LAFAYETTE — If you think Louisiana-Lafayette softball coach Michael Lotief is satisfied with his team’s accomplishments, then check out his mandatory list of impending team improvements.
The Ragin’ Cajuns (30-7-1) have won 15 of the last 16 games, and they sit alone in first place in the Sun Belt Conference standings at 11-1. But Lotief said there’s more important work ahead for his team, which meets Southland Conference leader McNeese State at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Lamson Park.
“We’ve got to get (pitcher) Jordan Wallace going again,” Lotief said. “We’ve got to continue to get better defensively, work on improving the bottom of our lineup and develop some depth. It’s not the time to look around or scoreboard-watch. We have to work to find a way to get better.”
The Cajuns have still swept three of their four conference series. Last weekend, UL-Lafayette defeated No. 15 South Alabama twice during a three-game weekend series.
Lotief said the Cajuns, however, are still a young team. They have just two seniors.
That means UL-Lafayette must still develop a starting lineup that includes six sophomores and a freshman, Lotief said.
The Cajuns have four players batting over .300, but they’re packed at the top of the lineup (the bottom four hitters in the order are hitting .260 or lower).
UL-Lafayette assistant T.J. Hubbard said he’s pleased with the way the young players have performed, especially against South Alabama.
The Cajuns had to come from behind in all three games — and despite the youthful lineup, they found a way to win two of the three games, Hubbard said.
“I thought they handled that well,” he said. “It seems the learning curve for them is getting shorter and shorter.”
Wallace, a junior who emerged as the staff’s leader the past two seasons, has had her difficulties — especially with overall pitch control.
She’s 13-3, but Wallace’s ERA has ballooned to 4.02, and she has walked 95 in 94 innings.
Hubbard said Wallace has sometimes encountered umpires whose strike zone has not complemented her repertoire.
McNeese (30-11), which leads the Southland Conference, is a formidable opponent, Hubbard said.
The teams were originally scheduled for March 5, but the game was postponed because of wet weather.
“McNeese is a good, a solid team,” Hubbard said. “They won’t show you a lot of power or offense, but they have solid pitching and they are aggressive on the bases.”
Under coach Mike Smith, McNeese has experienced six straight 30-win seasons, and the Cowgirls have won 14 of their last 15 games.
McNeese is hitting .312 as a team and the pitching staff has a 1.32 ERA.
McNeese pitcher Jamie Allred (19-5) has thrown five one-hitters and as many shutouts. Allred has struck out 157 in 159 innings.
Rachel Smith is 6-3 with a 1.35 ERA.
Cowgirls’ outfielders Alana DeVittorio, Lauren Langner and Marisa Taunton are the leading hitters. DeVittorio is batting .397 and has a team-leading 31 steals.