LAFAYETTE — Outscoring opponents 89-1 in nine games thus far didn’t really surprise UL-Lafayette softball coach Michael Lotief.
What surprised him, he said, is the level of consistency with which his team is playing so early in the season.
“So many of our kids are doing it on a consistent basis,” Lotief said. “I watch how hard they work day in and day out. I know how much they care and how much this matters to them. I know they are going to lay it on the line, and that never surprises me about them.”
The Cajuns host their third consecutive weekend tournament at Lamson Park this weekend when they welcome in Iowa, Hofstra, Missouri State and McNeese State. The competition this weekend is a step up from what the Cajuns have faced thus far in the season, but Lotief said the weekend’s outcomes won’t change his opinion of where they are.
“I know where we are and we know who we are,” Lotief said. “You can play bad for two or three weekends and I still know who we are. I believe in this team. Who you’re playing doesn’t change your feeling of who you are. It may just give our fan base a more realistic idea of some of our flaws and how college softball is supposed to be played.”
Lotief said through the first nine games, his biggest concern was that of leadership. That concern, he said, has been put to rest. The team is in good hands with several players taking bigger leadership roles, including senior pitcher Jordan Wallace.
The Cajuns cannot expect to keep shutting out every opponent they face, but Lotief said the goal this season is to develop a staff of pitchers. Thus far, the clear ace is Wallace, who is 4-0 with 46 strikeouts. Still yet to emerge is last year’s ace, Christina Hamilton. The senior has been sidelined with an arm injury, which has opened the door for freshman Kylee Jo Trahan and sophomore Alex Stewart to get starts.
“We have options,” Lotief said. “That is a good thing. Jordan is feeling comfortable again. We are going to throw her back out there at least a couple of times and we have to continue to develop those young kids, Alex and Kylee. Then Christina has to return at some point. This may be a good weekend to do all those things.”
Lotief said the Cajuns will rely on Wallace and Hamilton’s experience to lead them through this season, getting them through inevitable adversity. Although Lotief said people outside the program won’t know the pecking order of pitchers — nor will he officially announce a pecking order — the team has already identified the ace.
“I think that staff knows the pecking order and our team knows the pecking order,” Lotief said. “You’ll never know it. I believe in my staff. Whoever we give the ball to at any moment: that is the No. 1.
“This is not football where you have four kids that you say at any moment, ‘I trust you to go get this out and make this pitch.’ We are in a good place right now with options. That is a good situation to be in. I am not saying we have four No. 1s right now, but that is where I want to be at the end of the year. There is no rule against having four No. 1s.”