Aleah Craighton developing into power source for Cajuns softball _lowres

Advocate Photo by LEE CELANO - University of Louisiana at Lafayette Ragin Cajuns' Aleah Craighton swings to hit a three-run homer in the first inning against the Mississippi Valley Valley State Devilettes Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015.

LAFAYETTE — UL-Lafayette softball coach Michael Lotief isn’t taking the Texas State Bobcats lightly.

“I know Texas State can play,” Lotief said. “They’re going to play hard and compete hard and they’re going to give us their best shot. We’re going to have to be tough on the road.”

The Cajuns (25-4, 10-2) make the first-ever trip to San Marcos, Texas, to face the Bobcats (20-13, 5-3). The Cajuns are coming off a series with Troy that tested their leadership after they dropped the first game of the series.

Lotief said his team felt that first loss to Troy and it woke up them up. The Cajuns took the next two games via the mercy rule, and Lotief said the way they responded was outstanding.

“I saw them feel that loss,” Lotief said. “They’ve invested in this team and in their teammates. I saw kids sitting down and putting their arm around another kid and helping her get better. Leadership is not getting in someone’s face and yelling. We’ve got leaders on this team.

“Some of these kids, when things are going good, their approach is good. When things are going bad, the approach is bad. The key is to get them on the same consistent level in every game and every at-bat.”

Lotief pinch-hit for right fielder Aleah Craighton before her first at-bat against Troy. He said the move was an effort to get the freshman’s attention and an effort to get more consistent play from the bottom of the lineup.

“Aleah started out hot. Then she struggled and felt sorry for herself,” Lotief said. “She lost confidence. Sometimes if you take the game away from them, they realize it isn’t as bad as they’re making it out to be.”

Lotief said he still feels the bottom of the lineup isn’t consistent enough for the Cajuns to compete with the upper echelon in college softball. He said he is constantly working to find that elusive consistency before the postseason begins.

“We still have some holes in that lineup that we need to solidify,” Lotief said. “The core is good and probably as good as we’ve had here. The problem we run up against is that we can’t sustain it. They’re trying to have that influence on the rest of the team, but it’s not happening right now. But these kids are hard workers and competitors, and by June, we’ll be seeing better consistency.”

The weekend series pitching rotation seemed to be shored up, with Jordan Wallace pitching the first game, Christina Hamilton pitching the second game and Wallace coming back the next day for the finale.

But Wallace struggled in that first game against Troy, which forced Lotief to go to Hamilton in the second and third games, earning Hamilton Sun Belt Conference pitcher of the week honors after her two wins.

Lotief said many softball teams don’t unveil their pitching lineups until the pregame conference at the plate. He said he is unsure why that is, but the Cajuns aren’t about to abide by a different set of unwritten rules.

“Even in my mind, I am not going to disclose it because they don’t disclose it,” Lotief said. “I don’t want to make it public knowledge to put us at a competitive disadvantage. They don’t announce; we don’t announce. I don’t know why that is, but that is the way it is.”