There are so many who just can’t wait for the start of the 2020 UL Ragin’ Cajuns softball season.
For starters, coach Gerry Glasco is always ready.
The die-hard softball fans are counting the days until early February arrives. For now, that group will settle for the final game of the fall season — 6 p.m. Tuesday against McNeese State in Lake Charles.
Fall seasons can at times be a little more laid back than the spring for some softball teams.
The seasoned players on this team weren’t satisfied with bowing out in the NCAA Oxford Regional a year ago and certainly can’t wait for redemption as well.
And UL’s administration naturally can’t wait. After all, there aren’t many mid-major programs in any sport where a team is talking national championship in October and have few snicker at the thought.
On paper, it indeed seems like a realistic possibility for this powerhouse program.
So why not be giddy about the possibilities?
There is one aspect about those lofty expectations that will be fascinating to monitor once the season begins, however.
There won’t be a coach in the nation more in hot pursuit of a win every day from February through May than Glasco.
“This year, we’re not trying to get into a regional and hope to get to a super regional,” Glasco said. “This team needs to go to the World Series. This is the year that our program should be in Oklahoma City in June.”
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Nobody’s running from that dream. Nobody’s being hesitant to bring it up.
There’s nothing at all wrong with that … as long as everyone involved can handle that kind of pressure on a daily basis.
During the 2019 season, Glasco proclaimed during a weekly news conference his team had to win every game the rest of the way in order to host a regional.
The Cajuns lost the very next game at home to McNeese State.
There’s no question UL’s roster — barring any significant injuries — looks good enough to dream as big as anyone.
Again, as long as everyone involved can handle the pressure.
“I felt that in my mind at the time,” Glasco said. “Whether it (loss to McNeese) was a coincidence or not, I don’t know. They did adjust (after that loss) and won all the way out (until regional play). No matter who you’re playing, it’s hard to win that many games in a row.
“I think we will be a more mature team. I think you’ll see (pitcher) Summer (Ellyson) and the senior class — Julie Rawls, Sarah Hudek, (Alissa) Dalton step up. Those kids are tested now.
Also, our junior class – Kourtney Gremillion and Bailey Curry - is so much tougher from what I’m seeing in fall practice.”
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UL’s program has been a national power for three decades now, reaching six Women’s College World Series over that span and finishing as high as No. 3 nationally.
The thing that makes the 2020 version appear especially capable of achieving the ultimate goal is having two All-American pitchers in Ellyson and now Oregon transfer Megan Kleist.
“The reality is they’re both seniors, so that means this year is the year,” Glasco said. “It’s do or die. That has caused us to magnify or increase the intensity of our mission.”
That’s a very high standard with very little room for error.
“I think we’ll have a more strong-minded, strong-willed and more determined ball club this year,” Glasco said.
The truth is Glasco and his fans were convinced last year’s team would get farther than the Oxford regional finals. In addition to Kleist and the other new blood on next spring’s squad, figuring out what went wrong with the bats down the stretch last season is the first priority.
“At first, just stay calm, just stay relaxed,” Glasco said of dealing with the late-season slump at the plate. “I thought, ‘The kids are fine. They’re just playing to the level of their competition a little bit and it’ll pick back up.’ That was a mistake. I was too soft on the kids. When we started trending downward on our power numbers, I should have really gotten after them.”
Complicating matters, you might remember, is Glasco, his family and that team were still in the middle of the grieving process after his daughter and assistant coach Geri Ann was killed in an automobile accident two weeks before the start of the season.
“I think it was just a hard, emotional season,” Glasco said. “I need to be a little bit more demanding this year.”
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Again, all of those comments make perfect sense — as long as everyone involved can handle it.
In addition to the incredibly unselfish and strong-minded approach of such leaders as Ellyson, Kleist and Alissa Dalton, Glasco points to improved practice habits as a potential solution.
“This summer, (outfielder Sarah) Hudek was talking to me and said, ‘Hey we need to do those maintenance drills that we used to do at A&M. I think that’ll help,’ ” Glasco said. “When she said that, I said, ‘That’s exactly what we need,’ so I worked on that and we’ve incorporated that in.”
Having an assistant like pitching coach Mike Roberts also will help the team deal with the ups and downs of the season.
“He makes a bullpen fun,” Glasco said. “He keeps everything down to Earth and happy-go-lucky. He’s doing a great job of keeping everyone’s morale up.”
Indeed, the 2020 UL softball team is loaded with talent.
“This is a big opportunity when you walk out on the field and you see All-American pitchers in the circle, you see kids who are All-American candidates in the outfield and an All-American candidate at shortstop and an All-American candidate at first base and an All-American candidate at catcher,” Glasco said.
“I mean we’ve got athletes all over the field this year. It’s real exciting.”
As long as everyone involved understands the bar and what the coach thinks it takes to reach it.