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Softball: How Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns softball shortstop Alissa Dalton rebounded from thumb surgery

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, May 19, 2021

After having thumb surgery and going a month without batting in a game, something felt off for Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns shortstop Alissa Dalton, the 2019 Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year.

“At first I was kind of nervous when I would get in the box and not hit the ball solid,” she said with a laugh. “So I was like, ‘OK, we’ve got to figure something out.’ ”

Dalton didn’t return until May 6 against UL Monroe.

“She’s a much better hitter than what we saw in the three games against ULM,” coach Gerry Glasco said after Dalton went 1-for-8.

Dalton went 3-for-3 with two RBIs in UL’s 15-3 Sun Belt Championship win over South Alabama on Saturday.

Off to the NCAA Tournament

The victory sent the Ragin’ Cajuns (44-10) into the NCAA Tournament as the No. 2 seed in the Baton Rouge Regional, where UL opens Friday against George Washington (5:30 p.m., ESPN3, 1420 AM).

LSU is the No. 1 seed; McNeese State is No. 4.

PLAYOFFS:Cajuns softball team off to LSU for NCAA Tournament Baton Rouge Regional

MORE:How No. 14 UL advanced to the Sun Belt softball championship game

“I feel pretty good to be where I’m at,” said Dalton, a fifth-year senior from Texas. “I’m not having pain at all, so that’s promising, especially being so recent out of surgery.

“It’s definitely confidence-building moving forward to know I can still play the way I know how, and just trusting myself, and not allowing my brain to turn to my injury and think about it, and just going out there and enjoying the game while I can still play it.”

Going into the Sun Belt Tournament, however, Glasco worried about Dalton’s bat. He dropped her from third to ninth in the order.

Last Friday, though, Dalton went 1-for-2 against Texas State.

“Her timing (Friday) looked like she was back to 100%,” Glasco said.

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On Saturday, one of her three hits was a two-run home run Dalton deemed long overdue.

“Glad I could still do it,” she said.

From Oklahoma to Louisiana

Dalton is now hitting .386, close to her career-high .400 in 2019. Timing, she suggested, has been key.

“We’ve been working on that nonstop – just timing, timing, timing for me,” Dalton said.

“Because softball is a game of repetition, and …(Glasco) knew that was going to be the biggest struggle – the pitches I missed seeing the everybody has gotten to see all season.

“(Friday) when I was hitting the ball solid and I looked good,” she added, “I was like, ‘Alright … it’s finally happening.”

One of Ragin' Cajuns shortstop Alissa Dalton's three hits in UL's Sun Belt title game win over South Alabama on Saturday in Troy, Alabama, was a two-run home run.

Dalton rounding the bases after hitting a two-run home run in the cSBC Championship game vs. South Alabama. Joey Meredith, Sun Belt Conference.  

Beyond the bat coming around, Dalton is thrilled to simply be playing again.

She spent her 2017 freshman season at Oklahoma, this year’s No. 1 seed, but left the team before it won the Women’s College World Series.

After the 2020 season was cut short by COVID-19, Dalton returned with an extra season of eligibility to again chase what she missed out on with the Sooners.

“Sometimes … I forget that I was there,” Dalton said. “It really does feel like ‘a different person,’ because it was … forever ago.

“In another way, I see them succeeding …and I’m like, ‘Okay, they are talented, but so are we, and we can succeed just as well.’ ”

The thumb injury jeopardized plans for a third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, but she returned just in time.

“It puts a lot into perspective, just to sit out and watch the people that you’re used standing to your left and right play the game without you,” Dalton said. “But it also makes me very grateful for my teammates and realize how fortunate I am to be on a team like this and healthy enough to play.”

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