May 15, 2014 6:22 PM by UL Sports Information
LAFAYETTE, La. - On the eve of their 24th NCAA Regional Appearance, and second time hosting a regional in three seasons, the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns softball team saw four players named to the NFCA All-Central Region teams, as announced by the NFCA on Thursday. Lexie Elkins and Christina Hamilton were both named to the first team and Natalie Fernandez and Haley Hayden were named to the second team.
"It's about the team and this is all done with the help of this wonderful support structure that these players have around them," head coach Michael Lotief said. "These four girls have really flourished in this environment. All four of those kids have had special seasons. They work extremely hard, they play hard, they work hard in the classroom and they compete pitch by pitch."
Elkins, the Sun Belt Player of the Year, batted .399 through the first 53 games, hitting a team-high 18 home runs and driving in 68 runs, also a team high. She finished the regular season ranked fifth in the nation with 1.31 RBI per game, and 11th in home runs per game. A native of Victoria, Texas, Elkins leads the team with 22 multi-RBI games, driving in five-or-more runs in two different games.
Hamilton was named the Sun Belt's Pitcher of the Year, compiling a 24-2 record with a 1.55 ERA. A two-time pitcher of the week, she walked just 48 batters, striking out 3.46 batters every walk, and won 20 consecutive games from Feb. 23 to May 8th, including both games of a doubleheader sweep against the defending national champion, Oklahoma Sooners, coming two outs away from a no-hitter in the first game to throw a one-hit shutout.
Fernandez was one of just two seniors on the Ragin' Cajuns roster this season, earning first-team All-Sun Belt honors for the second time in her career. She batted .437 on the season, bringing in a .399 career batting average into the NCAA Lafayette Regional, the second-highest in school history. She leads the conference with 62 runs scored and a .538 on base percentage.
Hayden rounds out the Cajuns selections as the only Cajuns' freshman picking up honors. A top-10 finalist for the inaugural NFCA Freshman of the Year award, Hayden is batting .339 with 15 home runs and 53 RBI, starting all 53 games. She has been a first-inning spark the Cajuns need, hitting six first-inning home runs, including four with a runner already on base, starting 52 games as the number two batter in the order.
Last season the Cajuns had both Brianna Cherry and Sarah Draheim named first-team All-Central Region, and Nerissa Myers named second-team.
The Cajuns will begin their road to the 2014 Women's College World Series tomorrow, when they take on Texas Southern at 6 p.m. in the NCAA Lafayette Regional at Lamson Park. The Cajuns will then take on either Texas or Mississippi State on Saturday, with the winners of the Louisiana and Texas Southern game taking on the Texas and Mississippi State winner, in a double-elimination formatted tournament.