LAFAYETTE — Now that his team has won the Sun Belt Conference’s regular-season championship, Louisiana-Lafayette softball coach Michael Lotief said Monday that the experimenting will continue.
Although that sounds paradoxical, Lotief said it’s a justifiable concept even though the Cajuns (41-7-1) are the top seed entering the SBC tournament, which begins Wednesday at Lamson Park.
Lotief said the Cajuns planned to hold an intrasquad scrimmage Monday to better identify players who might help the Cajuns, who will play Texas State, Western Kentucky or Texas Arlington at 5 p.m. Thursday.
Unlike past postseasons, the Cajuns lineup still possesses an element of uncertainty. During the regular season, UL-Lafayette used 21 different players in the starting lineup. The kind of instability won’t disappear now that the postseason has arrived.
With so many freshmen and sophomores, the Cajuns are anything but a finished product.
“Some years you have teams like that, who are still grinding it out and still trying to figure out who’s going to play what roles,” Lotief said. “Last year was different. You knew who was batting where, who was going to pitch which game. This year is totally different. ... There are going to be a lot of decisions that are still continuing to be figured out.”
Lotief said he’s already receiving plenty of advice on what players to use.
“People are already giving me the lineup, who our pitchers are going to be and written out the scenarios for us, but (the postseason) is not going to go according to script. I guarantee you that,” he said. “I think all our kids understand where we are. The biggest thing on this team is that the players trust each other. It’s not going to be a decision that a coach makes.”
Although the position players and the top and middle of the batting order remain relatively set, the Cajuns have been using different lineups in past weeks, trying to get more production from the bottom third of the order.
On Sunday in their regular-season finale, a 9-3 victory against Louisiana-Monroe, the Cajuns used junior-college transfer Lenadra Maly as a designated player. It was Maly’s second start of the season. The others who have been spot starters are sophomores Gabrielle Felps (eight starts) and Linzey Cifreo (three) and freshmen Kendall Smith (seven), Kassidy Zeringue (five) and Sarah Arceneaux (one).
In just the past few weeks, the Cajuns have developed a third pitcher: sophomore right-hander Victoria Brown, who is 5-1 mainly in relief. Brown posted her third win of the season April 22 at Baylor and then won at Texas-Arlington on April 26.
After winning one game of Saturday’s doubleheader against UL-Monroe, Brown relieved starter Jordan Wallace on Sunday. Brown recorded her first save in that game by pitching three innings.
“She gives us another arm that allows us to match up in the postseason,” Lotief said. “When you get into the postseason, you can’t do it with one arm. What we did last year (with Wallace doing most of the pitching) is not going to happen this year. We’re going to piece some things together, make some moves, and it’s going to be interesting. I know we are going to have to trust all three of those kids. What’s more important is they’ve got to trust themselves to be in those situations.”
TOURNAMENT ACTIVITIES START TUESDAY: Tournament festivities begin Tuesday with several family events after the gates open at 6:45 p.m. Players from all teams will compete in a home run derby followed by fireworks. Admission is free.