LAFAYETTE — The softball season is young, but Louisiana-Lafayette is on an early roll.
The Ragin’ Cajuns have played three games so far, and they have yet to give up a run. Saturday’s games — an 8-0 win over Central Arkansas and a 17-0 victory over Eastern Illinois — featured dominant pitching and an offensive surge. Both games finished in five innings.
“I think we played good defense, and we haven’t given up a lot of free bases,” coach Michael Lotief said. “We put ourself in some tight situations, but we aren’t giving away anything for free. Our pitchers are executing and staying aggressive.”
In the first game against Central Arkansas, the Cajuns featured Kylee Jo Trahan in her first career game in the circle. Her coaches are high on the true freshman, and she didn’t disappoint, giving up just three hits and striking out six while going the distance.
“First inning was a lot of nervousness,” Trahan said, “but everyone talked me down and I just settled in and did what I know how to do.”
Trahan got herself into tough situations, but Lotief said it was good to see her stay calm and get out of the jams.
“The binds she got into were real,” Lotief said. “That is good for her to know that, if she keeps trusting her stuff, she can get out of it. ... That is a big confidence booster for her.”
The game was scoreless until the fourth inning, when the Cajuns scored five runs, including a grand slam from Shellie Landry. The second game was never in doubt; the Cajuns got eight runs in the first inning and never looked back.
They had four home runs in the win over Eastern Illinois — one from Samantha Walsh, her first of the year; one from Aleah Craighton, the first of her career; and two from Haley Hayden, her second and third of the year.
“I am just going out and trusting what I do in practice,” Hayden said. “Whatever happens, happens. We aren’t trying to be outcome-based. We just want to have pure motives. We just trust the process.”
Alex Stewart got the start and the win, striking out five in three innings. But the Lamson Park crowd was on its feet when Christina Hamilton — last year’s fan favorite pitcher — made an appearance in the fourth. Lotief said it was important to get Hamilton work in the game, and he said the crowd’s support was huge.
“I think it is good for her mind and her rehab as she continues to work her way back,” Lotief said. “The crowd was very gracious. That (ovation) is going to do a lot for her motivation as she works her way back.”
Hamilton came out a bit timid but settled in nicely, striking out three batters in two innings. Lotief said all the momentum is on the Cajuns’ side now, but it can all go away if they don’t stay focused — starting with Sunday’s game against Eastern Illinois.
“The momentum of the game turned our way, and our hitters are seeing live pitching,” he said. “The more live pitching they see, hopefully the more comfortable they get and they can make better adjustments.
“Tomorrow, the ball may get hit right at people and those inches may turn their way. It can be a totally different game. It’s a game of parity and inches and, if you have momentum, you better keep it.”