With nearly 500 career victories himself and 600 for his co-head coach and wife, Louisiana-Lafayette softball co-head coach Mike Lotief has plenty of happy moments to reflect on. But after the Cajuns knocked off Stanford in front of a record home crowd on Sunday to advance to an NCAA super regional, there’s no question which is his favorite.
During Monday’s media luncheon, Lotief went on an uninterrupted trip down memory lane for nearly seven minutes, praising everyone from his players to the ULL ticket staff for a dream weekend — the school’s first NCAA regional title won at home.
But this week brings a sobering wake-up call, as the Cajuns (52-4) prepare for a trip to defending national champion and No. 3 national seed Arizona State (49-8).
“You want the season to give you a two-month break to celebrate for a couple of weeks, pound your chest and talk about what a great team you have, but you can’t,” Lotief said. “It’s time to go back to work.”
And quickly. The first game of the series will be at 9 p.m. Thursday, making it the second-shortest turnaround of the eight super regionals. Three begin on Friday, and another three on Saturday.
“We understand we have a quick turnaround, and we understand the opponent that sits in front if us is very worthy,” Lotief said. “A good team is getting ready to go home.”
If the Cajuns are to avoid that fate, they’ll have to overcome a storied Sun Devils program on its own turf (although ULL beat Arizona State 9-2 March 15 in the Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton, Calif.)
Both teams rank in the nation’s top five for batting average, with ULL at .345 and ASU batting .337, and each boasts a top-10 hitter. The Sun Devils also have two solid pitchers in Dallas Escobedo (22-5, 2.28 earned run average) and Hillary Bach (20-1, 1.62 ERA).
“You look at Arizona State and their roster, and they have a lot of personalities there and a lot of good players,” Lotief said. “But I guarantee you this much, look at our team and compare it to their team, and I wouldn’t trade one Ragin’ Cajun, not one, for what they’ve got. It’s going to be fun to put our kids up against their kids.”
The first game of the series will be broadcast on ESPN2, with the next two (if necessary) carried by ESPNU at 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. on Friday.