LAFAYETTE — The Louisiana-Lafayette softball team hopes 13 proves to be a lucky number.
The Ragin’ Cajuns will attempt to return to the Women’s College World Series as the No. 13 national seed. They will welcome Weber State, Mississippi State and Baylor to Lafayette for a regional tournament this week, with their first game set for 8 p.m. Friday against Weber State.
If the Cajuns advance, they will play the winner of the Auburn regional, where the Tigers sit on top as the No. 4 seed. But Cajuns coach Michael Lotief isn’t going to contemplate that possibility.
“You can’t start thinking about Auburn,” he said. “The assumption is to go there. The first question ought to be, ‘What about Weber State?’ We’ve got to have a good week of practice and a good week of work and make sure we have our mojo.”
Shortly after the Lafayette regional was announced, ESPN analyst Jessica Mendoza called it the toughest regional in the tournament.
“To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best,” sophomore infielder Haley Hayden said. “You’ve got to win every game from here on out.”
The Cajuns have some recent history with one of the teams in the regional: They played a two-game series against Baylor earlier this season at Lamson Park, sweeping the Bears by a combined score of 15-3.
Lotief raised his hand expectantly just before the No. 8 seed was revealed on the NCAA tournament selection show, then dropped it when the broadcaster announced Tennessee in that spot.
“I thought I called my shot,” he said.
If the Cajuns had earned a top-eight seed, they would have guaranteed home-field advantage through the regionals and super regionals. Lotief thought his team had a chance because of how bunched together the top teams are this year.
“Why not?” he said. “I like our body of work, I like what we did this year, I like our RPI, I like our wins, I like who we played. Did I think we could get a national seed? Yes. Did I think we could not be 1 through 16? Yes. I think the margin was so narrow between 8 and 16, I wouldn’t want to be sitting in that committee.
“But being where we are is an honor. … I think our kids’ mindset is that we’re going to have to play good softball, no matter whether we’re 8, 2, 16, whatever.”
This marks the third time in the past four seasons that the selection committee chose the Cajuns as a regional host, and it marks the Cajuns’ 17th consecutive season making the NCAA tournament. They’ve advanced to the super regional round in five of their past seven tournament appearances.
The Cajuns lost the Sun Belt tournament championship game Saturday to South Alabama, which lines up as a potential opponent in the super regional if it can get past Auburn.
Lotief wasn’t sure how that may have affected his team’s seeding, but he said his team’s objective is to play better than it did in that 2-0 loss.
“We’ve got to get better this week, or we’re in a bind,” he said. “If we don’t play good softball this week … we don’t have to worry about Auburn, we don’t have to worry about Baylor, we don’t have to worry about Mississippi State, we don’t have to worry about Weber State. We don’t have to worry about nothing but what we’re going to wear to the beach and what we’re going to do this summer.”