Cajuns softball team wins tournament opener _lowres

Advocate Photo by LEE CELANO - University of Louisiana at Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns' catcher Lexie Elkins tags out Iowa Hawkeyes' Claire Fritsch in the second inning Friday, Feb. 20, 2015.

LAFAYETTE — Louisiana-Lafayette catcher Lexie Elkins’ stellar 2015 campaign — in which she hit a nation-leading and program-record 32 home runs — was capped off Thursday when she was named the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Diamond Sports Catcher of the Year.

“I am humbled by these awards and owe it all to my sisters,” Elkins said. “I feel like my hard work has paid off, but I feel like we can push each other so much further. This season is behind us and I’m ready to get to work for next season. The sky is the limit.”

Elkins didn’t just set a program record for home runs in 2015. She had 1.077 slugging percentage, becoming the first Cajun ever over 1.000. She also recorded 83 RBIs, joining only Christi Oregeron as Cajuns with more than 80 RBIs in a single season.

“Lexie basically got on a roll offensively where every time she came up, she was doing something that influenced the game,” Cajuns coach Michael Lotief said. “If you’re the opponent, you always had to be aware of where she was and when she was coming up. The way it affected our offense was pretty impressive.”

Lotief said Elkins struggled early in the season, but he said she still hit the ball well. Once she worked out the kinks in her mechanics, she got on track for her record-breaking seaosn.

“Whenever a good hitter is struggling, you have to figure out why,” Lotief said. “When she cleaned up her mechanics, her confidence went soaring and she became the hitter that she is. She has incredible hand-eye coordination and she has incredible pitch recognition. She also has incredible power. When you combine those three things, you get NFCA catcher of the year.”

Eklins hit zero home runs as a freshman at Texas Tech. Lotief said Elkins came into the Cajuns program and fell into a system that fit her game.

“She’s not a line-drive, swing down on the ball kind of hitter,” Lotief said “The things we ask her to do affected her power numbers and slugging percentage.

“She obviously had the hand-eye, pitch recognition and power before she showed up on our campus. We married the mechanics with her skill set, and it was a good fit. It fit who she is, and I think that’s why she wanted to come here. She’s a power hitter and we’re a power program.”

Elkins said the Cajuns program means a lot to her, and she said she knows the recognition is all owed to her coaches and teammates.

“My teammates and the coaches took a little girl who thought she was an adult and turned her into a woman who’s ready to compete in life,” Elkins said. “I’m eternally grateful and could never repay them for that.”

On Lotief’s mantle sit pictures of the six hitters who have passed through the Cajuns program and currently sit in the top 50 home run hitters in NCAA history: Lacey Bertucci, Orgeron, Gabrielle Bridges, Alana Addison, Danyele Gomez and Holly Tankersley.

“That’s a pretty impressive list,” Lotief said. “I keep them on my shelf and when Lexie’s career is over, she is going on there. She hit zero home runs her freshman year and amazingly she will get there in three years. She is a fierce competitor and one of the purest power hitters to play in this program.”