Louisiana-Lafayette might be a bit off the beaten path in the college sports landscape. However, it felt like home to Ashley Brignac.


Louisiana-Lafayette might be a bit off the beaten path in the college sports landscape. However, it felt like home to Ashley Brignac.
And after leading the Ragin’ Cajuns to a big-time upset in her Women’s College World Series debut, Brignac has Lafayette back on the map.
Brignac (31-6) struck out a career-high 15 batters and Holly Tankersley hit a solo home run to center field off NCAA wins leader Stacey Nelson in the eighth inning as the Ragin’ Cajuns upset top-seeded Florida 3-2 Thursday.
“Nobody else probably expected us to win this game, but we knew we had the best chance to win it,” Brignac said. “If we stay together, we fight and we believe, we’re going to go out and get our job done.”
Brignac, who played on the U.S. junior national team, visited several other schools but ended up signing close to home at the Sun Belt softball power that had been to the World Series four times before.
In her freshman season, she has the Cajuns back in the Series for the first time since 2003 — and the Gators (67-4) on the brink of elimination.
“When it came down to it, UL was the place meant for me. It’s my home. I absolutely love it. I got happier every single day after I signed,” Brignac said. “The team, the community, the fans, the teammates, it’s one of a kind. You don’t have this special home feeling anywhere else. It’s the place for me.”
Lafayette was the only school from outside the power conferences to make it through super regional play — joining three Pac-10 teams, two SEC schools and representatives from the Big 12 and ACC in the field.
With Brignac’s pitching and Tankersley’s long ball, the Cajuns proved they belong.
Tankersley, who hit her 22nd home run of the season, became the first player to hit a ball into the new 34-foot tall outfield bleachers at Hall of Fame Stadium. She reached for a pitch tailing away on the outside part of the plate and drove it into the front row of the stands.
“It was the pitch that I had grounded out to second the past two at-bats. I just took my chances, closed my eyes and swung, if you want to know honestly,” said Tankersley, who’s third in the nation in home runs.
Nelson (45-4) had allowed only one other home run in 316 2-3 innings this season and entered the game with the nation’s third-lowest ERA (0.73).
“This is a double-elimination tournament. You can’t have the attitude that if we lose one, we’ll lose another,” Nelson said. “Through the season, even though we haven’t lost a lot of games, there’s been games where we’ve been behind and we’ve been able to come back. I think our team has a lot of character in that respect.”
The Ragin’ Cajuns advance to face fifth-seeded Texas A&M (55-7), which beat Virginia Tech 1-0. The only run came in the sixth inning, when third baseman Charisse Mariconda threw wildly to first on Megan Gibson’s grounder, allowing pinch-runner Andrea Tovar to score from second.
Gibson (39-1) threw a five-hit shutout and pitched around two Aggies errors.
Angela Tincher (38-9), the national player of the year, struck out nine and allowed only two hits for unseeded Virginia Tech (49-18).
“I thought Tincher was everything that she is made out to be. She lived up to her billing. She did a nice job against us,” Aggies coach Jo Evans said. “The team that made the big mistake ended up taking it on the chin.”