LAFAYETTE — Michael Lotief has coached 12 Louisiana-Lafayette softball teams, but the one that finished the regular season Sunday at Lamson Park has certainly caught his attention.
UL-Lafayette ended Sun Belt Conference play with just one loss in 20 games and as the regular-season champion after defeating UL-Monroe 9-3 with a lineup that contained seven players who are sophomores or freshmen.
The win over the Warhawks (22-25, 6-14) completed the third sweep of a conference series in as many weekends for the Cajuns (41-7, 19-1), who will be the top seed when the Sun Belt tournament opens Wednesday at Lamson Park. The Cajuns’ first game will be 5 p.m. Thursday against No. 4 Western Kentucky, No. 5 Texas State or No. 8 Texas-Arlington.
Even with all of that youth, Lotief said the Cajuns have played like an experienced team.
“For as young as they are, they are just amazing,” he said. “This team has just kept grinding it out and getting after it. It’s just remarkable what they have been able to accomplish.”
Sunday’s win was the Cajuns’ 12th in a row. Their most recent defeat was April 12, an 8-4 loss to visiting South Alabama.
Junior Jordan Wallace (14-3) pitched four-plus innings before sophomore Victoria Brown came in for the three-inning relief effort and her first save. Wallace, who has struggled at times with control, pitched well, Lotief said.
“Jordan was like her old self (Sunday),” he said. “I think there are signs that she has turned the corner for us.”
Wallace finished with seven strikeouts and four walks. She allowed two hits but, in the fifth with the Cajuns leading 2-0, Sydney Coy walked and Courtney Dutreix singled. After a wild pitch moved the runners to second and third, Brown replaced Wallace on the mound. Rochelle Roberts singled to score Coy, but Brown escaped further damage.
Brown, who pitched six scoreless innings in a win Saturday, walked one and struck out two.
UL-Monroe coach Rosemary Holloway-Hill said her pitching wasn’t effective enough against the Cajuns, who collected 10 hits, including back-to-back solo home runs by Lexie Elkins and Samantha Walsh in the sixth. Elkins, who had three hits in as many at-bats, finished with five RBIs; she drove in a pair in the fifth inning to give Brown some breathing room.