LAFAYETTE — As of now, Louisiana-Lafayette softball coach Mike Lotief plans to be in the dugout with his team when it travels to face Auburn in the super regional round of the NCAA tournament starting Friday.
But he also knows he has his limitations — and that plans sometimes change out of necessity.
“The easy answer is to say I’m going to be there,” Lotief said Monday. “But I’m not crazy enough, knowing the ups and downs that I’ve been through, to know when I wake up Thursday that I may not be able to go.”
Lotief hasn’t traveled with the team outside of Louisiana’s borders since the South Alabama series in early March. He was hospitalized for the Texas State series after he had surgery to fix pneumonia in his lungs, and the only road series he went on since was to Monroe.
“But if I feel like I do right now?” Lotief said. “I sound like hell, but I feel good. When I walked in, (senior pitcher Jordan Wallace) told me I look like hell. ‘You look like hell; you sound like hell’ — but I feel good.
“This team energizes me. I had so much fun (Sunday) night and this weekend. I want to be with my team, but I also have to be wise. I’m at a point right now where I have to be smart about what I’m doing.”
If Lotief can’t travel, the head coaching duties likely would turn over to assistant coach T.J. Hubbard.
The Cajuns went 4-4 in road games with Hubbard at the helm this season, though three of those losses came to No. 2 Oregon.
At this point, the Cajuns are familiar with playing without Lotief in the dugout, and they said his absence doesn’t necessarily affect their performance.
“We’ve been going through this the whole season with him not being present at a lot of our games,” Kelsey Vincent said. “We know that he’s always with us. He’s always the person that tells us what we need to do, what our plan is. He helps us throughout everything. It’s not like he’s not there.”
Lotief is going to heed his head when it comes to determining whether he can travel with his team, but he’s also going to make sure he has done everything he can to make it an easy decision.
Poor girl ...
Wallace’s first reaction when she saw Baylor would send Heather Stearns to the mound for the second of back-to-back games wasn’t that she would need her best game against a pitcher who shut the Cajuns out.
“I was thinking, ‘Poor girl,’ ” Wallace said. “I was like, ‘She’s probably thrown 300 pitches today.’ ”
Not quite, but Stearns ended up throwing nearly 250 pitches over 10 innings against the Cajuns on Sunday, and she was highly effective with most of them, limiting a potent Cajuns lineup to six runs and nine hits.
But Stearns said she started to get tired late, and when the Bears turned to the bullpen, Wallace said she knew the Cajuns were about to lock it up.
“I knew when they took Stearns out,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh, it’s over.’ Our hitters were ready for Stearns to come out.”
Cajuns fans looking to travel to Auburn for the super regional round were met with rejection when they tried to purchase tickets.
The Tigers’ super regional sold out before the Cajuns even clinched their spot, roughly 45 minutes after they opened up for sale.
One hundred tickets were allotted for the Cajuns, the minimum number required by the NCAA. A school spokesman said those tickets will first be reserved for the Cajuns’ family members.
The official capacity at Auburn’s Jane B. Moore Field is 1,500, but the school added temporary bleachers earlier this season that brought the total closer to 2,000.