Split with Louisiana-Lafayette highlights 4-1 weekend in Lafayette

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By Jake Lourim, Daily Sports Writer
Published February 16, 2014

Six teams went to Lafayette, La. this weekend for the Ragin’ Cajun Invitational. But make no mistake: the two that mattered most were those that battled in a hard-fought Super Regional last spring.

Michigan and Louisiana-Lafayette were back at it, splitting two games. The Ragin’ Cajuns held on to an 8-6 victory Friday night, and the Wolverines came back with a 15-1 mercy-rule blowout Saturday afternoon.

Michigan also hammered Memphis, 5-0, Central Arkansas, 7-0, and came back to beat Boston College, 6-5.

Junior right-handed pitcher Sara Driesenga said last week that there was no bad blood between Michigan and Louisiana-Lafayette, but the Ragin’ Cajuns came out firing as if there was. They homered twice in the third inning to take a 3-0 lead, then chased Driesenga in the fifth.

Driesenga finished the game with 4.2 innings pitched, seven hits, six earned runs and four walks, raising her season earned-run average to 4.79.

“She needs to relax,” said Michigan coach Carol Hutchins. “Sara is a great pitcher, and right now she’s not feeling her confidence. Give me a player with confidence and give me a player with no confidence and you’ll see two totally different things. She just needs to find her confidence, believe in herself and believe in her teammates.”

The Ragin’ Cajuns’ energy at the plate translated to the field, where they held Michigan scoreless for four innings. The Wolverines had their opportunities but couldn’t ultimately cash in, leaving 12 on base.

Louisiana-Lafayette walked sophomore shortstop Sierra Romero her first three times up, and only when Romero got good pitches to hit — a single in the sixth and an RBI double in the seventh — did the Wolverines start to claw back.

Michigan’s last-ditch effort netted four runs in the bottom of the seventh, but senior first baseman Caitlin Blanchard, representing the tying run, flew out to left field to end the threat.

“One person hits, and we get that momentum going,” Romero said. “One thing about us is we never back down. We’ll keep pushing, keep pushing — that’s one of the best qualities of our team. You can never count us out because we can come back.”

That momentum carried over to Saturday, when Michigan got its rematch.

This time, the Ragin’ Cajuns sent No. 2 pitcher Alex Stewart to the circle, and the Wolverines jumped on her. Helped by five fielding errors, they scored two in the first inning, five in the second and seven in the third.

This time, Louisiana-Lafayette pitched to Romero — and it cost the Ragin’ Cajuns dearly.

“I just needed to breathe,” Romero said. “I got really excited because I haven’t been seeing many pitches the past couple of weekends. I’ve just been trying to make the most of the opportunities that are given to me. If I get a good pitch, I can make the most of it. But at the same time, if it’s not a pitch that I want, I need to be patient and wait for a pitch that I want.”

In the second inning, she belted her third home run of the season to make it 6-0.

Junior left-handed pitcher Haylie Wagner pitched all five innings in the circle Saturday, keeping the deficit safe. She is now 4-0 with a 1.02 ERA.

“Going into it, when you have that lead, you can’t slack off,” Wagner said. “That’s what I did every single inning. I didn’t want to slack off because they’re a great-hitting team and they could come up at any moment.”

Freshman right-handed pitcher Megan Betsa added a complete-game shutout against Central Arkansas, making her record 3-0 with a 1.38 ERA.

Sophomore outfielder Sierra Lawrence paced the Michigan offense with two first-inning grand slams, in the first game against Memphis and the third game against Central Arkansas.

The Wolverines came out sluggish Sunday against Boston College, falling behind 4-0 after five innings. On the brink of losing in a huge upset, Michigan’s quick-strike offense came alive in the last two innings. Romero hit a go-ahead three-run double in the seventh, and Driesenga stranded the tying run at third.

“The key for all of that was having runners on base,” Hutchins said. “You can’t score unless you have people on base. We finally had some key hits, and we had a lot of people that inning who made some things happen.”