Ragin’ Cajuns catcher Lexie Elkins heating up toward the end of the season (again) _lowres

Advocate file photo by LEE CELANO -- UL-Lafayette catcher Lexie Elkins connects for a home run last season. Elkins, who batted .426 with 32 homers and 83 RBIs last year, is the preseason Sun Belt Player of the Year.

LAFAYETTE — After clubbing a school-record and nation-best 32 home runs in her junior season, Louisiana-Lafayette catcher Lexie Elkins was named the recipient of the 2014 James J. Corbett Award, given annually to the state’s top male and female amateur athlete.

“It means a lot, and I couldn’t have done it without my sisters pushing me,” Elkins said. “My name gets put on it, but it’s the people behind me that nobody sees. That’s why I get it.”

Elkins became the fourth Cajuns softball player to win the Corbett Award in the past seven years, joining Christina Hamilton (2014), Christi Orgeron (2012) and Ashley Brignac (2008). The Corbett Award first started recognizing female athletes in 2000.

“That’s a very prestigious award, and she’s very honored to be recognized by such a group that is so committed to promoting the right values and ideals in athletics,” coach Michael Lotief said.

In addition to the 32 homers, Elkins drove in 83 runs and slugged 1.077 for a Cajuns team that made the super regionals for the third consecutive year. In all likelihood, the eye-grabbing power totals are what earned the award for Elkins.

But, Lotief said, it goes so much deeper than that.

“Everybody would just assume that she hit all those home runs, and therefore she’s a great player,” Lotief said. “If that’s where your mind takes you, then you miss the true story, which is the maturation and the transformation of a kid who obviously is a very good hitter, who now has become a great leader, a great student-athlete, a great woman.”

That maturation has guided Elkins toward being more complete on the softball diamond and away from it.

When she first arrived on campus, Elkins said she figured she already had the world figured out, and part of that meant putting her own goals first.

That’s not the case now for Elkins, who said she’d rather trade the personal postseason awards and recognition for a team accomplishment.

“They’ve transformed me into someone who’s ready to compete in all aspects of life, and not just do things for myself,” Elkins said. “Personal accomplishments are nice, but I would rather put all these awards aside and win a national championship. That’s what we’re aiming for. We’re pushing toward that.”

That statement is music to Lotief’s ears. He has enjoyed watching Elkins mature to the point where he now expects her to take on a leadership role as a rising senior.

Not many people possess Elkins’ talents, Lotief said — but the ones who truly impact the games are the ones who are capable of being the team’s best and most altruistic player.

“Kids who get it get both pieces,” Lotief said. “They develop the skill set and they also figure out the other end, too. First of all, their ability to handle that kind of notoriety without pounding their chest and pointing their finger at themselves — somehow they have to figure out how it makes sense in a team concept.

“They also have to understand that it’s not possible by themselves. In golf it is, in softball it’s not. I don’t think a team has success without their best players being the most selfless.”

The Cajuns have gone 91-22-1 in the two years with Elkins as the starting catcher. In that span, Elkins has launched 56 homers and driven in 157 runs.

It’s the numbers that have grabbed others’ attention, but there’s one important distinction that has earned admiration from Lotief.

“When she was younger, she was just a hitter,” Lotief said. “But I’ve watched her transform into a leader that can hit.

“She’s a leader who hits, not a hitter who leads.”