Cajuns softball notebook: Mike Lotief tips his hat to Florida lefty Delanie Gourley after getting swept in Gainesville _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BRAD BOWIE -- Head Coach Michael Lotief questions a call made by the home plate umpire on Sunday, March 13, 2016, as the Cajuns host South Alabama at Lamson Park.

LAFAYETTE — In a matchup of strength against strength this past weekend, Florida’s outstanding pitching shut down the Louisiana-Lafayette softball team’s high-octane offense, limiting the Ragin’ Cajuns to two runs in the three-game series.

Florida junior left-hander Delanie Gourley in particular had Cajuns coach Mike Lotief scratching his head.

“That left-handed kid? She was throwing 70, so that’s equivalent to over 100 miles an hour in baseball,” Lotief said Monday. “She’s cutting it. She’s breaking it in. She’s breaking it up. She’s breaking it out. She’s in all quadrants. She can go easy, and she can go extra — she can go over the 70. ... Plus she’s got two offspeed pitches — one she can break this way away and one that mimics her hard stuff that you can’t pick up.”

According to eFastball.com, a 70-mph pitch from 43 feet away — the distance between the pitching rubber and home plate in softball — is equivalent to a 98-mph pitch from a baseball mound, which is 60 feet, 6 inches away from home plate.

Gourley allowed just four hits while striking out 21 in 11.1 innings against the Cajuns. That includes a 13-strikeout effort in Saturday’s series opener. That was the most strikeouts by a pitcher against the Cajuns since South Alabama’s Hannah Campbell, another lefty, struck out 13 in an eight-inning no-hitter in the 2013 Sun Belt Conference tournament.

“If you have a pitcher like that, I don’t care at what level or what sport, it’s going to be a long day for the hitters,” Lotief said. “Sometimes you??ve just got to tip your hat.”

‘She’s still in it with us’

Senior slugger Lexie Elkins continues to be sidelined by a broken bone in her thumb, an injury Lotief said he expects will keep her out until some time near the conference tournament in May.

While much of the focus has been on what her absence has meant to the offense — Elkins was leading the nation in home runs and batting average at the time of her injury — she also plays an important role defensively managing the game behind the plate.

Freshman Brittany Nollkamper has filled in while Elkins watches from the dugout, but pitcher Alex Stewart said Elkins’ presence has made the difference negligible.

“It’s not any different,” Stewart said. “She’s there, she’s calling pitches, she’s watching — it’s not different from a pitcher’s standpoint. She’s still in it with us, fighting every pitch.”

Lesson learned

While the Cajuns were obviously disappointed by the outcome of their weekend in Gainesville, they chose to look at the positives during Monday’s news conference.

“I think we all learned that softball is a game of inches,” Stewart said. “We just have to realize that we were one inch away from winning.”

Lotief wasn’t quite able to put a finger on how getting swept was going to be beneficial in the long run, but he was sure it would be — even if the team had to force it.

“What this weekend is going to do for our team, I can’t stand up here and explain it, but it’s going to make us better,” he said. “We’re going to make it make us better.”