Ragin’ Cajuns enjoy super regional win, turn to WCWS
Mike Lotief watched the sprinklers for a second at empty Lamson Park.
Tending to the grass — a task as routine as it precise — still needed to be done before he spent an evening away from the office grinding away.
An hour earlier, Louisiana-Lafayette’s coach threw a knowing glance to his son Nick after being asked about how a softball-mad family might mark a super regional sweep of Arizona and a return to the Women’s College World Series.
“We have a favorite tradition,” Lotief said. “We’re going to go do it.
Then father and son cast knowing grins.
It’s a moment of pause, a pause in a beat that existed only for a day, considering the Ragin’ Cajuns (49-8-1) didn’t have an opponent to dissect or tweaks to make.
Late Sunday evening, Kentucky, who is the No. 14 overall seed, solved that problem. The Wildcats (47-17) clawed back on the road to sweep a double-header from third-seeded UCLA in Los Angeles.
When the pair will meet Thursday in Oklahoma City is the lone detail left to be ironed out.
“Right now, I’m going to enjoy this one with these kids and my family,” Lotief said.
That’s the feeling Lotief and his players danced around.
A young roster that shed stalwarts in Nerissa Myers at shortstop, Brianna Cherry in center, Sarah Draheim at catcher and Matte Haack at first base faced a slew of questions in February?
In February, catcher Lexie Elkins was just a transfer from Texas Tech. Now, she’s hitting .388 and crunched 22 home runs en route to being tabbed the Sun Belt Conference’s player of the year.
In the circle, Christina Hamilton is no longer a spare tire for Jordan Wallace, who entered the year facing the task of carrying UL-Lafayette’s pitching. Hamilton now sits at 29-2 and just flummoxed the nation’s best batch of power hitters.
And roster turnover?
Minimal. Only second baseman Natalie Fernandez and left fielder Shelbi Redfearn are seniors.
So Lotief is trying to get ahead of a certain logic: Plan another couple trips like this one over the next couple of years.
“Come on now,” Lotief said. “I don’t even want to hear it. What this team has done this year is phenomenal. There’s no guarantee that they’re going to do it again. There’s no guarantee they’re going to win another game this season.”
The dominance Hamilton has shown?
“You could go and play in a pick-up game tomorrow and get shelled,” Lotief said. “This is a tough game.”
The way the lineup worked counts and managed timely hits?
“That may be it,” Lotief said.
Basking in the moment, just as the Cajuns did after winning regular season and conference tournament titles, is the order of the night.
Monday punches a timecard. Until then...
“I’m going to spend the next couple hours with my team,” Lotief said.
Follow Matthew Harris on Twitter: @MHarrisAdvocate.