the Panthers (28-20, 13-8 Sun Belt) who had cut the deficit to 7-6 with a four-spot in the third inning.
Alex Stewart picked up the win in relief – her second win of the series – by holding the Panthers hitless over the final 2-1/3 innings. She halted the GSU rally in the third inning, then after a hit by pitch to start the fourth inning retired the final six batters she faced.
The Ragin’ Cajuns, who completed the series sweep of the Panthers, entered the day with the series victory in hand – extending the school and Sun Belt record of consecutive conference series wins to 35 straight since March 2013 – after claiming the Saturday doubleheader 19-4 (5 inn.), 7-1.
No. 17 Louisiana remains at Lamson Park next weekend and closes out the home portion of the 2017 schedule by hosting Coastal Carolina in a Sun Belt series. The Ragin’ Cajuns and Chanticleers will meet in a 2 p.m. doubleheader on Saturday and 1 p.m. single game on Sunday.
Craighton completed the game 3-for-3 at the plate with her two home runs generating a game-high four RBI. The junior outfielder picked up her first multiple home run game of the season and has now hit six home runs since the Troy series (April 8-9).
Kara Gremillion (2-for-3, 2 runs, 2 RBI), Corin Voinche (2-for-3, 1 run) and Kassidy Zeringue (2-for-2, 2 runs) joined Craighton in posting multiple hits as Louisiana totaled 10 in reaching double digit hits for the eighth time in April.
GSU pitchers opted to work around DJ Sanders, issuing four walks to the nation’s leading home run hitter.
The Ragin’ Cajuns seven runs in the first inning came a day after pushing across 13 in the first inning of the series opener. Louisiana scored in the first inning all three games against Panthers pitching, piling up 22 runs.
Louisiana’s early deficit was short-lived. After back-to-back walks by Gremillion and Sanders, Haley Hayden opened the scoring with a three-run home run which gave the Cajuns the lead for good.
Gremillion capped off the first-inning scoring spree, and increased the lead to 7-2, with a two-run double which knocked GSU starting pitcher Kinsley Jennings out of the contest before the first inning concluded.
Freshman pitcher Alyssa Denham ran into trouble in the third inning after a two-run single by Kensey Caldwell and two-run double from Kirsten McMonigle drew Georiga State within a run at 7-6. Stewart began her relief effort by inducing a fly ball out from Mandy Blackwell to retire the side
GSU reliever Amanda Chance kept her team’s deficit at a run into the fourth inning. However, Craighton made the Panthers pay for a leadoff walk to Gremillion and error which allowed Hayden to reach, by launching the three-run game-changing homer that vaulted the Cajuns into a 10-6 lead.
Louisiana ended the game early in the bottom of the fifth as the Panthers defense committed three fielding errors which led to four runs to resulted in the final margin.
– Haley Hayden scored three runs to up her career total to 239. She is now within 4 runs of equaling Nerissa Myers’ school record 243 scored from 2010-13.
– Haley Hayden’s home run in the first inning was her 11th of the season and seventh in the month of April. The three RBI increased her season total to 52 which is three off of her career-high 55 set as a freshman (2014) and sophomore (2015).
– Aleah Craighton’s three-hit effort and Kara Gremillion’s two-hit effort allowed the duo to finish tied with Lexie Comeaux (5-for-6 on Saturday) to team-high honors of five hits in the weekend series.
– With Sunday’s relief effort, Alex Stewart worked 10-1/3 innings in the series and limited Georgia State to just one run, two hits and a .067 average.
– With the four walks in her four plate appearances, DJ Sanders reached base in all 11 of her plate appearances over the weekend series. Sanders’ weekend work included 4-for-4 at the plate with three home runs, seven RBI, 10 runs scored and a 3.250 slugging percentage.
– The Ragin’ Cajuns increased their series win streak over the Panthers to 18 games and stretched the all-time series lead to 22-2. Louisiana now holds a 12-0 edge in regular season Sun Belt meetings with Georgia State.
– Louisiana produced at least six runs in a game for the 32nd time in 42 games, overall, and 15th time in 18 Sun Belt contests.
– The Ragin’ Cajuns maintained a five-game lead in the loss column over second-place Texas State (14-6 SBC) with six games left in the regular season.