Ragin’ Cajuns softball team figures to experience a super regional-style atmospehere at Oregon _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- University of Louisiana at Lafayette's Haley Hayden gets a hit against Arizona during the NCAA super regional in Lafayette.

UL-Lafayette softball coach Michael Lotief says the team’s trip to Oregon this weekend is a trial run for the NCAA super regionals.

“Oregon is No. 2 in the country,” he said. “They have a first-team All-American in (pitcher) Cheridan Hawkins and they get us at their place. We get to go see what it’s about and experience it. We’ll feel it and taste it, and it’s another step in our learning and growing. It’s going to be fun.”

Sophomore second baseman Haley Hayden said she is looking forward to the experience — mainly to travel with the team. She said the venue doesn’t really matter.

“We are just playing the same sport we would play (in Lafayette),” Hayden said. “When we travel, there’s a lot of team bonding. I don’t think we are worried about where we are playing.”

Lotief said part of playing in college is the travel and the bonding. He said don’t expect the team to sit in their hotel rooms in between games.

“We’ll enjoy that part of the country and we might get to see some things,” Lotief said, “but that is not why we’re going there. We are going to play softball.”

Lotief said the biggest challenge will be facing the Hawkins, who is 20-3 on the season with a 1.12 ERA and 165 strikeouts. Lotief said Hawkins is a vast difference to what the Cajuns will show in the circle.

“I think you’re getting ready to see that they have a headliner that gets all the spotlight in Hawkins,” Lotief said. “This year, maybe we don’t have a headliner. We have three kids that share the load and we’ll see how that will work in a super regional matchup.”

Lotief isn’t ready to say which of his three pitchers will start. Jordan Wallace, Christina Hamilton and Alex Stewart have all proven to be effective this season. Lotief said any combination of the three might go in Eugene, Oregon, this weekend.

“For whatever reason, in softball, we don’t give the rotation before the games,” Lotief said, “so that is the biggest question of the weekend. Are they going to throw (Hawkins) all three games. Are we going to go with matchups? It’s a trial run.”

Junior left fielder Shellie Landry said she feels like playing in a super regional atmosphere will be hard, but she said the team will be ready to fight.

“You only have three games (in a super regional) in an atmosphere that is hard to play in,” Landry said. “It’s going to be hard competing against a team that is nationally ranked.”

Lotief said he isn’t concerned with the standings, or the rankings or the RPI. He said the only thing the team is concerned with is getting better and he said facing Hawkins this weekend will go a long way toward making the Cajuns better.

“We have a lot of video on her,” he said. “She’s a lefty throwing the ball mid-60s and breaking the ball into you on three different planes and three different speeds. You know she is going to do it and the best way to prepare to hit her is to go live and see her in person.

“I don’t know if we are going to host or not host (a super regional),” Lotief said. “None of that is in my control and the only thing that matters is getting better. Once our kids step in the box and experience (Hawkins), they’ll get a whole lot better just from that. That’s why we’re going to Oregon.”