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UL pitcher Megan Kleist and the No. 12 Ragin' Cajuns prepare for another four-game weekend, including a home-and-home against No. 7 LSU.

The No. 12-ranked UL Ragin’ Cajuns softball team enters another four-game weekend with their eyes wide open.

After a tight 3-2 win over Ball State and then a 2-1 loss to North Texas, UL coach Gerry Glasco turned up the heat on his team with two tough days of practice.

Tuesday’s 8-0 win over Lamar was “a good sign.” Now comes the next step of convincing Glasco his team is ready for its rugged 14-game stretch against top 20 competition.

That process begins at 4 p.m. Friday against North Dakota, before playing Samford at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

Then comes two of the games many have been waiting for with LSU at 4 p.m. Saturday at Lamson Park, before the Cajuns (4-1) then travel to Baton Rouge to take on the Tigers at 3 p.m. Sunday.

It’ll be the first time UL and LSU meet in a regular-season softball game in 19 years.

“It’s going to be huge,” Glasco said. “I think those two games will be huge, huge in attendance. I think they’re huge for fast-pitch softball in this area and I think for the young kids that play ball.

“I think it’ll be a great atmosphere at both ball parks and I think it’ll be really good for softball in general in the southern part of Louisiana.”

The question is, how ready will his Cajuns be for the challenge?

Like UL, the Tigers’ offense hasn’t been on fire in the early going either — despite a 5-0 start to the season.

No. 7 LSU beat No. 9 Oklahoma State 1-0 and 3-2. Other than two blowout wins over Florida A&M, the Tigers also beat Central Arkansas 3-2.

In the circle, LSU has a team ERA of 0.45 so far with 28 strikeouts in 31 innings.

UL’s staff has a 0.70 ERA with 50 strikeouts in 30 innings.

In other words, the 1-2 punch of Summer Ellyson and Megan Kleist is off to a promising start.

“It’s definitely going to be a big help,” said Ellyson, who threw a six-inning perfect game against Lamar on Tuesday with 11 strikeouts. “Megan does a really good job of doing what she’s supposed to do and taking care of what she’s supposed to take care of. I know I can trust her. I’m super excited to see where it goes and how the rotation works.”

Glasco contends it goes beyond just getting more rest.

“She’s (Ellyson) just a great pitcher and her and Kleist are just benefitting from having each other — not just to rest each other, but the support they’re giving each other,” Glasco said. “Kleist was in her ear all night in the dugout. That’s fun for me as a coach to watch two great players urge each other on like that.”

Tuesday’s win also might have led to another option in the lead-off spot with sophomore transfer Kendall Talley going 2 for 3 with a double and a triple.

I was thrilled with the way Talley responded to the challenge of stepping into our lead-off hole.

“Kendall’s been really good the whole month,” Glasco said. “Go back to Jan. 6, the first practice until the first game, we scrimmaged numerous times and she had about 32 at-bats and she hit .369 and two-thirds of those at-bats were off of Summer (Ellyson) and (Megan) Kleist.

“I know she can hit really good pitching. I was just waiting for the right opportunity to give her that shot. I’m just thrilled with the way she responded.”

It also was the first time UL fans got to see the raw potential of true freshman Taylor Roman with a walk-off home run to right after an extra long potential walk-off homer to left was ruled foul.

“The game is going to come,” Glasco said of Roman. “She’s a very elite, special athlete. Our program is going to love seeing her play and she’s going to have great success over the next four years. It was good to get her in a better place mentally as she adjusts to the college game.”

Before the two LSU games, UL will face a pair of 3-2 teams in North Dakota and Samford. North Dakota has split with Incarnate Word and also defeated Texas Southern and Toledo.

Samford has beaten Akron twice and split with Eastern Illinois, coached by Glasco’s daughter Tara Archibald.

“They’ve got to understand why I’ve been so brutal in practice the last two or three days,” Glasco said of his team’s mindset after Tuesday’s win. “It’s good for them to see that you’ve got to pay the price to be great. We paid the price to play better and they did play better, so we’re going to continue to pay the price, because we want to be great at the end of the year.”

Email Kevin Foote at kfoote@theadvocate.com.