UL Softball: Week Review
The 11th-ranked Louisiana Ragin’ Cajun softball team went 5-0 last week, and has ran their season record to a perfect 22-0, tying the school record (2006) for consecutive wins to begin the season.
If you pay any attention to UL softball, you know how hard the team had to work to win those five games.
The Cajuns swept a non-conference doubleheader from the Houston Cougars last Wednesday, winning the first game, 12-7, in nine innings, before taking the nightcap, 3-2.
UL trailed 4-0, in the fifth inning in the opener, but came back to win, thanks to a three-run homer by Matte Haack, and grand slams from Christi Orgeron and Megan Granger.
Could the Cajuns have played better? Yes.
Could the Cajuns have pitched better? Yes.
But that was an impressive win, so I implore you not to take it for granted.
UL was playing a true road game for the first time, against a quality program that was in a Super Regional just a season ago. They were down 4-0 in the fifth-inning, against a team that was looking to kick-start their season with a win over an undefeated, top-25 club.
A lot of teams would have penciled that in as a loss, one which every team will have a few of this year.
Not the Cajuns.
They fought through that, plus a couple of very questionable calls, to capture the come-from-behind win.
Again, that’s impressive.
In the second game, Louisiana led it, 2-0, going into the bottom of the fifth inning.
It was frustrating, because UL had numerous opportunities to put the Cougars away, but didn’t.
Houston tied it, with two runs in the fifth, and had the momentum.
Again, a lot of teams would have been pleased with a road split against a good team and headed to the bus with a smile, but this team fought back, and scored with two outs and nobody on in the seventh, after Sarah Draheim doubled home Brianna Cherry.
Was it their best softball of the year? No, but it was an impressive sweep, to say the least.
Over the weekend, the Cajuns welcomed the North Texas Mean Green, for the opening conference series for both teams.
Again, Louisiana fell behind early, and trailed 6-2 in the bottom of the fourth, before tying it with a four-run fourth, and then winning it with a run in the tenth.
Credit freshman pitcher Jordan Wallace for putting a stop to the Mean Green offensive attack, throwing 5.1 innings of shutout relief to get the win.
I didn’t see the no-hitter Wallace threw against La. Tech, so that may have been the best I’ve see her look.
Wallace is good right now, but with more experience, she’s got the chance to be really special.
In the second game, the Cajuns trailed 4-2 going into the bottom half of the seventh, but a two-run double by shortstop Nerissa Myers tied things up, and UL won it, 5-4, in nine innings.
The comeback continues to show that this team will just continue to fight until the game is over.
And while the comeback was impressive, the effort by pitcher Ashley Brignac may have been more-so.
Look, I don’t want you to think this is a total “Ra Ra” blog, even though it would be a really short blog if I gave the faults of a 22-0 team.
The truth is, the team has to play better than they did this week, and more specifically, pitch better, if they’re going to compete in the Judi Garman Classic this weekend, win a conference championship, and advance in the NCAA Regionals.
My bet is that they will, but it’s softball, and there will be hills and valleys throughout the year. And the bottom line is this team won every game, and is 22-0 on the year.
Now, getting back to Brignac. She got chased after only two innings of work in the opening game of the series. It was obvious she didn’t have her best stuff, and never seemed to get into any kind of rhythm.
So what does Brignac do? She comes back in the second game, and gives one of the gutsiest efforts I’ve witnessed, throwing 167 pitches, over nine innings, allowing only two earned runs, to pick up her ninth win of the year.
Brignac has nothing to prove to anybody. She’s a two-time 30-game winner, and a two-time Sun Belt Conference Pitcher of the Year.
She could’ve easily packed it up for the night, or found an excuse not to take the ball in the second game.
Instead, she fought through adversity, without her best stuff, and not only picked-up the win, but also allowed UL to rest the rest of their staff, which of course wound-up paying dividends for them on Sunday.
A leader comes in many forms, and Brignac showed us one of them with her effort in game two.
It’s not like I never knew about Brignac’s character and moxie. I saw it when she helped pitch this team to the College World Series in 2008. I saw it when she pitched with a partially torn labrum in 2009. I saw it when she was a team leader in 2011. I saw it when she put her arm around Wallace in The NFCA Leadoff Classic in Florida after the freshman exited the game against Michigan, and told the freshman how she got hit by the Wolverines when she was a freshman.
No, she didn’t show me anything I didn’t already know, but I want Brignac next to me in a fox hole.
Again, Louisiana has to pitch better. I think the coaches, and pitchers would all agree to that. But you don’t get to be 22-0 without being really good, and having a lot of character, something Ashley Brignac, and most of team, has tons of.
The Cajuns were able to complete the sweep on Sunday, winning 11-4, behind Katie Smith, who went 4-for-4, and Wallace, who recorded her tenth win of the year.
It was a wild week, one where the Cajuns went 5-0, played four extra inning games, and won four of them in their last at-bat.
I’m telling you, a team with lesser character would’ve lost a least two of those games.
But not this bunch. They’ve got more character(s) than Rich Little.
Paige Cormier reminds me of Brittany Bryant.
Cormier, like Bryant, is a second baseman, with a little power, who flies under the radar.
Bryant was overshadowed by the likes of Danyele Gomez, Holly Tankersley, Lacey Bertucci, and Ashley Evans, while Cormier has been/is overshadowed by Gabriele Bridges, Christi Orgeron, Nerissa Myers, and Matte Haack.
Make no mistake though, this team wouldn’t be 22-0 without Cormier.
Natalie Fernandez is having a big year. She’s hitting over a .400, and defensively, she’s made the move to third base without a hitch.
Katie Smith has been so consistent at the plate. She’s hitting a .410, and seems to get on base at least three times every game. Then again, maybe that’s because she is getting on base at least three times every game.
Yes, Christi Orgeron is tearing it up, with 44 rbi’s, but Matte Haack has 36. I knew Haack would be a big run-producer, but I certainly didn’t expect her to hit a .400 (.403).
The Cajuns have some big games coming up over the next couple of weeks.
On Tuesday, they host McNeese St., who earlier this year recorded a win over the defending national champion Arizona St. Sun Devils.
This weekend, UL plays Arizona St., Fresno St., Iowa, Penn St., and Arizona in the Judi Garman Classic.
On March 22, the Cajuns host the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, who are starting to play like the top-25 team they were projected to be, in a non-conference doubleheader.
And finally, on March 24/25, Louisiana travels to Troy, Alabama, to take on the Troy Trojans, who are off to a 17-5 start.
Congratulations to the coaches and players on their great start, and here’s hoping the success continues.
There’s a lot of season left. 22 games does not a season make, but it sure has been a fun ride so far.
I always remind people to enjoy the moment. Well, I certainly hope you take my advice with this team, because it really is a special bunch.
A reminder; you can hear the “Ragin’ Cajun Softball Coaches Show” every Monday, from noon-1 pm, from Walk-Ons.