LAFAYETTE — The UL-Lafayette softball team is off to a 5-0 start, and this weekend, arguably the biggest test of the season is up.
The Oregon Ducks and All-American Cheridan Hawkins head to Lamson Park for a three-game series.
The Ducks (5-1) are a familiar foe, as well. They swept the Cajuns in a three-game series last season.
Hawkins picked up the win in all three of those games, and Ragin’ Cajuns coach Michael Lotief said there is no need to draw on any motivation from their poor performance in Eugene, Oregon, last spring.
“You don’t need the added extra motivation because they whipped us,” Lotief said. “The motivation is that you have an opportunity to play one of the best teams in the country at your home field. You’re getting ready to play a pitcher who’s probably a first-team All-American who shut us down.
“That’s the motivation to me. If you’re a competitor, the motivation is not revenge. The motivation is, you have an opportunity to play against the best in your sport at your field.”
Lotief said he was extremely proud of the Cajuns’ effort last weekend in Gulf Shores, Alabama, where they won all five games. Lotief said the Cajuns look prepared and in good form very early.
“What does the first weekend mean? It doesn’t mean anything,” he said. “You don’t get a trophy. At the end of the season, nobody’s going to look back and talk about how you started. But in my opinion, for one brief moment, (the players) had my utmost respect for their consistency and how they prepare and how they get ready for the grind every year.”
Lotief said the celebrations of last weekend are over and the attention is on Oregon. He said getting a chance to play a team that handled them pretty well last season is an early opportunity to see if the Cajuns have gotten any better.
“It’s going to be a measuring stick. ... We’re going to see how we can mentally compete against one of the top teams in the country,” he said. “It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be a fun weekend to see where we’re at.”
It’s no secret that getting to Hawkins will be a key to competing against the Ducks. Lotief the Cajuns understand the challenge and will hopefully respond to it.
“They have one of the best pitchers in the country,” he said of Hawkins. “We have to do a better job of grinding it out against her, finding a way to execute our offense and score some runs.
“I wasn’t there at the game (last year), but of course I watched. It just seemed like we let the game happen too fast. We let them dictate the tempo, and it’s really not our style. We’re going to match their intensity. We’re going to get after them, for sure. But I’m looking for more than that. I’m looking to see if our kids can control the tempo and impose on them what we want to do.”