LAFAYETTE — After the opening game for UL-Lafayette on Saturday — a 15-1, five-inning loss to Michigan — Ragin’ Cajuns softball coach Michael Lotief had a tough task to get his young squad ready to turn it around just a half hour later against Memphis.
“We are a very young team,” Lotief said. “Last night (against Michigan) was very spirited and contested ,and we got the better of them. We decided not to throw Jordan (Wallace) back to back and we put two freshman out there. They took us to school, but if it doesn’t destroy our self confidence, it is going to make us better.”
It seemed like the Cajuns were in for another long one after Memphis took a 2-0 lead into the fourth inning. But the UL-Lafayette bats came alive in a five-run fourth that included a Haley Hayden three-run blast to put the Cajuns up 5-2. Hayden wasn’t done, hitting another home run in a sixth inning that saw Hayden, Sarah Arceneaux and Lexie Elkins go back-to-back-to back. The Cajuns hit six total home runs in the 13-2 rout.
“If you’re around this game long enough, you know those innings are few and far between,” said Lotief, who was all smiles during the four-home run sixth. “My joy is for those kids that have been working so hard. You get to see that hard work pay off.”
That hard work is paying off huge dividends for Hayden, who smashed her third and fourth home runs of the weekend and eighth and ninth of the season against the Tigers.
“I hit a few (home runs) in high school,” Hayden said, “but nothing like this. I am just seeing the ball well, and our coaches are putting us in the right situations to be successful.”
“Haley has the talent for this level of ball,” Lotief said. “Every time she has an at-bat, she’s showing it. She sees the ball extremely well and has good pop. She can be special.”
In the first three innings, Memphis pitcher Christian Novak held the Cajuns scoreless, but Lotief said his team never got down on itself. He said he kept stressing the adjustments that needed to be made, but he said he knows it’s going to take such a young team a little longer to adjust.
“(Novak) had our number early,” Lotief said. “I like the way we keep fighting. Every time we get to get out there and play, we’re learning and we are faced with certain challenges that we have to make adjustments on. Every time out, we are getting a little more comfortable, playing the game hard and having fun.”
The Cajuns are 3-1 in the tournament thus far with a 2 p.m. game against Central Arkansas waiting for them Sunday. Lotief said he likes where his team is, but he said they’re far from a finished product.
“I thought we would play a little better defensively,” Lotief said. “We are hitting the ball better than I thought we would. You can see our pitching in spurts, then you see it drop off and get inconsistent.
“We know where we are and we know what we have to fix. You just can’t fix it in one weekend. It’s going to take seasons and years of developing these players, but I am liking this team and I like their work ethic. They play with a lot of energy and they aren’t saddled by these expectations. They’re out there getting better and having fun.”