LAFAYETTE, La. — Christina Hamilton proved to be as advertised in the Super Regional against the Arizona Wildcats.
The Louisiana-Lafayette junior gave up just one run in Saturday’s Game 2, a Katiyana Mauga home run in the second inning. Hamilton (29-2) pitched another complete game with two strikeouts, and the Wildcats’ hopes for a Women’s College World Series berth ended with a 7-1 loss.
“Tough day for us,” UA coach Mike Candrea said. “My hat goes off to Louisiana-Lafayette. They did what they needed to do, and they have a very solid ball club. Hamilton showed a lot of grit. She did a good job against what I feel is a pretty good hitting ball club. Today just wasn’t our day.”
Candrea went with Shelby Babcock in the circle Saturday after she was so effective in Game 1 Friday. Babcock (6-1) pitched three scoreless innings Friday, but got rocked early for three runs in the first inning and one run in every inning but the second and seventh. She suffered her first loss of the season.
“Shelby is a senior who has given us some quality innings,” Candrea said. “It came down to her effectiveness last night and, truthfully, (Estela) Piñon’s ineffectiveness right now. We thought Babcock had an opportunity with her off-speed pitch to keep them off balance. She tried to bang the outside part of the plate, which she did early, but we made some mistakes, and it cost us.”
Candrea said the Wildcats didn’t approach Saturday with many adjustments to Hamilton. He said he thought ULL would make adjustments, and he would rely on the opening innings for his team to get a feel for what Hamilton had Saturday.
“I think that is what the beginning of the game is all about,” Candrea said. “These kids do a good job of making adjustments. After seeing them last night, I didn’t think we needed to change anything. I thought today she threw the rise ball a little more, and she had the off-speed working. We just couldn’t get anything going.”
Despite UA not being able to get going offensively, Ragin’ Cajuns coach Michael Lotief said he never got comfortable against the Wildcats lineup. He credited Hamilton with being able to keep command of the game.
Hamilton “may have missed her spot five or six times,” Lotief said. “She just did a good job of changing her speeds, moving the ball vertically and horizontally. That is what you have to do in order to beat a good team. If you are just going to sit here and gut it out against those hitters, they are going to make you pay. This weekend was her moment.”
Candrea reflected on his fairly young team, saying he felt bad for the seniors leaving the program but said he knows playing in a game like this will help improve the program.
“We have had a couple years where we haven’t been the team that we set out to be every year,” Candrea said. “We have lofty expectations here. We’ve brought in some kids that have gotten us closer to where we want to be.
“Offensively, this group has done about as much as you could ask. Right now, we need to understand it’s about pitching. Our pitching needs to get tougher. In the postseason, most times, good pitchers are going to take care of good hitters so it becomes more of a pitching game.
“We have stumbled a little, whether it is walks or giving up the big hit. We just need to mature, and we need to have people in the circle who embrace pressure. Because there is a lot of it.”