Heading into the conference home opener this weekend against UT-Arlington, UL-Lafayette softball coach Michael Lotief said the Ragin’ Cajuns have taken valuable lessons away from the past two weekends against Alabama and South Alabama.
They just haven’t fixed anything yet.
“It is going to be a season-long process,” Lotief said. “We’re going to have to work on that the rest of the year. We can’t fix it in one or two weeks. I don’t have any magic dust.”
The Cajuns (17-3, 2-1 Sun Belt) opened their conference slate last weekend in Mobile, Alabama, against South Alabama, taking the first two games, but dropping the third. Lotief said despite losing the final game of the series, he liked his team’s fight — especially in the seventh inning.
“What I saw in that last inning is that the team decided to stand up and fight,” he said. “They weren’t satisfied getting two wins. They wanted that game and their focus and fight were there.
“That didn’t come from me. You could feel the energy in the dugout. If they’re going to stand and fight, I am going to stand and fight with them. I respect that, and I think that is what champions are made of.”
UT-Arlington (14-10, 0-0) brings a young group of players and a retooled lineup into Lamson Park to face the Cajuns (17-3, 2-1). Lotief said he isn’t taking their lack of experience as a weakness.
“They are aggressive at the plate,” Lotief said. “They have a good young team with two freshman pitchers. Our kids understand that once you get into conference, everyone will give us their best shot. We know we are going to get their best shot. Let’s approach it like Alabama.”
The Cajuns’ Game 1 and 2 starters will almost certainly be Jordan Wallace and Christina Hamilton, but Lotief said he is unsure on the game three starter. Last Sunday against South Alabama, the Cajuns struggled to find anyone to pitch consistently in the circle .
Lotief started Wallace, who pitched just two innings. He turned to the youngsters — freshman Kylee Jo Trahan and sophomore Alex Stewart — but neither were overly effective.
“Sunday was an interesting day in terms of the pitchers,” Lotief said. “Jordan didn’t have it, Christina didn’t have it. Everybody asked why we go to those two young pitchers in that environment. Those were the options.
“Kylee Jo threw the ball well, she just made a mistake. Alex wasn’t too bad, but made a mistake. They’re going to start understanding that if you throw 12 great pitches and one bad one, good teams will make you pay for the bad one. They’re learning that lesson the hard way.”
Lotief said the team isn’t good enough right now to rest on its laurels and sweep a tough conference series. He said continuing to put the team in high-pressure situations will get them ready for the ultimate goal of a return trip to the Women’s College World Series.
“They have to get used to getting the momentum, keeping the momentum and finishing the series,” he said. “They aren’t going to just lay down for you. You have to go beat them. You have to put them away. If we want to go where we want to go, we have to finish.”