MOBILE, Ala. – No. 1 seed Louisiana captured its third straight Sun Belt Conference Softball Championship Title earning an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament after outpacing No. 3 seed Texas State 7-1 on Saturday in Mobile, Alabama.
The Ragin’ Cajuns (45-11) bashed four home runs in the championship game. They gave up only four runs during the week en route to their 17th overall conference tournament title. Louisiana will be making its 23rd consecutive appearance and 31st overall in the NCAA tournament.
The field for the 2022 NCAA Division I Softball Championship is scheduled to be announced Sunday, May 15, at 6 p.m. CT/7 p.m. ET.
The Sun Belt Conference has an opportunity to have multiple teams selected again this year, with three total teams ranked in the top 65 in the RPI. In addition to the Ragin’ Cajuns, currently 27th, Texas State sits in 53rd, and South Alabama (26-21) is 63rd.
Texas State (38-19) advanced from the elimination bracket semifinal to start the day, beating No. 9 seed Coastal Carolina, 3-1.
Championship Game Recap
Gerry Glasco kept waiting for his Louisiana softball team to break things open in Saturday’s title game of the Sun Belt Conference Softball Championships, and when that breakthrough came, it came in a big way.
The Ragin’ Cajuns slammed four home runs in the fifth inning, breaking loose from a 1-1 tie and going on to a 7-1 victory over Texas State for their third consecutive tournament title and 17th overall in program history.
The Cajuns, now winners of 13 straight and 22 of their last 23 games, earned the Sun Belt’s automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament. The field and pairings for that event will be announced Sunday.
“I felt like we had two or three chances to grab momentum and we didn’t get the big hit when we needed it,” said Glasco, whose squad has now played in eight consecutive Sun Belt championship games. “It felt like our girls were really seeing the ball well, but it felt like this game, we’d had two or three chances to punch them hard and they’d had a chance with the bases loaded and no outs to punch us hard. You don’t want to let those opportunities keep getting by you.”
Louisiana took care of that in the fifth inning when Kayla Falterman looped a one-out single and Stormy Kotzelnick followed with a deep home run to right field to provide a two-run advantage and chase Texas State starting pitcher Jessica Mullins. Tournament Most Outstanding Player Raina O’Neal drew a walk from reliever Karsen Pierce, and one batter later Alexa Langeliers had her second home run of the tournament and 13th of the season.
“Stormy had great focus today up over the top of the ball, got her barrel where she could drive it well,” Glasco said. “She started the game with a really good at bat and Raina followed right behind her. And then the home run, it was a backbreaker. You find two freshmen better than those two (Kotzelnick and Langeliers), I want them. They’re really good players, and we’re so lucky to have this freshman class.”
The Cajuns, who started six freshmen in the title game, got two more homers back-to-back from Jourdyn Campbell and Karly Heath with two outs in that inning before Bobcat reliever Presley Glende got out of the inning.
“Obviously it fell apart for us in the fifth when we didn’t keep the ball in the yard,” said Texas State coach Ricci Woodard. “You give up that many home runs, you’re probably going to lose the ball game, especially when your own bats are not flowing really well.”
The Bobcats spotted the Cajuns a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Langeliers’ sacrifice fly plated Kotzenick, who had led off the game with a single up the middle. Texas State then had a huge threat in the bottom of the inning off Cajun starter Sam Landry (20-3), loading the bases on hits by Hannah Earls and Sara Vanderford sandwiched around a UL error.
However, reliever Kandra Lam came on only four batters into the game and got a strikeout before coaxing a double-play line drive from Cat Crenek to end the threat.
“That was huge,” Glasco said. “We debated who we wanted to start and I told Justin (pitching coach Justin Robichaux) to talk to them and tell me because it’s too tough a decision. We have two great pitchers there. When Kandra came in, it was phenomenal, and then when we brought Landry back in, she had time to figure it out and I had time to talk to her and make some adjustments. I thought she was phenomenal the rest of the way.”
Texas State got its only run in the third when Earls drew a walk and eventually scored on Caitlyn Rogers’ single. UL brought Landry back in to get the final out of that inning, and the freshman gave up only two hits and three base runners the rest of the way.
The Cajuns, who finished with 11 hits – five of them in the six-run fifth inning--, have won six of the last seven conference tournament titles since winning in 2016 in the last year that South Alabama hosted the event. It was their 17th tournament title in the 22-year history of the event, and the Cajuns will be making their 23rd straight NCAA Tournament appearance and their 31st in the last 32 years.
2022 SUN BELT CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
Sophie Mooney, Georgia State
Kelly Horne, Troy
Victoria Ortiz, South Alabama
Makiya Thomas, Coastal Carolina
Kaitlin Beasley-Polko, Coastal Carolina
Jessica Mullins, Texas State
Sara Vanderford, Texas State
Meghan Schorman, Louisiana
Alexa Langeliers, Louisiana
2022 SUN BELT CONFERENCE MOST OUTSTANDING PLAYER
Raina O'Neal, Louisiana
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