What Must UL Softball Do To Win The Regional?
What is the most important thing that the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns must do to win the Baton Rouge Regional this weekend?
To me, it's an easy answer; they must play good defense.
Sure, they have to hit and pitch well too, but allowing/not allowing unearned runs, or making a great play or two, could very well be the difference in not only winning or losing one particular game, but advancing or not advancing out of the regional.
Scoring runs is important, but don't expect Louisiana to score a lot. They have only 21 home runs as a team, and have to face at least one, and possibly two of the better pitchers in the country, in LSU's Allie Walljasper and Houston's Savannah Heebner.
Walljasper is 16-5 with an ERA. of 1.00, while Heebner is 25-9 with an ERA. of 1.17.
If you're planning on scoring a lot of runs, you may have to plan something else.
Should they take pitches?
No. If you're waiting for of those pitchers to walk you, you're going to be waiting a long time.
Walljasper has walked only 30 in 160.2 innings pitched, while Heebner has walked only 28 in 220.2 innings pitched.
So yes, offense is certainly important. You can't win if you don't score. I get it.
But the Cajuns have won a lot of close, low-scoring games this season. To win this weekend, they'll have to do it a few more times.
My point is though, they have done it.
So, while runs will be hard to come by, they can win without scoring a lot of them.
And how can they win without scoring a lot of runs?
You guessed it; Summer Ellyson.
Louisiana matches up pretty well against LSU and Houston because they have a pretty special arm of their own.
Neither LSU nor Houston have potent offenses, and while UL's chances of winning would certainly take a major hit if Ellyson doesn't pitch well, I just assume she will.
Because of that, I'm sticking with defense, an area which could help Louisiana win a game, or could keep them from winning one, as the most important category this weekend.
Let's go back and take at the last few losses that the Cajuns have suffered:
In four of their last five losses, unearned runs that they allowed had a direct effect on the outcome of the game.
In the Sun Belt Conference Tournament title game, Louisiana lost to Texas St., 5-2, allowing two unearned runs.
What's worse; both of those unearned runs came in the first inning.
Going up against a pitcher like Randi Rupp, with an offense that doesn't have a lot of power, those were big runs to allow, and may have been the difference in the game.
In a 4-3 loss to UTA on April 28, the Cajuns allowed three unearned runs; the difference in the game.
In a 4-3 setback to Georgia Southern on April 21, UL allowed an unearned run in the 8th inning; the difference in the game.
In a 7-6 loss to Georgia St. on April 7, Louisiana allowed two unearned runs in the bottom half of the 7th inning; the difference in the game.
Understand; the Cajuns have good defensive players. It's just that when you don't score a lot of runs, the unearned runs you allow become more magnified.
In this regional, because UL isn't likely to score a lot of runs against Walljasper and/or Heebner, they simply can't afford to make errors, and allow any unearned runs.
Now, Louisiana has also won a lot of games this year because of their defense.
There aren't too many teams in the country that have a left side of the infield the caliber of Alissa Dalton and Kara Gremillion, and there aren't many that have an outfielder as good as Kelli Martinez.
That's the other thing; it's not just not making errors, or not allowing unearned runs. It's also about making good plays, something the Cajuns' defense is capable of doing, taking possible runs off of the board.
Louisiana put an emphasis on defense this season, and worked very hard on it. It would be nice to see them be rewarded for all of their hard work.
It's really very simple; if you're going to win a regional against elite pitching, you have to help your hitters, by asking them to score fewer runs, either by not allowing unearned runs, or taking possible runs off the board yourself.
This is a regional that Louisiana can do very well in.
It's also a regional in which it's also possible the Cajuns can have a very disappointing finish to the season.
My guess is that defense is going to play a large part in which one it is.