Ragin' Cajuns laugh all the way to the winners' bracket
OKLAHOMA CITY -- The chalk outline of the batter's box at Hall of Fame Stadium was gone by the end of the first two innings of the opening game of the Women's College World Series, wiped away by the shuffling feet of batters from Florida and Louisiana-Lafayette. The chalk in the bracket didn't last much longer, erased by a team so intent on having fun that it's becoming rather adept at making opponents miserable.Behind an eighth-inning home run from Holly Tankersley, a line shot to center that gave the senior sole possession of the NCAA lead in home runs this season, Louisiana- Lafayette beat No. 1 seed Florida 3-2. The result relegated the SEC champions to the loser's bracket and denied them (for now, at least) the NCAA record for single-season wins. Though the result was a surprise to most outside the Louisiana-Lafayette dugout and the team's large and loud cheering section, it was more of the same for a team that entered the World Series with 51 wins, Sun Belt regular-season and conference tournament championships and two pairs of NCAA tournament road wins at LSU and Houston. "People have considered us an underdog because we were one of two unseeded teams to make it to the World Series," explained Vanessa Soto, who set up Tankersley's heroics with a key two-run double in the fifth inning. "We don't consider ourselves underdogs. We know how good we are. We've known how good we are since Day One. We practice together every day and we see, day in and day out, what we can do as a group. Coming in here, we don't relish the [underdog] role -- we just say, if people are going to underestimate us, that's fine. We know how good we are. We can't really control anyone else's thoughts." Nor can they control the perks and luxuries other teams enjoy -- and sometimes take for granted. Several teams chartered flights to Oklahoma City this week. Almost all at least arrived on conventional flights into Will Rogers World Airport. All except Louisiana-Lafayette, a small-budget program that can point to five total appearances in the World Series (and a respectable 6-7 record) as evidence of the best dollar-for-dollar success in the sport. The Sun Belt champions made the trip by bus, a trip that stretched out toward 12 hours when they encountered a portion of closed interstate near Dallas.