Anyone who thinks the UL-Lafayette softball team plans to change its offensive emphasis is mistaken.
The Ragin’ Cajuns have earned a national reputation for firepower at the plate, ranking in the top five nationally in scoring, batting average, slugging percentage and home runs last year. That wasn’t out of the ordinary, as the Cajuns have more homers over the past five years than any program in the nation, and they ranked in the top five in multiple offensive categories in each of those years.
New coach Gerry Glasco isn’t about to change things. In fact, he comes to Acadiana with his own offense-first mentality.
“I’m a coach that’s not going to bunt until the late innings, if I have to to win a game,” Glasco said this week after he was announced as the fourth coach in UL-Lafayette program history. “I’m not going to play for one run an inning. I’m going to play for three or four and try to break it open. I like big innings.”
The Cajuns have grown accustomed to that type of attack after last year’s 47-8 season, in which they led the nation in scoring (8.25 runs per game) and got nosed out of the national home run and slugging percentage title by Arizona — by one homer — after winning those titles two of the previous three years.
Shortstop D.J. Sanders led the country in homers and RBIs per game last year as UL-Lafayette notched its 19th straight 40-win season and a sixth straight finish in the national top 20 polls.
Glasco is used to those types of offensive numbers. In the last three seasons at Texas A&M, the Aggies led the Southeastern Conference in home runs and broke eight offensive records. He was the hitting coach for two different Southeastern Conference teams (Georgia and A&M) that led the league in homers twice.
“I love to hit the ball hard,” he said. “You talk about home runs, but I really like doubles. Doubles in the gap will score you runs, and if you get the double elevated, you get the home runs.
"I want my team to be able to do that … to have a great eye at the plate and to be very intelligent in their approach to hitting. If they’re empowered at the plate and have a great mental approach, you’re going to go up there with an offensive mentality.”
Offensive experience shouldn’t be a problem. Five of the seven starters who hit .320 or more return this year, including Sanders’ 29 homers and .388 average. Outfielder Aleah Craighton added 18 homers and catcher Lexie Comeaux had 10, while outfielder Kelli Martinez and third baseman Kara Gremillion both hit in the neighborhood of .320.
The question circling the program is whether that group — and how many players on this year’s roster — will return after a tumultuous October that saw 15-year head coach Michael Lotief first suspended and then terminated amid allegations of verbal and physical assault on student-athletes and co-workers.
Glasco said Friday that he had spoken to every player on the 35-woman roster this week, and was confident that there would not be wholesale departures. A source close to the program said Friday that two to three transfers are expected but that number could change.
“It’s really important to acknowledge that it’s unique that they didn’t get to choose who their coach was,” Glasco said of the players. “It’s a difficult transition for them. They didn’t get to choose me, but I chose them, and I told every one of them that I was fully committed to them.
“I hope every kid stays here. I know that may or may not happen, but I know everybody on this team at some point considered what their best interest is in the future. I told the girls let’s really look and find out what’s best for them individually. My personal opinion is there’s too much here to offer, but we’ll deal with it step by step.”
Glasco did have two opportunities to work with the squad in on-field practice sessions and scrimmages before the players left for Thanksgiving holidays. He said not having the fall to work with his team would not be an issue.
Glasco said he and his assistants, whom he hopes to announce in the coming week, will start team workouts right after the new year, and would continue to meet and work with players individually until the end of the fall semester.
“That’s not an issue,” he said. “If anything, it gives us a challenge and a little more motivation, and we’re going to live up to that challenge. We’ll start practice on day one with the full intention of being at the College World Series and competing for a national championship. Everything here is in place to do that, and nothing about this situation scares me in that sense.”