For the first time since 2002, Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajun softball team will be hosting an NCAA Regional, this weekend, as they welcome the Stanford Cardinal, Baylor Lady Bears, and Mississippi Valley St. Devilettes to Lamson Park.
The regional will will kick-off on Friday, May 18, at 3:30, with Baylor squaring off with Stanford, before Louisiana takes on Mississippi Valley St. at 6 o’clock.
Other than the top-seed, the NCAA doesn’t officially seed the rest of the field, but based on their records and rpi rankings, we can safely call Stanford the second-seed, Baylor the third-seed, and Mississippi Valley St. the fourth-seed.
Let’s take a little bit of a look at the four teams playing in the Lafayette, La. Regional this weekend:
UL’s Christi Orgeron
LOUISIANA RAGIN’ CAJUNS (49-4):
Louisiana is certainly the favorite is this regional. The Cajuns have been ranked in the top ten most of the year, and are 26-1 at Lamson Park this year.
Louisiana, who won the regular season Sun Belt Conference regular season championship, and finished as runners-up in the Sun Belt Conference post-season tournament, is an impressive 16-1 against teams in regional play this year, and are the most balanced team in their four-team regional.
The Cajuns have power, with outfielder Christi Orgeron, shortstop Nerissa Myers, and second baseman Paige Cormier, all of who have double-digit home runs on the year.
UL has plenty of speed, with Myers, outfielder Katie Smith, third baseman Katie Smith, and designated player Erikka Murphy, all swiping double-digit stolen bases during the year.
Finally, Louisiana has a fantastic duo in the circle, with senior Ashley Brignac and freshman Jordan Wallace, who combined to win 46 games this season.
The Cajuns, based on what they’ve done this year, their talent, and the fact they’re playing at home, are the favorites to win the regional. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they will, only that they should be considered the team to beat.
Stanford pitcher Teagan Gerhart
Stanford Cardinal (38-17):
Stanford is a tough team to figure out. They jumped out to a 25-3 start, but have gone only 13-14 since.
Does that have more to do with the fact that Stanford played most of those 27 games in the second half against teams from the brutal Pac-10, or is it because they simply played their best softball over their first 28 games?
The Cardinal is only 5-10 on the road, but most of those games were played against ranked teams out of the Pac-10, and they do have road wins over UCLA and Arizona to their credit.
The strength of the Cardinal looks to be their offense. Lead-off hitter Hanna Winter is the spark-plug, with her .420 batting average.
Stanford has only one player (Jenna Rich-10) with double-digit homers on the year, but they have a line-up that’s capable of giving them some pop at any given time.
Jenna Rich is one of the more underrated players in the country. She’s hitting a .372, with ten homers, and 62 RBI’s. And that’s against the best pitching in the country in the Pac-10.
Stanford is hitting a .322 as a team, and they have other capable performers, such as Leah White and Ashley Hansen (National Player of the Year in 2011), but the whole key to holding them down is to keep Winter off the base paths and Rich in the ball park.
Pitching-wise, Stanford doesn’t look strong statistically, but that could be misleading. Junior Teagan Gerhart has won 30 games, but she has a disappointing 2.77 era., and she’s allowed an alarming 39 home runs.
Gerhart’s troubles are really head-scratching. She was 22-6 in 2010, with a 1.65 era., and followed that with a great sophomore season in 2011, going 26-13, with a 1.74 era.
To give you an idea of how the long ball has hurt Gerhart this year, she’s allowed 19 more homers in 20 less innings pitched this year, compared to last season.
Nyree White is Stanford’s number two pitcher, but they’ll live and die with Gerhart, who started 39 of the 55 games this year.
I think the whole key the Stanford winning this regional is Gerhart. If she’s the Gerhart of 2010 and 2011, then they have a shot. If she’s the inconsistent Gerhart of 2012, then I don’t see them advancing.
Photo Courtesy: baylorbears.com
Baylor pitcher Courtney Repka
Baylor Lady Bears (33-20):
Baylor only went 10-14 in the Big 12, and was only 5-9 on the road. They struggle to score runs at times, but they are capable, as evidence with their victories over Oregon, North Carolina, and Texas.
I mentioned the struggles of the Lady Bears offensively, they only have two players on their team with more than 50 at-bats that have a .300 or better batting average, and they have only 14 home runs as a team this year.
Baylor scores runs by running the bases. They’ve stolen 94 bases in 104 attempts, and second baseman/lead-off hitter Kathy Shelton sets the tables for them. Shelton is hitting a .333, with 28 stolen bases.
It’s really pretty simple. If Shelton gets on, Baylor has a chance to score. If she doesn’t, then they struggle mightily to score.
The Lady Bears have two solid pitchers, in junior right-hander Courtney Repka, and sophomore right-hander Liz Paul. The duo have combined to win 27 games, and both have era’s hovering around 2.00.
While solid though, neither are strikeout pitchers. Repka has 81 strikeouts in 184.2 innings, and Paul has 74 k’s in 133 innings. With both being pitch-to-contact pitchers, it will be difficult for them to work out of potential jams. Losing Whitney Canion for the year really hurt Baylor, as it would anybody.
I don’t think that Baylor has enough, overall, to win the regional. I just don’t think they’ll score enough runs. They’ve scored only 180 runs all year. By contrast, Louisiana has scored 384 runs, and Stanford has scored 325. But Baylor is a program that has had post-season success in the past, so they know how to win.
Again, I don’t think Baylor will advance, but the Lady Bears are more than than capable of ruining the party for one the other three teams in any given game.
Mississippi Valley St. Devilettes (34-17):
Mississippi Valley St. romped through the SWAC, with a 16-0 record, but went only 18-17 outside of league play. Cajun fans may snicker at the Devilettes. After all, UL did defeat MVSU, 21-0, early in the year. But the Devilettes have wins over Ole Miss and Memphis this year, as well as Troy, who handed Louisiana one of their only four losses.
Alicia Lorenz is a solid little pitcher for MVSU, going 15-3, with a 1.46 era. Granted, she likely won’t put up those numbers against the caliber of competition this weekend, but she is capabale of throwing a solid game.
Offensively, Nicole Burr has six homers. Other than that, there’s not much to get excited about for Mississippi Valley St, offensively.
I don’t give MVSU much of a chance at all of advancing.
It should be a fun weekend at Lamson Park, with some really outstanding players on center stage. If you like softball, don’t miss it!
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