LAFAYETTE — The Louisiana-Lafayette softball team has swept two straight Sun Belt Conference series without supreme slugger Lexie Elkins thanks to some big contributions from others in her place.
Last weekend against Georgia State in Atlanta, it was sophomores Aleah Craighton and D.J. Sanders’ turn to ramp up their production.
Both Craighton and Sanders homered twice in the Georgia State series, combining to drive in 10 runs.
Craighton was recognized as the SBC softball player of the week after going 5-for-7 while also drawing four walks in Atlanta. It’s the third week in a row the Cajuns earned such an honor and the sixth time this season.
“Aleah’s done a tremendous job since Lexie’s injury of solidifying the four-hole and continuing to provide the power, on-base percentage and RBI production,” coach Mike Lotief said in a statement.
Craighton has hit safely in each of the six games the Cajuns have played without Elkins, and four of those hits have left the park. She also has driven in six runs in Elkins’ absence.
Sanders wasn’t quite as productive as Craighton was overall against Georgia State, with one hit in each game, but she made her hits count.
Her two-run homer in the first game proved to be the decisive hit in a 4-1 win, and she followed that with another two-run homer in the nightcap with one out in the final inning that gave the Cajuns a 6-5 win. She drove in two runs in each game of the series.
Surprisingly, the Cajuns have increased their power numbers since Elkins left the lineup. The Cajuns have hit 17 home runs in six games without Elkins, pushing their NCAA-leading total to 77. They’re averaging 2.8 home runs without Elkins after averaging 2.1 with her.
Craighton and Sanders each have 13 home runs, which is tied for 17th nationally and third in the SBC. Last season as freshmen, the pair combined to hit 16.
Watch for the watch list
USA Softball will announce a 25-player watch list Wednesday for its national Player of the Year honor, and the Cajuns figure to be represented on that list.
Elkins and Shellie Landry were on the 50-player preseason watch list and, despite her thumb injury, Elkins is still among the national leaders in several statistical categories.
Elkins has missed the past six games but is still tied for second nationally in home runs (17). She is also the NCAA leader in slugging percentage (1.263) and batting average (.538). Her average is more than 20 points higher than Louisiana-Monroe’s Rochelle Roberts, who is second nationally at .515.
Landry was hitting .256 through 12 games this season but has rebounded nicely. She’s hitting .327 with 10 home runs and 36 RBIs.
The National Pro Fastpitch draft is Thursday in Nashville, Tennessee, and a couple of current Cajuns could have their names called.
Elkins and Landry are expected to be drafted during Thursday’s event, which will be broadcast live by CBS Sports Network.
There are six NPF teams, and the draft will last six rounds. This year’s draft includes the expansion Scrap Yard Dawgs based out of The Woodlands, Texas.
The Scrap Yard Dawgs will receive two picks in each of the final four rounds, meaning 40 players will be drafted. The Pennsylvania Rebellion have the No. 1 pick.