MOBILE, Ala. — The Louisiana-Lafayette softball team opens up conference play in the same state coach Michael Lotief said his team just finished a war.
The Cajuns are coming off a 2-1 series loss to Alabama last weekend in Tuscaloosa. This weekend, the team shifts its attention to Mobile and the South Alabama Jaguars. The name on the front of the jersey is different, but Lotief said this week’s approach will be identical.
“Last week was a war and the war is what is fun,” Lotief said. “Competition is what’s fun. Getting after someone is fun to me. The stakes are no different this week than last.
“I have the utmost respect for South Alabama. The stage is the same and I think it is going to be fun. Playing this level of competition, playing a worthy opponent and going to war with people you love and care about — that is the definition of fun.”
The Jaguars (15-3) come in as arguably the only threat to the Ragin’ Cajuns (15-2) conference championship aspirations. The Jaguars’ success over the last few years have created a heated rivalry with the Cajuns, but Lotief said it’s no different than any other conference opponent.
“It has been a good rivalry,” he said. “I think it is going to continue this weekend. Everyone in your conference wants to be the champion of the conference. South Alabama has been the threat here recently, so maybe that makes them the recent rival.
“In my mind, they’re all rivals. There isn’t one that is any greater than the other. They’re the team we are playing this weekend and I don’t think they are going to come after us more than other team will.”
Lotief said he hopes to get similar production this weekend from third baseman Samantha Walsh as he got from the junior last weekend against Alabama. Walsh went 4-for-11 against the Crimson Tide including a home run and three huge RBI.
“Samantha Walsh was locked in,” Lotief said. “I don’t think she gets enough credit for being as good as she is. A lot of times she isn’t consistent. The big stage brings out her best. If we are going to go where we need to go, she is going to have to stay locked in. She is going to have to find a way to bring her very best to every competition.”
Despite the Cajuns somewhat struggling last weekend to find timely hits, Lotief said he isn’t planning to overhaul a lineup that he feels is as good as any in the country.
“I think we got it right this year,” Lotief said. “I know a lot of people are critical of kids who were not productive offensively, but (Alabama) was a good pitching staff. The lineup we have been playing is the one that gives us the best chance to win. South Alabama is going to be another tough challenge for us. It is going to require that we are at our best.”