Cajuns’ Elkins nearing return to diamond _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BRAD BOWIE -- The Cajuns' Lexie Elkins throws a runner out at first on Saturday as The University of Louisiana at Lafayette hosts Alcorn State at Lamson Park.

LAFAYETTE — Lexie Elkins, the senior All-American catcher who leads the UL-Lafayette softball team with 17 home runs despite missing the past 15 games with a left thumb injury, is one “go” signal away from being back in the lineup.

“We haven’t got the (medical) clearance yet, but I have seen her swing. I have seen her in the cage,” Ragin’ Cajuns coach Mike Lotief said. “We’re waiting on the doctor to say ‘go.’ ”

The No. 9 Cajuns (37-7) have gone 11-4 during the one-month stretch since Elkins was first sidelined. During that span, the Cajuns have relied on a balanced effort that has them ranked seventh in the country in ERA at 1.86 and 13th nationally in batting average (.335).

“This team has been solid without its best player,” Lotief said. “This team has marched on. We have had some hiccups, but we have marched on pretty darn admirably. But it’s going to be fun to get her back, too.”

Hit it where they ain’t

The Cajuns made solid contact in their 2-0 loss Sunday at Georgia Southern, finishing with only one strikeout. But Eagles freshman pitcher Dixie Raley wiggled out of innings with some help from her defense during her three-hit shutout.

“(Raley is) good,” Lotief said. “She’s about a 6-foot kid and throws the ball about 64 or 65 (mph). She has a rise and a spin. She has two really ‘plus’ pitches. But we put 20 balls in play. Sometimes you hit 20 balls and they make 20 plays.”

Blast from the past

As six Cajuns players prepare for senior weekend and an upcoming series against ULM, the events and conversations revolving around the weekend stretch into a full week.

Elkins, Sara Corbello, Gabby Felps, Shellie Landry, Meagan Thomas and Kelsey Vincent will play their final regular-season games at Lamson Park.

A ceremony will happen before Sunday’s game.

“I love senior weekend because a lot of the former players will connect with me ... some going back to Year 1,” Lotief said. “I have gotten texts this week from kids that played here 16 years ago. Every single one of those classes is special. It has been a special time in my life. Like when we had our daughter, Chelsea, and she grew up around that class. There have been many moments in our lives that we have shared with our players.

“This class, because of my illness, will be special to me. But they were special to me with or without that.”