LAFAYETTE — Louisiana-Lafayette softball coach Michael Lotief loves stories about redemption and second chances, and he’s enjoying watching two of them unfold on his team while the season progresses.
Lotief said Cajuns left fielder Shelbi Redfearn and pitcher Christina Hamilton are two examples of players who struggled early in their careers but have altered their directions for the Cajuns (17-6-1), who host Sam Houston State in a doubleheader that begins at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
This weekend, UL-Lafayette also opens its Sun Belt Conference schedule with a three-game series in Atlanta against Georgia State.
Redfearn, a senior who transferred last year from Baylor, didn’t have quite the 2013 she expected, Lotief said Tuesday during his weekly press conference.
Last season, Redfearn batted only 24 times and finished with an .083 average (one of Redfearn’s two hits, however, was a home run).
Hamilton, a junior pitcher who played at Rosepine, suffered a knee injury early in her career and is just now realizing her potential as a key piece of the rotation, Lotief said.
Lotief said Redfearn — who is batting .310 and positioned in the cleanup spot — is perhaps the biggest surprise for No. 20 UL-Lafayette.
“The reason why I say surprising is because (Redfearn) has been so consistent. She has also developed that will to win and has been so big with her leadership on this team,” Lotief said.
Redfearn had probably her best game of the season Feb. 28 when she drove in seven runs off a pair of homers in an 11-10 win over Baylor.
“This year, (Redfearn) has brought so much passion and energy and the team has really taken on her personality,” Lotief said. “Last year (Redfearn) was struggling and having a tough time with the transition, but she stayed with it. Last season the team really had her back and now she has the team on her back.”
Hamilton has also been inconsistent throughout her UL-Lafayette career — until lately, when she has blossomed into the staff’s most dominant pitcher.
That’s in contrast to last year, when Hamilton threw only 35 innings, allowing 31 hits and 20 runs.
On Monday, Hamilton was announced as the Sun Belt Conference pitcher of the week after she held No. 13 Oklahoma to four hits and one run in two UL-Lafayette victories during a Saturday doubleheader at Lamson Park.
That effort only highlighted the type of season Hamilton (8-1, 1.36 ERA) has had so far.
“She now has more pitches in her repertoire along with the rise and her curveball. Now she’s able to change speeds, and her spin and rotation on the ball are up along with her command,” Lotief said. “Naturally, (Hamilton) is also tougher, and she has certainly worked hard to get to this point. She has struggled and paid her dues to reach the culmination of the type of pitcher that we watched this weekend.”
Sam Houston, which plays in the Southland Conference, was 11-13 before Tuesday’s game against Texas Southern.
UL-Lafayette has developed a one-two punch in the top of the batting order, which has produced 23 first-inning runs for the Cajuns.
Leadoff hitter Natalie Fernandez and No. 2 batter Haley Hayden, a freshman, are batting well over .300. Fernandez (.467) is the team leader. Hayden is batting .366 with 29 RBIs and nine homers.