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Softball: Lemoine holds senior staff together

Dan McDonald

Freshman catcher Jessica Lemoine wasn’t overly concerned about working with a pair of senior pitchers on the University of Louisiana softball team.
She had about 10 years of catching experience on her side.

“It hasn’t been a problem,” Lemoine said Thursday. “We worked a lot together in the fall and our personalities clicked. They listen when I’ve got something on a hitter.”

Their teamwork has obviously worked. Pitchers Ashley Kirchberg and Krystal Lewallen have combined for a 42-9 record and a 1.88 team ERA, and the Ragin’ Cajuns are one successful weekend away from a seventh straight Sun Belt Conference title.
And Lemoine? She’s caught all 52 games, and virtually every inning of each of those contests after sitting out the entire 2005 season as a redshirt. She has yet to commit an error and has thrown out 11 of 31 base-stealers this year heading into this weekend’s final regular-season series at Middle Tennessee.

“I never once thought that I wouldn’t work hard enough to start,” she said. “That was my goal and I wasn’t settling for anything else. I learned a lot from Joy (graduated starter Joy Webre) last year and I’m applying that this year.”

Webre caught all but two games as a freshman and all 187 the last three years, so Lemoine had some big cleats to fill.

“It’s always a concern when you’ve had somebody there that long,” said Cajun coach Stefni Lotief. “But we knew Jessica was a student of the game and understood what we needed from her. She’s done an outstanding job.”

The Bridge City, Texas, product has been behind the plate since age 10, when she finally convinced her father and youth coach to put her there.

“I wanted to be involved with every pitch,” she said.

She’s now getting that chance, joining with the pitching staff in analyzing opposing hitters.

“We always have a scout report to go over, and if we have film we’ll look at it,” she said. “Some kind of preparation, even if it’s a brief report. If you have someone who’s doing something like flailing her arms around, we’re going to capitalize on that.

“The pitchers now what they’re talking about, and we’re always exchanging information between innings. There’s always a give-and-take … even if I’m aggravated with them.”

One thing that has aggravated Lemoine this year is her offensive performance. Her current .222 average, three homers and 13 RBIs are well below her own expectations.

“I’m definitely not happy with that,” she said. “I wanted to be hitting better than that at this point in the season. I plan on improving that next year, and I know I have to since we have some big shoes to fill with these seniors, who just drop bombs like crazy.”

Which begs the question: What would you say in your scout report about the Cajun hitters, a group that ranks second nationally in home runs, run production and slugging percentage?

“I would hate to have to pitch against our team,” she said. “Even if you pitch to their weakness, they can hit it out on you. I get worried just in practice … it’s amazing how far balls get hit in practice.”

Originally published May 5, 2006