LAFAYETTE — Many of the memorable moments six Louisiana-Lafayette softball seniors have produced have not been the quick bursts of excitement that typically come from a home run or a diving catch.
As Sara Corbello, Lexie Elkins, Gabby Felps, Shellie Landry, Meagan Thomas and Kelsey Vincent venture onto the field at Lamson Park for their final regular-season home games, coach Mike Lotief has multiple years worth of proof from each student-athlete showing what they will bring collectively to the ballpark on Saturday and Sunday against ULM.
“These young women have made the commitment to this program and they have been consistent throughout their time here,” Lotief said. “On Sunday, they will join a sisterhood for the rest of their lives that will be there for them in good times and in bad.”
The No. 9 Cajuns (37-7, 18-2 in Sun Belt) are looking to let the good times roll starting with a Saturday doubleheader at 2 p.m. against the Warhawks (23-29, 7-14). The series will conclude with a 1 p.m. game on Sunday.
The seniors have found ways to ramp up their efforts during conference play. Corbello is hitting .358 with nine of her 11 homers having come in conference games. Landry has posted a .377 average with nine homers of her own in 20 conference games.
However, the senior effect on the lineup is not limited to loud hits. Sophomore shortstop DJ Sanders has thrived in run-producing opportunities on the way to putting up a team-leading 50 RBIs. By becoming more comfortable with the physical mechanics of hitting, that has helped her mind relax when Sanders comes to the plate.
Her teammates ahead of her in the batting order have played a part in that process.
“The more you play, the more you figure things out,” Sanders said. “After watching them and their at-bats, I try to figure out what their plan was and what their thought process was at the plate. All of our swings are different, but we are trying to accomplish the same things.
“Even though we might not be at the same level physically, I can try to figure out what they were doing mentally and try to do the same thing.”
Verbal communication among the infielders is another group effort that calls upon the experience of Elkins and first baseman Vincent. “It’s not one person giving commands,” Sanders said. “Lexie and Kelsey do a good job of making sure everybody is on the same page.”
Communication will be an important tool if the Warhawks try to apply pressure on the basepaths this weekend. The Warhawks are first in the conference and 14th in the nation with 2.2 stolen bases per game.
The Cajuns have also paid attention to details in many facets of the game. That has enabled them to rank seventh in the nation in ERA at 1.86 and 13th in batting average (.335).
It is an atmosphere that Lotief said has been solidified by six seniors.
“Our seniors ... those kids are the ones who set the standard in this program,” Lotief said. “They teach those young kids the work ethic. They counsel them when they are down. They are the ones that encourage them and keep them going.”