Cajuns 2009 Sun Belt Champions

Louisiana's Ragin'Cajuns fell into a groove after a slow start to top Florida Atlantic, 8-3, in the title game of the 2009 Sun Belt Conference Softball Championship to win its ninth crown in 10 years.

After dropping their opening game in an upset loss to ULM, the Cajuns won five consecutive contests to come back through the consolation bracket to take the championship. They racked up 12 hits in the final game and totaled a tournament record 51 hits throughout their six games at Lovelace Stadium.

"I think it was a lot of determination," Cajuns coach Stefni Lotief said. "These kids would not go away quietly. I'm very proud of the way they came out here and continued to make adjustments throughout the tournament and played as a team. They had a good time and a good little run."

Christi Orgeron and Lana Bowers led Louisiana-Lafayette from the plate to spark the Cajuns offense. Orgeron went 3-for-4 to give her a combined 9-for-17 tournament performance that earned the freshman Most Outstanding Player honors. Bowers delivered two home runs for three RBI, and Codi Runyan and Katie Smith also recorded multiple hits.

The Cajuns relied on Sun Belt Conference Pitcher of the Year Donna Bourgeois in the championship contest, and the sophomore gave another impressive outing on the mound to earn the win. She fanned seven batters for a total of 34 strikeouts for the tournament. The UL pitching staff combined for 52 strikeouts to set a new conference championship record, and Bourgeois fittingly struck out Caitlyn Bliss for the final out of the game as the Cajuns leapt off the bench to celebrate.

Bourgeois joined Orgeron on the All-Tournament team along with teammates Melissa Verde and Lana Bowers.

The Cajuns' win was their second of the day after they defeated FIU, 8-0, in five innings to advance to the title game against Florida Atlantic.

The Owls struck first in the opening inning. Blair Bodenmiller singled to right field and used her speed to move herself into scoring position by stealing second. FAU capitalized on the opportunity as Amy Bukovich smacked an RBI-double to give the Owls a 1-0 lead.

The outstanding FAU fielding frustrated the Cajuns' offense, which stranded five runners through the first three innings. But Lana Bowers injected some much-needed life into the Louisiana bats when she connected on a solo home run to tie the game at one run apiece in the fourth inning.

The Owls' defense continued to keep the game tight as Gressley retired the Cajuns in order for a 1-2-3 fifth inning. Brittany Walker robbed Verde of a hit as she snagged a deep fly ball for the third out.

But the Cajuns started to click as the Owls began to unravel in the sixth inning to pull away to a comfortable advantage. They recorded three straight hits to lead off the frame, scoring one and putting runners on first and second. The Cajuns loaded the bases as Cormier reached on a fielder's choice and then exploited each mistake made by the Owls.

Vallie Gaspard and Karli Hubbard each waited out walks to force two runs across the plate, and Kelly Cormier scored from third on a passed ball, leading to a four-run sixth that broke open the game.

Three more Cajun runs in the seventh inning put the game out of reach as the Owls could only tally two more before the end of the game.

With the win, Louisiana will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Regional. The Cajuns' seeding will be announced in a selection show Sunday night at 9 p.m. CT.

All-Tournament Team

Blair Bodenmiller, FAU
Donna Bourgeois, UL
Lana Bowers, UL
Amy Bukovich, FAU
Brianna Love, ULM
Ashley McClain, FIU
Beth Pilgrim, USA
Ryan Rogge, WKU
Melissa Verde, UL

Most Outstanding Player

Christi Orgeron, UL

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