LAFAYETTE — As the UL-Lafayette softball team prepares to host its second of three consecutive home tournaments this weekend, coach Michael Lotief said he’s not getting ahead of himself as far his own expectations go.
“I’m smart enough to know that the disparity in the numbers is going to go away soon and all of that is going to even out,” Lotief said, “but for that (opening) weekend, you could see that our kids were prepared and ready to go.”
The Ragin’ Cajuns opened the season 4-0 last week in the Louisiana Classic, outscoring opponents 40-0 on the back of an offensive surge and dominant pitching. The outcomes last weekend didn’t surprise second baseman Haley Hayden, who hit .583 with three home runs in the four games at Lamson Park.
“Nothing really surprised me because I know what everybody is capable of doing,” Hayden said. “It was just the first time we played in front of the fans and I think everybody was excited that it was opening weekend. We stepped it up a little bit.
“Our pitchers worked their butts off this entire offseason and they’re going out there and doing what they know how to do. It does make it a lot easier when they’re getting multiple strikeouts per inning.”
The pitching was nearly flawless, led by senior Jordan Wallace, who struck out 13 in her season debut. Freshman Kylee Jo Trahan, in her first career start, struck out seven batters and gave up just three hits. The Cajuns got six combined innings from sophomore Alex Stewart, who struck out 11.
“(Trahan) for the first time out, she had some jitters, but her stuff was good,” Lotief said. “Her riseball was good. She had some command problems with her changeup, but even without it she did a good job with the rise ball and her drop-curve.
“And Alex Stewart? Wow. Let’s talk about her. Her stuff was good. Right now, we’re going to continue to develop those two arms.”
Christina Hamilton, who received a standing ovation from the Lamson Park crowd as she stepped into the circle, pitched two solid innings Saturday against Eastern Illinois, which amounted to bullpen work. Hamilton struck out three batters in the two innings, but Lotief said he thinks she is about two weeks away from being where she needs to be.
“She’s coming along and we’ve got to bring her around slowly,” Lotief said. “I thought the ovation the fans gave her was very classy. To feel that the crowd appreciates her and loves her, I think that’s going to motivate her to continue to want to go through her rehab and get ready. I thought that was a special moment.
“We’re going to throw her out there again — probably the same thing, two or three innings. The primary objective right now is to continue to develop those young kids.”
While Lotief said he isn’t shying away from high expectations, he is doing his best to temper them. He said playing the northern teams may have given them advantage last weekend, but moving forward, that advantage will shrink.
“I start hearing these wild, bold proclamations about what’s going on with this team after one weekend,” Lotief said, “and that’s crazy. I’m not ready to jump to that. I said, ‘Don’t drink the Kool-Aid. Take a deep breath.’ It’s a game of failure. We need to fail, we need to struggle, we need to go through some hard times.’ This team is going to have to grow up and chill out.
“I don’t know about this weekend or which weekend or whatever, but the expectations have to be tempered. There’s no question about it.”
Sunday’s game against Idaho State will be televised by KLAF-TV. Because of anticipated crowds around Cajun Field this weekend for “Le Festival de Mardi Gras à Lafayette” and scheduled parades general parking for the Mardi Gras Classic will be at the Intramural Fields and Sorority Row lots on Coliseum Drive.
All reserved parking for Friday and Saturday will be at the Print Shop on Coliseum Drive. Reserved parking Sunday will resume at Lamson.