BATON ROUGE – Alex Stewart pitched the third NCAA postseason no-hitter in Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Softball history in a 6-0 win over McNeese on Friday at Tiger Park in the opening round of the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional.
With the win, No. 14 Louisiana (46-6) advanced to the 12 p.m. winner’s bracket final contest on Saturday to face the LSU-Fairfield winner.
Stewart (26-3, 1.57 ERA), who pitched shutout softball for the seventh time in the past eight starts, retired the Cowgirls in order four times and struck out six in collecting her first career no-hitter. She joins Cheryl Longeway (1995 vs. Michigan at WCWS) and Brooke Mitchell (2003 vs. San Diego State at Cal State Fullerton Regional) in achieving the feat in the NCAA Tournament.
The Ragin’ Cajuns outfielders made three critical catches to help Stewart secure the no-hitter. Aleah Craighton robbed Morgan Catron of a would-be home run in the second inning, then in the sixth inning Kelli Martinez and Haley Hayden made diving catches on shallow fly balls.
“That no-hitter is a credit to my teammates,” Stewart said postgame reflecting on the performance. “They took away hits with fantastic Top 10 plays. I just can’t say enough about my defense.”
It was a scoreless, hitless affair between the Ragin’ Cajuns and Cowgirls through the first 3-1/2 innings of play. Craighton recorded the game’s first hit with a single to lead off the bottom of the 4th and the tie was broken three batters later when Corin Voinchè doubled down the left field line for a 2-0 lead.
“First round games are always a war,” Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Softball head coach Michael Lotief said. “I’m proud of my kids and proud of the way they competed. Alex battled, gutted it out and her teammates played well behind her.
Louisiana was able to create breathing room for Stewart in the fifth inning. Hayden singled into right field where the ball was misplayed, the Cowgirls second error of the frame, allowing Kara Gremillion (fielder’s choice) and DJ Sanders (fielding error) to cross home plate and extend the lead to 4-0.
Hayden later scored in the fifth on a Lexie Comeaux ground out and Martinez scored on a wild pitch in the sixth inning to complete the scoring.
Stewart worked around a leadoff hit by pitch and two-out walk in the seventh to preserve the shutout and etch her name in the Ragin’ Cajuns history book.
2017 Baton Rouge Softball Regional
UL-LAFAYETTE POSTGAME QUOTES
ULL HEAD COACH MICHAEL LOTIEF OPENING STATEMENT
Q: Just talk about pitching in the game. It was hot. It was swirling. How did you feel? Talk about what you just did.
Q: What was going through your mind when that ball is in the air?
Q. Aleah, this team has been doing it either with pitching or with big hits. For the defense to really shine today, what does it mean about how well rounded this team is?
Q. Aleah, Alex’s performance in the circle, how common is that? Is that just what you guys expect from her? Or what did you think getting a no-hitter today?
Q. Alex, McNeese’s first four hitters of the lineup, that’s not an easy lineup to halt. How did you do it? What was the game plan for that?
Q. Coach, looking forward now, the potential for the first game against LSU since 2013, the first question is how hard have you tried to schedule the Tigers over the past couple of years in the regular season?
Q. Mike, Alex threw the third no-hitter in postseason play in Cajuns history, joins Brooke Mitchell and Cheryl Longeway. Those are two pretty big names. What’s so impressive to you about her effort today?
Q. Alex, the strike zone seemed a little tight for you early. Were you worried about the strike zone and the amount of walks and how many pitches you were having to throw? And, Mike, if she didn’t have a no-hitter, would you have taken her out to conserve some pitches?
Q. No, I’m just saying, were you worried early about having to throw a lot of extra pitches?
Q. This is for Alex and Aleah. What does it mean for you to, I guess, this prospect of playing LSU potentially tomorrow for the first time in five years?
McNeese Head Coach James Landreneau
Coach, Alex’s performance in the circle, obviously, she pitched well, but there were some spectacular defensive plays too. Those ones that you’re going, man, if those fall, it’s a total outcome of the game could be different.
“Yeah, you hate to get into that what if game, and I could tell today — they played outstanding defense today. That’s what wins games. That’s what wins championships is defense. They played it today. So they deserve it.”
Coach, for you, how difficult is it to go against a lineup like the Ragin’ Cajuns?
“It’s difficult. We knew they were a quality team coming in. Their record speaks for itself. They have an explosive offense. But I think all in all our pitchers did a good job of handling that situation. I’d like to see us make some defensive plays behind them and not let that lineup turn over so many times.”
What was it specifically about the catch taking away the home run? Talk about chemistry on the plays here and there. Your team takes some momentum hit early. What does that (inaudible) look like, when you look back at not getting a run?
“That’s a good question. We’ll never really know that. We’d like to have that ball for us. But, again, what’s happened has happened. She made a good play, and we’ve got to be able to recover from that.”
Coach, kind of an uncharacteristic night for you guys on defense. What kind of led to that? Do you think it was kind of the moment, or what do you think went into that?
“You know, I can’t really put a finger on it right now. You’re right. It’s uncharacteristic of us to make — to kick balls down like that. This team is going to be fine. We’ve been in a situation where maybe things didn’t go our way and we rebounded well. This team is tough. They showed it all year long, and they’ll be ready to play tomorrow.”
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
Stewart’s no-hitter highlights Cajuns win over Cowboys in Baton Rouge Regional opener
- May 19, 2017 - 7:49 PM CDT
- By: Matthew Hebert
- Category: College Sports, Other, LSU, McNeese State, UL Lafayette