UL Softball Weekly Review – (March 20)
The 19th-ranked Louisiana Ragin' Cajun softball team was successful in their Sun Belt Conference series opener over the weekend, sweeping a three-game set from the UTA Mavericks at Lamson Park.
Louisiana swept a doubleheader from UTA on Saturday, winning by scores of 6-5 and 6-2, before completing the sweep with an 11-2, 6-inning, mercy-rule triumph on Sunday.
The Cajuns, who have now won 9-consecutive conference games, improved to 20-5, overall, and 3-0 in league play.
The first thing that comes to mind from the weekend is that Louisiana hit the ball. They outscored UTA, 23-9, while smashing 5 home runs.
Keep in mind, UTA had only allowed 14 home runs entering the weekend.
Also keep in mind, Sam Clakley, who entered the series with a sub 1.00 ERA., was touched for 4 long balls, after having allowed only one single homer all year heading into the weekend.
The top part of the order produced for Louisiana, with Kara Gremillion, Hayley Hayden, and Aleah Craighton going 11-for-25, combined, to go along with a triple, a homer, 11 runs scored, and 7 runs batted in.
You can't expect the top three in any batting order to put up those kind of numbers every weekend, but if those three can produce similar numbers the rest of the way, Louisiana is going to be difficult to beat.
DJ Sanders now has 13 homers and 30 RBI's. Just shy of the midway point in the season, the junior shortstop is on pace for a 25-homer/60 RBI season. In case you're wondering, that's pretty good.
Corin Voinche only went 1-for-8, but looked really good at the plate, lining out more than one time. She saw increased playing time, and there's no reason to expect that not to continue, at least for one more weekend.
There still needs to be more consistency, from top to bottom in the order, but the offense showed improvement.
Again, the Cajuns averaged about 8 runs-per-game. The game of softball just wasn't designed for that much offense.
I also liked the fact that the Cajuns won the first game in walk-off fashion, after giving up a run in the top half the 7th inning. This team has shown mental toughness and intestinal fortitude all season. They don't always play perfect softball, but they're always scrappy.
Pitching-wise, Louisiana was far from perfect, but they too battled. Alex Stewart allowed 8 hits, including a game-tying homer in the 7th inning of game one, but she didn't issue a walk, and only gave up two earned runs, while Alyssa Denham showed the ability to pitch back-to-back days, holding the Mavs to only one earned run on Sunday.
Softball is becoming more and more of an offensive game, and when you only allow 5 earned runs in three games, that's hard to complain about.
Like the offense, I'd like to see more consistent pitching, but I certainly wouldn't trade Denham and Stewart for any other tandem in the conference.
Defensively, Louisiana made some good plays, but still made four errors, and also gave up 4 unearned runs. Just like with the offense and defense, it's all a matter of developing consistency.
All in all, it was an extremely good weekend. UTA is better than they were last year, and the Mavs handed the Cajuns a loss last season.
Anytime you sweep a conference series it's an accomplishment, so kudos to Louisiana for the three wins, and for being unbeaten in league play.
Next weekend, the Cajuns make the trip to Mobile to take on South Alabama, and despite the fact that USA is 2-4 in league play, that will be an extremely difficult test for UL, who will be on the road for the first time in 2017.
If Louisiana continues to make strides, they'll be fine, both next weekend, and throughout the remainder of the season.