As the Louisiana-Lafayette softball team prepares for its first road series of the season this weekend at Southern Mississippi, Cajuns coach Michael Lotief is getting closer to having a true pitching staff.
The emergence of Macey Smith, Victoria Brown and Alison Deville have given Lotief multiple options outside of Alex Stewart and Kylee Jo Trahan. Smith has come the furthest in her time with the Cajuns, and Lotief said she is the epitome of what it is to be a part of the program.
“Macey is throwing the ball mid-60s right now,” Lotief said. “She would be pitching at 90 percent of the Division I schools in the country. She has the right size, and she’s smart and competitive as hell. She has a lot of the pieces to make her a great pitcher.”
Smith, a junior left-hander from Houston, said she has accepted her role with the team a lot better this season than in years past when maybe she struggled internally with it.
“This year, I have kind of just accepted that it is a process, and I’m not going to get great overnight,” Smith said. “It’s a grind to get where I want to get, and it’s just a grind every single day. Whatever the team needs. Whatever role I have, I want to be the best at it. It’s not hard to accept it. It’s all about what you do with your opportunity.”
Smith said she isn’t developing new pitches, just mastering the ones she’s always had. Lotief said the increase in Smith’s velocity has a lot to do with correcting years of poor mechanics from her days of playing travel ball.
“She has increased her velocity, and she has changed her body shape,” Lotief said. “She pitched a lot in high school and a lot in travel ball. She was a pure rotational pitcher, and you can’t spin the ball when your rotation comes from the torso.
“Her body position is totally different, and she is able to spin the ball. Why did it take her so long? I guess it’s because she had so many bad reps in her system. She is basically reinventing herself.”
Smith said her attitude has changed drastically since she entered the program, mainly with her ability to learn from Lotief both on and off the field.
“I was more reserved when I got here,” Smith said. “I have always wanted to learn, and I owe it all to my team and coach Mike. He does a great job of teaching us life values within the game. I guess it comes with a little maturity as well.”
Lotief said Smith has definitely presented him with a viable option on game days, but when he thinks about a player’s ability to help the team, game day is usually the furthest thing from his mind.
“Everybody, when they ask about a player’s role, in their mind, they’re thinking about playing time under the lights,” Lotief said. “That is not how my mind works. She is such a valuable contributor to our team. We play over 100 intrasquad scrimmages, and she throws a third of them. She’s an option twice a week, and she throws against the best hitters in the country.
“If she had to be the No. 1 on our team, we could win with her. That is just not her seat on the bus right now, and she is still willing to play the role we ask of her. And she does it with the right attitude and a beautiful smile. She’s the perfect Cajun.”