LAFAYETTE, La. — Her methodical approach to the circle doesn’t seem like a lot of fun. But when Louisiana-Lafayette pitcher Christina Hamilton steps into the circle against Arizona in this weekend’s Super Regionals, she’ll be having a blast.
“This journey is a lot of fun,” the junior ace said. “My mental process has changed a lot between the end of last year and this year. I have more of a growth mindset. I am working the process we have here and having fun with my teammates.”
Hamilton, a Leesville, Louisiana, native who is 27-2 with a 1.53 ERA, has endured her share of ups and downs as a Ragin’ Cajun. After going 11-2 as a true freshman in 2011, she missed a month of the season as she underwent emergency appendectomy surgery. She redshirted in 2012 while recovering from ACL surgery.
As a redshirt sophomore, Hamilton found herself at the back of the Ragin’ Cajuns’ rotation, starting only five games. ULL head coach Michael Lotief said softball is a game of redemption — and no one exemplifies redemption more than Hamilton.
“That kid was on top of the world out of high school,” Lotief said. “She had a lot of success as a freshman. Then she went to the bottom. Now it’s redemption. She is going about things in a different way, understanding that this is fun, and she is enjoying it.”
Coming into 2014, it was Hamilton’s teammate, junior Jordan Wallace, who was the Sun Belt Conference preseason pitcher of the year and expected to carry the staff. Wallace struggled to find command in 2014 and Hamilton, who said she doesn’t recall an exact moment it happened, became the ace.
“I feel like over the year I evolved, and I was ready for the role,” Hamilton said. “Last year, I was just worried about the right here and the right now. I just wanted to pitch no matter what. Now, I am just here for the team to do what they need me to do. I wouldn’t really say I am an ace or anything because I don’t really strike out a bunch of people.”
Lotief agreed, saying Hamilton doesn’t need to think she is the ace to be effective. He said she has figured out new ways to win games.
“You don’t have to strike out every batter to win a softball game,” Lotief said. “The biggest transformation for Hamilton has been her mindset. I think she has matured and made a choice to buy in. She is able to get outside her comfort zone and remain confident.”
Hamilton said her confidence has come from a now expanded repertoire of pitches. Once only a rise-ball pitcher, Hamilton now has a change-up and even a drop ball.
“It’s not perfected,” she said. “I am still working on it, but now I change speeds and keep hitters off balance.”
An unmistakable addition to Hamilton’s game-day attire is her ever-present lens-less black glasses. The Ragin’ Cajuns faithful at Lamson Park are known to get in on the act by donning the game-day specs. Hamilton said her signature look began in a summer ball league with a broken pair of sunglasses.
“One of the lenses popped out of the sunglasses so I popped the other one out,” Hamilton recalled. “One of the girls was like, ‘You won’t go out there with them like that.’ It was funny and I did. I have a lot of glasses, but it doesn’t change the way I pitch. They’re just for fun.”
Hamilton acknowledged UA presents a tough challenge, but the challenge does not intimidate her.
“I am not really worried about going out there and facing them,” she said. “I really trust my defense. They may make an error here and there, but they play their butts off. I just want to trust my team to hit and play defense and give it all we have.”