There’s getting a little bit of extra rest and then there’s the break the No. 8-ranked UL Ragin’ Cajuns softball team is hoping ends soon.
Originally scheduled to open the season last Friday, it was pushed back and day and then the opening weekend Louisiana Classics event at Lamson Park was totally canceled.
Then coach Gerry Glasco’s club was supposed to play Lamar on Tuesday and that was called off because of the freezing cold weather conditions. Next was going to be starting play in the UAB Green and Gold Classic at noon Friday against Southeastern, but that too was canceled.
Finally, at least the current plan calls for UL to play its first game of the 2021 season against Jacksonville State at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in Birmingham.
The Cajuns would then play UAB at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, followed by the Sunday doubleheader of Southeastern at 10 a.m. and UAB again at 3.
“We wanted to play, we were ready to play, so this has really changed our course,” Glasco said.
“We’ll see how it affects us when we get on the field. It’s kind of unchartered territory for me. As a coach, I’ve never lost an opening weekend.”
Quite possibly, softball will begin its season before baseball does for the first time ever.
But while the anxiety meter is now at an all-time high for the program’s players and fans, Glasco isn’t turning his nose up at the extended rest.
“We’re just using this time to try to get some rest,” he said. “It’s going to do us a little bit of good. We were pretty tired actually from all the scrimmages we’ve had on the field over the last two weeks prior to last weekend.
“I do feel like some of our pitchers were actually tired. We had played a lot of scrimmage games trying to get back in the mode to compete after being off for 11 months. I think that week off will actually down the road help us having a little bit of rest going into the season.”
The Cajuns took batting practice each day and did get a brief scrimmage during the week to prepare for the tournament at UAB.
On Monday, Glasco confirmed UL won’t be at full strength this weekend. For one, Arizona transfer outfielder Jenna Kean isn’t expected to be available. And although South Carolina transfer pitcher/outfielder Karly Heath is back at practice after COVID “was difficult for her physically to recover from.”
Other potential outfielders Kendall Talley, Morgan Gray and Carrie Boswell won't be available this weekend. Neither will freshman shortstop Kyleigh Sand.
Even if the list increases, UL’s roster should be deep enough to handle it.
“We’re really fortunate when you have key players out and you look at the lineup and think ‘We’re still really good,’” Glasco said. “It’s a huge advantage I think and a really fortunate time in our program to have that.
“We know we’re going to have a lot of changes and things occur throughout the season. This is a year we want to set a really high standard, so hopefully we’ll still have enough players on the available roster to play at a really high level.”
Kean’s absence would typically leave UL with three seasoned starters in Ciara Bryan in left, Raina O’Neal in center and Kendall Talley in right, but with Talley not available, Glasco will need to test out his utility corps right away.
Such utility players as Frankie Izard, Justice Milz and Melissa Mayeux could also be options. In fact, Glasco said Mayeux could play every position except pitcher.
“She looks so good offensively,” he said. “We want to get her on the field as much as we can.”
Another option could be moving freshman first baseman Taylor Roman back to the outfield.
“We had her out there a few times this spring,” Glasco said. “She’s really making strides defensively at first base, so I’m trying to keep her at first base all I can.
“I think she enjoys being on the infield. I like her on the infield. It gives us a dominating presence with her out there. Our infielders are learning to play to her strengths and throw the ball high. They have the luxury of really letting the ball rip. They don’t have to worry about our first baseman’s head.”
While UL hasn’t played yet, UAB is off to a 3-2 start with losses to Troy and Ole Miss and wins over Ole Miss and Belmont.
“He (UAB head coach and former UL assistant Joe Guthrie) has got some assistants from Auburn helping him with that program,” Glasco said. “They’re really going to turn that program around over the next two years.
“We’re looking forward to that. We know they’re going to give us a good test.”
Southeastern is 3-2 after beating South Dakota three of four and losing to North Texas, while Jacksonville State is 0-1 with a 7-6 loss to ULM in eight innings.