Who Is UL Softball’s #2 Pitcher?
The biggest question I was asked prior to the 2017 college softball season was; "Who is going to be the number two pitcher on the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns softball staff?"
After two weeks of the regular season, the biggest question may still be; "Who is going to be the number two pitcher on the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns softball staff?"
That question may be posed that way because after the exploits of freshman right-hander Alyssa Denham in the first two weeks, including a shutout win over Alabama on Sunday, to go along with Alex Stewart, an NFCA 2nd team All-American last season, Louisiana may have two number one pitchers.
Actually, it's still way too early to be putting labels on anybody, but as I projected for months, this kind of thing will work itself out throughout the season.
Let me ask you; when was the last time the projected #1 and #2 starters ended the season with those labels?
In 2009, Ashley Brignac, the projected #1 starter, was suffering from a shoulder injury, and was limited to only 79 innings of work. Donna Bourgeois picked-up the slack, and had a fantastic year, winning 30 games with a 1.07 ERA.
In 2010, Brignac sat out the entire season, coming off shoulder surgery. and there was major concern about the pitching staff. Well, Bourgeois and Brittany Cuevas combined to win 45 games, proving the fears were unwarranted.
In 2011, Bourgeois transferred and Cuevas graduated, causing more concern. But no need to worry, as Brignac came back strong, posting 32 wins and a 1.50 ERA., while freshman Christina Hamilton solidified herself as a viable second option, going 11-2 with a 1.76 ERA.
Hamilton tore an ACL at the end of the 2011 season, causing her to miss all of 2012, which led to the question; "Who is going to be UL's #2 pitcher?"
No worries, as a freshman named Jordan Wallace went 27-2, and become a co-ace with Brignac, who went 23-4.
Brignac graduated following the 2012 season, leaving people to ask to begin 2013; "Who is going to be UL's #2 pitcher?"
Now, there was no definite #2, with Victoria Brown tossing the second-most innings on the team, but that team still made it to an NCAA Super Regional, and finished only one win shy of the Women's College World Series.
So much worrying about nothing!
Going into 2014...yeah, you guessed it...the biggest question was; "Who is going to be UL's #2 pitcher?"
Well, few knew it at the time, but Wallace, an All-American candidate, was injured in the first game of the year, and now, not only do they not have a number two pitcher, but maybe not a number one.
Again, no need to worry, as Christina Hamilton came back to have a storybook type of year, garnering All-American accolades, while winning 29 games with a 1.56 ERA., as the Cajuns advanced to the Women's College World Series.
In 2015, it was Hamilton, the projected ace, that was injured early in the year, causing concern. Wallace returned to form however, winning 18 games, while Alex Stewart, a sophomore, came into her own, earning second-team All-Sun Belt Conference honors.
Last season, Stewart was back for her junior year, but the big question was; "Who is going to be UL's #2 pitcher?"
Stewart had an All-American campaign, but nobody was a consistent #2, although the Cajuns got good production from Kylie Jo Trahan early, and Macie Smith late, as they qualified for their 5th-consecutive NCAA Super Regional.
So, that's eight-consecutive years where there were question marks regarding the Louisiana pitching staffs, and eight-consecutive years in which the projected #1 and #2 starters didn't finish the year that way, or in which there was no definitive #2 pitcher, yet they won, and won big.
Truth be told, with the success, that Brown, Smith, and Trahan have had in the past, to go along with Summer Ellyson, a redshirt freshman, and Denham, there was probably less reason to be concerned about this pitching staff than in the last 8 years.
If you know UL softball, you know that some how, some way, they'll get quality pitching.
And if you know softball, in general, you can't pay attention to early season labels.