LAFAYETTE — If Louisiana-Lafayette softball coach Michael Lotief could select a theme for this weekend’s NCAA regional softball tournament at Lamson Park, he would probably choose offense and familiarity.
Lotief said Monday the four teams in the field — Texas, Mississippi State, Texas Southern and the host Cajuns — havehas plenty of offensive capability.
What will also make the regional unusual, Lotief said, is that all the teams are somewhat acquainted.
UL-Lafayette (44-8-1) is the sixth overall seed in the tournament and the No. 1 seed in the regional.
Texas (33-21) is seeded second in front of third-seeded Mississippi State (38-19). Texas Southern, which plays UL-Lafayette in the second game Friday after the 3 p.m. opener, is 31-18.
The Cajuns lost to Texas twice (10-7, 7-3) in early February at Lamson Park.
Lotief said he is good friends with the Texas Southern coaching staff, and Mississippi State is a team he knows quite well.
“All the teams in (the regional) will know each other. There will be no secrets coming into the regional,” Lotief said.
Lotief said Texas has a good hitting team that has 44 home runs, and the Longhorns pitching staff has improved since the February games against the Cajuns.
“Texas’ offense is very dynamic. Their lineup has three or four kids who can really hit. You look at Texas Southern, and they have three or four hitters who are batting over .400 right now,” Lotief said.
Texas Southern received an automatic berth into the regional after winning the Southwest Athletic Conference Tournament with a 6-3 win over Mississippi Valley State on Sunday.
Mississippi State is in its third straight regional after receiving an at-large berth.
Lotief said the Cajuns offense, which hit 79 homers, has been improving as the season progresses.
UL-Lafayette’s lineup, especially in the one through six spots, has been a successfully collective factor, Lotief said.
“It started in the Western Kentucky game (of the Sun Belt Conference tournament), and they came through also against South Alabama.
“What those kids have done collectively has been special. That’s why we’re on the run we’re on. They just feed off each other. They are just a bunch of young kids who feel very confident in those (clutch) moments.
“These are 18-, 19- and 20-year-old kids who are calm and laughing and want to be in that situation. It’s very impressive to be around those kids. They know how to handle it,” Lotief said.
The only Cajuns batter hitting over .400 is senior leadoff hitter and second baseman Natalie Fernandez (.457).
Freshman outfielder Haley Hadyen, who hits second in the order, is at .339, while sophomore catcher Lexie Elkins is batting .399 in the third spot.
The remaining batters in fourth through sixth are Samantha Walsh (.266), Shellie Landry (.290) and Shelbi Redfearn (.293).
Elkins, Hayden, Walsh and Redfearn have a cumulative 56 homers.
Lotief said the Cajuns’ hitters have shown more discretion when it comes to choosing pitches, which especially became evident during the conference tournament.
UL-Lafayette faced two of the nation’s best pitchers in South Alabama’s Farish Beard and Hannah Campbell in addition to Western Kentucky left-hander Emily Rousseau, who was selected as the 2013 Sun Belt pitcher of the year.
“Over the weekend you could see our hitters making the adjustments as the games went on against some really good arms,” Lotief said.
Although the Cajuns used junior Christina Hamilton as a starter in all but one of the Sun Belt tournament games, Lotief said he’s confident UL-Lafayette has sufficient pitching to navigate through the regional.
“All (three) have faced good hitters and have been successful. What really matters is matchups. There are going to be good hitters and good arms in this regional,” Lotief said.