LAFAYETTE — When the UL-Lafayette softball coaches want their pitching staff to face a stern test for some self-evaluation, that staff doesn’t travel hundreds of miles to take on a top-ranked batting order.
A challenge from the Ragin’ Cajuns’ starting lineup, which has seven .300 hitters and a combined 83 home runs, is waiting for them all the time.
“Our hitters have exposed our pitchers and our pitchers have exposed our hitters,” coach Michael Lotief said. “When you have that level of competitiveness, it allows us to improve.”
Improvement in small increments on a daily basis turns into a big leap at times. Sophomore pitcher Alex Stewart has a 10-1 record and a 1.66 ERA after she saw action in four games as a freshman last season and posted a 9.49 ERA. Senior pitcher Jordan Wallace is 14-4 with a 2.01 mark.
“We scrimmage every day and after a hitter sees a pitcher two or three times in a row, they are hitting bombs,” Wallace said. “It helps me as a pitcher. I always have trouble getting Lexie (Elkins) out. It helps me because she is the best in the country.”
Assistant coach Lisa Norris, in her second season with the Cajuns, said that daily test can help pitchers because they get instant feedback.
Many times, the senior pitchers are doing their part to help the underclassmen hitters get ready for game situations in tough places like Alabama or Oregon.
“It’s a fun thing to welcome them to the program and see them progress and make adjustments,” Wallace said. “It’s about seeing improvement.”
Sometimes, the pitchers said, the road to improvement can be tough when you see a pitch bounce off an outfield wall.
“It’s a challenge,” Norris said. “They (the pitchers) understand it. They have a growth mindset and want to understand how it happened and be better from it.”
As a senior, Wallace is able to break down a variety of situations and see how or why something happens.
“Our hitters know us and we know them,” Wallace said. “If I try to attack a weakness and throw inside, they know I’m going to go inside.”
When she was a freshman, Wallace’s reaction to individual pitches and outcomes during practice sessions was a bit different.
“As a freshman, I thought, ‘Oh my God! I got (former star) Christi Orgeron to pop out.’” Wallace said. “We have the best hitters in the country. We constantly challenge each other and don’t back down.”