LAFAYETTE — It is a scenario that had shown up before.
A Texas opponent taking the Louisiana-Lafayette softball squad to the limit. First it was Baylor’s Heather Stearns a season ago to help push the Cajuns into playing two games to cement a regional championship.
On Sunday, the Texas A&M offense took the mantle of supplying a stubborn foe.
The difference this time around: the Cajuns made it to the finish line a stride ahead of the Aggies in a 9-8, nine-inning win with no second heat required.
“For those student-athletes to go through an experience like that will impact them for the rest of their lives,” Cajuns coach Mike Lotief said. “Being a part of this experience is second to none. Coach (Jo) Evans at Texas A&M is a good friend and mentor, and I respect the way they competed and played. I hate to see a team walk out of this one disappointed.”
For Louisiana-Lafayette sophomores such as center fielder Aleah Craighton and shortstop DJ Sanders (who each homered), the groundwork for Sunday’s success was partially laid a year ago. The Cajuns endured rain delays and a regional opener against Weber State that ended after 1 a.m. There were the two contests against Baylor and the disappointment of a super regional ending against Auburn.
“Everything we went through last year helped us,” Craighton said. “The rain delays and everything else helped us.”
Lotief has also seen the impact of his six seniors who gained their own seasoning as juniors.
“That weathers them and it makes those kids tougher,” Lotief said. “We have never done it (had success) without having the leadership of those older kids. All credit to my upperclassmen.”
For the Aggies, who finished their season 39-20, this season may function as the spot where seasoning took place. Freshman pitcher Samantha Show took the loss in an eight-inning effort in which she threw 162 pitches. She gained a standing ovation from the crowd at Lamson Park.
“I was in such a shutdown mode that I didn’t really get to look up at the crowd and see it,” Show said. “With everyone coming up to me after the game and my parents telling me about it, it made me realize what I did in the past weekend ... and it’s a pretty cool feeling.”
Evans said the effort shown throughout the regional by the participants was a saving grace for those who lost a final game before the super regional round.
“It was such a fun weekend playing the game,” Evans said. “That is what it’s supposed to be like. You are in the trenches fighting. That’s how you stomach not winning and not moving on. Samantha Show grew up this weekend. She became a fighter and she became more mentally mature.”