LAFAYETTE — What better way to prepare a young softball team than to embark on an eight-game road trip that includes two conference series and one of the nation’s top college programs.
That’s what Louisiana-Lafayette softball coach Michael Lotief is thinking as the Cajuns visit Baylor for a doubleheader at 4 p.m. Tuesday in Waco, Texas.
Fox Sports Southwest is scheduled to televise the game regionally.
The Cajuns (33-7-1, 13-1) successfully completed the first part of the road test with a pair of Sun Belt Conference shutout victories at Troy on Saturday.
After that, the Cajuns travel to Texas-Arlington for a three-game conference series that begins at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Lotief said the Cajuns, 8-0 in road games this season, are faced with a new challenge, something that is perhaps needed to season a team with three freshmen and two sophomore starters.
“No question about it. This is something that will be somewhat of a challenge for them, and hopefully our kids can mentally handle it,” Lotief said.
“This is a chance to establish the fact that what we accomplish this season can’t totally be done all at (Lamson Park),” he said.
The only games other than tournaments the Cajuns have played away from Lafayette this year have been conference series.
In those games, UL-Lafayette has swept Georgia State, Western Kentucky and Troy.
Baylor represents a different sort of challenge. Lotief said.
UL-Lafayette lost to the Bears 11-10 on Feb. 28 as part of the Gulf Coast College Classic.
Lotief said playing Baylor at Getterman Stadium away from Lafayette might give his team a postseason preview.
“It seems to have that kind of flavor to it. What a great venue for this team to experience. You are going to have two good teams, with Top 20 programs going at one another.
“You could say this is sort of precursor to what we will face when it comes time for postseason,” Lotief said.
With Baylor (32-10, 6-4), Lotief said, it all starts with pitcher Whitney Canion.
Canion, who is 5-foot-11, is Baylor’s all-time leader in complete games (106) with 38 career shutouts.
Lotief said he was encouraged by the way the Cajuns handled Troy during a pair of shutout wins with junior Christina Hamilton in the circle.
Hamilton finished the week 3-0 with a 0.70 earned run average. Against Troy, she threw 13 scoreless innings and struck out 10 Trojans.
In addition to Hamilton’s pitching, Lotief said the Cajuns received help from the bottom part of the lineup against the Trojans.
UL-Lafayette’s hitters in the fifth through nine spots, have been hitting barely over .260 as a group.
Against Troy, outfielder Shellie Landry hit a grand slam in a 5-0 victory in Game 1. She was 3-for-4 in the second game with three RBIs.
First baseman Kelsey Vincent, who usually bats eighth, was 2-for-4 in the second game, while shortstop and ninth hitter Corin Voinche was 3-for-4.
Lotief said he was especially pleased with Landry’s performance.
“There has been a lot of pressure on (Landry) this season. The expectations that people placed on her and the injuries that she has had have made it tough for her.
“To her credit, she has continued to battle and work on her skills and develop her game. And for her to show up like she did (against Troy) is big.
“It’s really important for the kids other than the top part of our lineup to start producing. If that doesn’t happen, we can’t win in the postseason,” Lotief said.