LAFAYETTE — The consistency in the UL-Lafayette softball lineup has been a key component to the Ragin’ Cajuns’ blazing start.
Obviously, pitchers Jordan Wallace and Christina Hamilton have been lights-out in the circle, but Cajuns coach Michael Lotief has made almost no changes to his Opening Day lineup.
That stability has earned the Cajuns a 17-3 record, a No. 7 national ranking and a .316 team batting average. Of the nine spots in the lineup, the only one that’s had any change at all is the designated player spot.
Sara Corbello started the first game in the DP slot; Meagan Thomas started 10 games at DP — the most of anyone. Recently, however, Leandra Maly has taken control of the spot and it looks like she won’t be letting go anytime soon.
The senior has started seven games in the DP spot and amassed a .571 batting average, including 5-for-9 last weekend in the Cajuns’ Sun Belt Conference-opening series against South Alabama.
“Leandra has done a good job for us,” Lotief said. “When her number is called, she keeps getting hits.”
Lotief said Maly has long had the talent to play every day in the Cajuns’ lineup, but it took a sense of urgency for her to break in. Lotief said this being Maly’s senior year has created that urgency and she continues to improve.
“She’s gaining more and more confidence with every at bat,” Lotief said. “Now that she’s got some confidence, it is starting to snowball.”
Despite Maly’s recent successes, Lotief said the DP spot in the lineup is still evolving. Corbello, Thomas, Gabby Felps and Taylor Terrio could all see time in the lineup.
“The game is going to give each of these kids a chance to get in there,” Lotief said. “It just all has to line up.”
In the third game of the South Alabama series, Thomas briefly filled in at second base for leadoff hitter Haley Hayden, who appeared to suffer a right arm injury. Thomas played two innings in the field but never got a chance to bat as Hayden returned to the game.
Lotief said Thomas’ versatility in the infield makes her a valuable asset to the team.
“Meagan remains an option if we have to start pinch hitting,” Lotief said. “She can pinch hit for Haley, she can pinch hit for (shortstop) D.J. (Sanders) and she can play some short for us.
“We’re trying to fix that bottom part of our lineup. That has been our Achilles heel the last couple years.”