LAFAYETTE — The week of preparation for this weekend’s Georgia State series didn’t quite register for Louisiana-Lafayette associate head softball coach T.J. Hubbard.
With head coach Michael Lotief out indefinitely as he tends to a medical issue, Hubbard will be the point man when the Ragin’ Cajuns (27-5, 12-3) take on the Panthers (23-12, 5-4) at Lamson Park this weekend.
Hubbard said the routine will be, well, routine. The emotions, however, may be overwhelming.
“He (Lotief) is such an emphatic and emotional leader for all of us,” Hubbard said. “He is the rock and glue that keeps everything going. To not know what is going on is tough on all of us.
“It’ll hit when we start getting ready. The best way to help the kids get through it is to have a loud packed stadium full of boisterous fans. I think they’ll feel at home with the support. The emotions will be riding high.”
Hubbard will be at the helm for his first home series after he led the Cajuns last week — without Lotief — to a 2-1 series at Texas State. In that series, the Cajuns dropped the first game, a 14-13 thriller, but immediately bounced back winning the second game 15-2 and the third game 4-0.
Sophomore Alex Stewart pitched two gems against Texas State en route to being named Louisiana Sports Writers Association Pitcher of the Week. She went 2-0 in her first two conference starts, gave up just two runs on six hits and struck out 16 in her two starts.
“In that situation, Alex got thrown into the mix and she stepped up,” Hubbard said. “Emotionally, she gave that team something to rally around and she was dominant in the circle. She made them swing and miss a lot and gave me confidence as to who we were going with the next day.”
Lexie Elkins closed her monster March with five home runs and eight RBIs in the Texas State series. Hubbard said Elkins’ performance against Texas State was incredible to witness and said her ability to ignite the offense provides much-needed leadership from the No. 3 spot.
“If you look at her last year, when we got into Sun Belt play, she started seeing the ball better,” Hubbard said. “She is not missing anything. If you see the barrel release, it is a hard hit. Her timing is there and she put on a firework show last weekend.”
Hubbard said the situation with Lotief weighs heavy on the coaching staff and the players alike. He admitted it’s hard at times, but he said he will do his best this weekend to ease some pressure and keep the routine as normal as possible.
“One thing I have tried to do is to get some dialogue from coach Mike via text and pass on a few words to them,” Hubbard said. “The offense and the pitching stays the same. The system in place works. I just want to establish that connection between them and coach Mike. It will give them a bit of a relaxed feeling.”