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Softball: Hubbard fills in at shortstop

UL outfielder adjusting to life back in infield

The last thing Karli Hubbard figured she’d be doing over the last three weeks was playing shortstop.

The last time she lined up anywhere in the infield was back at Comeaux High, where she helped lead the Spartans to three straight district titles. Since then, she’d become a fixture in the outfield for UL’s nationally-ranked softball team.

Yet, there she was, positioned closer to the plate than she imagined, or wanted.

"I pretty much freaked a little," Hubbard said. "But you have to get over that."

Hubbard wound up manning the shortstop slot for the Ragin’ Cajuns over the final two weeks of the regular season and in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament through a domino effect.

One domino – three-year shortstop starter Codi Runyan – went down with a back injury and is still questionable to play at all in this weekend’s NCAA Tournament College Station Regional.

Hubbard had to move from center field to short, freshman Vallie Gaspard shifted from left field to center, senior Desi Chatman moved from right field to left and either designated hitter Holly Tankersley or backup Meagan Godwin wound up in right.

It’s little wonder the Cajuns struggled late, missing out on the league’s regular-season title by one-half game when they managed only two wins in three games against last-place UL Monroe. UL then uncharacteristically lost two straight games in the league tournament, and it was defensive lapses that came up big in those two games.

Hubbard, who committed only one error all of her freshman season in the outfield, struggled along with the rest of her squad in the field.

"It’s not so much the physical part," she said. "I know I can play the position. It was the mental part. You can’t play this game scared. I’ve got to be more confident, and it’s getting better now that I’ve had some game experience."

"We couldn’t just take anyone and put there," said Cajun coach Stefni Lotief. "It takes a special player to be able to make a change like that."

Hubbard was a key part of last season’s 50-12 squad that won the Sun Belt regular-season and tournament titles, playing in all 62 games and starting 59 in the outfield.

She hit .284 and led all freshmen in hits while only striking out 18 times in 148 at-bats, and her slap single eventually led to a winning run in last year’s NCAA Regional first-round game against North Carolina State.

This year’s been even better at the plate for the Comeaux product. She takes a .322 average into regional play, the team’s second-best mark, and is perfect in 11 stolen-base attempts. She also hit .347 in Sun Belt play.

She’d probably trade some of those average points for the chance to get back on familiar turf in center field, but she knows that’s probably not happening this weekend. Runyan is likely limited to designated hitter or pinch hitter duties.

"There’s always going to be some adversity," Hubbard said. "We had our share of that the last couple of weeks, but I think this week we’ve come back together, gotten back on track and we’re playing with more confidence."

Some of that confidence stems from the Cajuns’ first-round NCAA opponent.

UL already holds two regular-season wins over Houston’s Cougars heading into Friday’s 1 p.m. contest at the Aggie Softball Complex, even though UH is the number two seed and UL is seeded third.

"We’ve got a good regional," Hubbard said, "but we can’t take anyone lightly at this stage. We’re just thankful that we have this opportunity."

 Zoom Photo

Advertiser File Photo

UL’s Karli Hubbard puts the ball in play during action earlier this year.

College State Regional


NCAA Softball College Station Regional

Texas A&M Aggie Softball Complex, College Station, Texas

Friday’s Schedule

Game 1 – Houston (42-16) vs. Louisiana (46-16), 1 p.m.

Game 2 – Sam Houston State (37-24) vs. Texas A&M (40-10), 4 p.m.

Saturday’s Schedule

Game 3 – Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, noon

Game 4 – Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 2:30 p.m.

Game 5 – Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 winner, 5:30 p.m.

Sunday’s Schedule

Game 6 – Game 3 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 1 p.m.

Game 7 – Game 3 winner vs. Game 5 winner, if necessary, 30 minutes after first game