UL-Lafayette softball moves up to No. 7 in poll _lowres

Advocate Photo by LEE CELANO - University of Louisiana at Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns' players and Head Coach Michael Lotief celebrate after a three-run home run by Kelsey Vincent (in batting helmet facing camera) against the North Carolina State Wolfpack in the third inning in Lafayette Friday, Feb. 6, 2015.

LAFAYETTE — The Louisiana-Lafayette softball team pushed their ranking up two spots to No. 7 in this week’s USA Today/NFCA Top 25 poll.

The Cajuns’ new ranking comes following a four-game sweep in the Louisiana Classics. Despite maintaining a top 10 ranking in dominating fashion, Cajuns coach Michael Lotief said he saw a lot over last weekend’s games that need to get better.

“We need to get to work to where we want to be,” Lotief said. “It’s like preseason football. We’re learning a lot about ourselves in these first few games. I going to nitpick this thing, and I won’t have to dig deep to do it. (The team will) see it. I see it. I see it every day.”

Louisiana-Lafayette’s pitching was dominant over the weekend, holding opponents to no runs over the four games. After suffering an injury in 2014 and struggles in the circle upon her return, senior Jordan Wallace came back with a vengeance, striking out 13 batters in her season debut.

Christina Hamilton, who led the charge to the Cajuns’ 2014 Women’s College World Series berth, pitched two innings Saturday against Eastern Illinois, striking out three. Lotief maintained Hamilton will continue to be on a “strict pitch count” until her arm feels 100 percent.

“I thought it was important to get her in there,” Lotief said. “we got in a situation instead of her doing her bullpen on the side, she did it in the game. I thought the crowd was very classy in how they received her.”

Home sweet home

The Cajuns will play their first 14 games at Lamson Park. This weekend, the Cajuns welcome in Idaho State and Mississippi Valley State for the Mardi Gras Classic.

Besides the obvious home field advantage in front of the raucous Lamson crowd, said being home gives the team the added advantage of sleeping in their own beds.

“Everyone else will look at the numbers, but I need to look at the film,” he said. “We can go to work, view film, and get to bed right away. Playing at home is a tremendous advantage and these fans have been behind us for a very long time.”

Mr. 600

Sunday’s win over Eastern Illinois was Michael Lotief’s 600th career victory at Louisiana-Lafayette. It hasn’t always been roses, but Lotief said he was thankful for the people who have come through the program to make it successful.

“I would say a lot of good players, a lot of good teams, a lot of good kids,” he said. “I have been very fortunate to be in avery good place for a very long time.”

Lotief said he was gracious to the program and the community for giving him the opportunity to coach the softball program as co-head coach or head coach since 2003. Lotief and wife Stefni served as the team’s co-coaches until 2013, when Michael Lotief took over as the team’s sole head coach.

Under Lotief, the Cajuns have won 40 or more games every season, 50 or more games eight times and record 60 wins in 2004.

“It doesn’t mean anything to me personally,” he said. “I was trying to figure out what is the relevance of that number. We’re just going to keep riding it.”

Parking changes

Because of anticipated crowds around Cajun Field this weekend for “Le Festival de Mardi Gras a’ Lafayette” and scheduled parades, parking changes were announced for the Mardi Gras Classic.

All general parking for the three-day event will take place at the Intramural Fields and Sorority Row lots on Coliseum Drive. Johnston St. will be closed because of parades on Friday and Saturday, and Cajundome Blvd. will be closed from 5-10 p.m. on Friday and 9 a.m.–10 p.m. on Saturday,

All reserved parking for fans attending games on Friday and Saturday will be lat the Print Shop on Coliseum Drive. On Sunday, reserved parking for fans will resume at Lamson Park.

All lots for motorists will be accessible from West St. Mary Blvd., and Souvenir Gate.