Ragin’ Cajuns’ Michael Lotief vows to keep grinding as team visits UL-Monroe _lowres

Advocate Photo by LEE CELANO - University of Louisiana at Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns Head Coach Michael Lotief congratulates Kelli Martinez after she scored a run against the Hofstra University Pride in the fifth inning in Lafayette Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015.

As the UL-Lafayette softball team prepares to wrap up Sun Belt Conference play after a disappointing trip to Oregon last weekend, Ragin’ Cajuns coach Michael Lotief drew parallels to previous trips out west.

In 2002, the Cajuns were swept in a road trip to Arizona. In 2010, the Cajuns lost a regional at UCLA. Lotief said going into the Oregon series, the team knew the challenge in front of them; they just did not compete.

“In ’02, Arizona spanked us,” Lotief said. “They run-ruled us and it was just ugly. We went to UCLA, they beat the hell out of us. We couldn’t do anything to create any momentum.

“Oregon is No. 1 in the country. They are the cream of the Pac-12. Game 1 reminded me of Arizona and UCLA. We didn’t feel comfortable in that environment and on that stage. We were noncompetitive and just uncomfortable.”

The Cajuns now turn their attention to UL-Monroe for a regular-season-ending three-game series in Monroe that Lotief said “will be a war.”

“Everybody thinks we are just gong to go down there and take care of them,” Lotief said. “We are going to get their best shot and we better be able to give them our best.”

Lotief said he isn’t necessarily disappointed in how the Oregon series played out. He was pleased with what the pitching staff did against Oregon despite the Ducks’ three-game sweep. He said Jordan Wallace’s rebound from a bad performance in the series opener was promising and he was happy Christina Hamilton had a performance to build on.

“These kids’ attitudes and their effort is off the charts,” Lotief said. “Alex (Stewart) got exposed and because she is a younger pitcher, let’s see what she is going to do over the next month. Christina looked good and did some good things. Jordan has to find a way to be consistent, and I am still betting on Kylee (Jo Trahan).

“I believe in all four of those kids, and I think it is going to take all four if we are going to do what we need to do. I believe it now more than ever.”

Lotief said the team’s mindset never changes from series to series. Whether it be No. 1 Oregon or UL-Monroe, Lotief said the real battle is against the game.

“We’ve never prepared and game-planned for an opponent,” Lotief said. “We are playing against the game. The game is hard enough to play without worrying about the opponent. When you fail seven out of 10 times no matter who the opponent is, you’re playing that little yellow ball.

“Monroe can sweep us and they’ll say we had a letdown. That is not true. The game is tough and the season is a grind. These kids are grinding. Hopefully we all see and appreciate that these kids are grinders.”