In a perfect world, the last few intrasquad scrimmages at Lamson Park would have answered all the lingering questions for the No. 8-ranked UL Ragin’ Cajuns softball team.
It didn’t work out that way.
So UL coach Gerry Glasco is hoping the first seven regular-season games will allow him the chance to see enough players to make those final decisions on his everyday starting lineup before Feb. 15 arrives.
That process starts with the 34th Annual Louisiana Classics this weekend, which begin with the Cajuns facing Ball State at 4 p.m. Friday at Lamson Park.
“I think you can expect to see several different lineup combinations throughout this first weekend and give all the kids a chance to see what they do in actual competition against other universities,” Glasco said.
In fact, UL’s third-year coach said he’s got seven different lineup cards already filled out.
"Whether I stick to it or not will depend on how well we play,” Glasco said. “If we have a really close game and narrowly avoid a loss or if we have a loss, I’d probably go back to just playing who I think are the best nine at that point."
Most of the positions are decided. Julie Rawls is the catcher, Kaitlyn Alderink is the second baseman, Alissa Dalton is the shortstop, Sarah Hudek is the left fielder and Raina O’Neal is the center fielder.
True freshman Taylor Roman will get every opportunity to become the regular starter in right field.
Differing lineups figure to revolve around first base, third base and maybe inserting Geana Torres at catcher to give Rawls a break or perhaps in right for Roman.
“I’d like to think we have enough depth this year, got enough quality players much like in spring-training ball, where we can get everybody a few at-bats this weekend that’s in that consideration for a starting position,” Glasco said.
On paper, the UL softball team appears to have all the ingredients necessary to make a legitimate run at the Women’s College World Series.
The other factor this season with two All-American pitchers at his disposal in Summer Ellyson and Megan Kleist is more of a "defense-first" mentality.
“Throughout my coaching career, I’ve always said the best nine hitters play with the exception of shortstop and catcher,” Glasco said. “But I think when you’ve got the situation with Kleist and Summer — two All-American pitchers — we know we’ve got a chance with good defense to hold our opponents down consistently to no runs, one run, two runs.
“So more than ever this year, I’ll be aware of the defensive implications.”
After Ball State, UL will play UT-San Antonio at 6 p.m. Friday, North Texas at 2 p.m. Saturday and UTSA again at 4 p.m. Saturday.
“Ball State has a pitcher that throws 66, 67 (miles per hour),” Glasco said. “That could be tricky on opening day. Then North Texas obviously. We had three hits last year against their right-hand pitcher (Hope Trautwein) that beat us. She’s a preseason conference pitcher of the year.
“She’s a sophomore this year. She’s got a little more experience. We had three hits, two strikeouts and one walk. We just didn’t square anything up.”
North Texas was the preseason pick to win Conference USA. Last February, UL beat North Texas 10-2 at the Baylor Invitational in the morning, only to get stuffed 5-1 by Trautwein that afternoon for the Cajuns' first loss of the season after 14 wins.
"The girls are pumped up about that one," Glasco said.
Glasco is just hoping to be able to use the seven lineups in his head.
"It would be nice to be 7-0 when we play LSU (on Feb. 15) and create that excitement in our ballpark, have a big game and have a lot of momentum going into that game," he said. "At the same time, I want to be as fair as I can, and I want to give kids as much of a chance to show me what they can do."
As much as UL senior pitcher Summer Ellyson prefers to keep things as simple and routine as possible, she’s already noticed how difficult a ch…