Frankly, the UL Ragin’ Cajuns winning the Sun Belt Conference regular season championship isn’t a new concept.
When coach Gerry Glasco’s club sewed up the 2021 title after this weekend’s road sweep of Coastal Carolina, it was actually the 17th time that’s been done in the 20 years the league has crowned a softball champion.
But there’s just something different about this year’s version.
The Cajuns weren’t undefeated this season, taking a 38-9 overall and 19-2 conference record into this weekend’s home finale series against ULM.
When UL swept through the league schedule two years ago, the competition just wasn’t as good as this year.
Going into this past weekend’s games, the Sun Belt had four teams with RPIs in the top 40. Troy, Texas State and South Alabama all sport arms capable of competing with most teams in the country.
“I think it’s a good accomplishment any year, and in this particular year, I think it’s a great accomplishment for this ball club, because of the respect I have for Troy and Texas State and South Alabama and the rest of the conference,” Glasco said.
Glasco was especially impressed with even more depth displayed this past weekend with Georgia Southern sweeping South Alabama.
“No one saw that coming,” Glasco said. “But I said when we played them, the top four hitters on Georgia Southern were as good as any top four in the conference.”
Yes, while winning the Sun Belt remains a “ho-hum” achievement for some fans with aspirations of reaching the Women’s College World Series, all the obstacles this team faced this season makes it feel more impressive than normal.
Be honest, when the Cajuns struggled to hold off UT-Arlington 9-6 and then got handled by the Mavs 8-3 the next day on March 20, there had to be some UL die-hards beginning to doubt if the Cajuns could be 19-2 heading into the final weekend of the season.
There’s no denying it, this team has had issues throughout the season. The biggest part of it has been the injuries — really critical, long-lasting injuries to standout players.
But it goes well beyond that. There have been such drastic changes as a reshuffling of coaching duties at midseason, not to mention some really challenging marathon road trips.
“When you compound that with the way we’ve had to use the entire roster to put a team out there each week to compete our best … it’s been different kids … it’s been like a relay team,” Glasco said. “Injuries and all the different things that have happened to this ball club, it’s really been a special season.”
Simply put, the girls on this year’s squad have had to be especially professional in their approach to playing each day, including this past weekend’s complicated road trip to Coastal Carolina.
“They did everything professionally,” Glasco said. “It’s been that kind of a year. All-around team effort. I’m really proud of our kids.”
At the beginning of the season, Glasco’s mentality was he wanted as rugged a regular season as possible to prepare his team for NCAA play.
He got his wish.
“We want it to be hard in the regular season, because we know that to get into the NCAA tournament and be successful, it’s going to be a hard path,” he said. “It’s always a hard path.
“I feel like the hard path that we’ve taken, we’ve taken some hard road trips and we’ve taken some hard challenges. I think all of that will pay off for us down the stretch.”
So while it wasn’t always pretty and question marks continue to surround this team, Glasco remains confident.
“I’m very confident in this group of players,” he said. “I think they’re tremendous kids and tremendous athletes. They’re good students. They’re intelligent. They play intelligently. They’ve proven they want to win.
“They want to be successful. I’m extremely confident in them.”