LAFAYETTE — Sophomore Haley Hayden said it has been different for the Louisiana-Lafayette softball team without coach Michael Lotief in the dugout since March 28.
The outcomes haven’t been different — the Ragin’ Cajuns are 9-1 in Lotief’s health-influenced absence — but Hayden said the team has had to draw from its memory of Lotief’s wisdom.
“When he wasn’t there at Texas State, we get together and say, ‘What would Coach Mike say here? What would he do in this situation?’ ” Hayden said. “He has trained us to where we think we know what he might say in certain situations.”
As the Cajuns come off an impressive two wins Saturday at Sun Belt cellar-dweller Appalachian State, Lotief said what the team has been able to do — remain focused and continue playing at a high level — is amazing.
“This group gets it,” Lotief said Monday. “This team has been evolving since last season left off. You never know what circumstances will be placed in front of you. That is why the preparation and building relationships day by day to make sure you’re ready is paying off.”
This past weekend saw the nation’s leading home run hitter add five to her total, putting her at 25. Catcher Lexie Elkins was 8-for-10 in the Saturday doubleheader, including five home runs and 13 RBIs. Those numbers earned her Player of the Week honors from the Sun Belt and Louisiana Sports Writers Association.
Hayden, the Cajuns’ leadoff hitter, said it’s exciting to watch Elkins do her thing.
“Every time I’m on base, I’m thinking something is going to the outfield,” she said. “I know I need to be ready to tag up. She is fun to watch, and she’s a great hitter.”
Left fielder Shellie Landry, who has 16 home runs, said the team was wondering why Appalachian State kept pitching to Elkins.
“We really didn’t know why,” she said. “At the same time, if you pitch around her, there’s three or four more batters behind her ready to hit. You can walk her if you want, but we’re stacked. We might not have 20-plus home runs like her, but we’re all competing and if you walk her, we’re going to make you pay.”
The Cajuns are confident after some impressive offensive performances in the past three contests, but Lotief was quick to point out the team’s struggles — specifically Elkins. Earlier this season, Lotief said Elkins struggled, and he added the fact that one player is having a great year does not equate to team success.
“I don’t like when the spotlight is on one person,” Lotief said. “That’s not who this team is. Lexie Elkins is good, but Lexie is not our offense. This team is good because of a bunch of kids who took some time to invest in each other.
“You can put together a team full of all-stars. If you don’t have the chemistry and leadership and you don’t want to fight with each other, you are not going to win. This team isn’t winning because a couple people are hitting the ball out of the park. If that is your takeaway, you’re missing it.”