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Softball: Lotief – Wallace has never lost “her stuff”

Kevin Foote, The Advertiser, May 19, 2015



UL pitcher Jordan Wallace throws pitches the Cajuns into the Super Regionals.(Photo: Leslie Westbrook/The Advertiser)


He gets a little riled up and emotional about it every time Jordan Wallace’s junior season is discussed.

It happened again earlier this weekend when someone referred to the senior pitcher’s "bounce-back" season this spring.

In Monday’s press conference, UL coach Michael Lotief took issue with the term, almost as if he was offended by the inference.

His reaction isn’t blind, or necessarily overly sensitive. I believe that both Lotief and Wallace fully understand that her effectiveness as a pitcher wasn’t nearly as high a year ago as it was during her freshman, sophomore or senior seasons.

However you categorize Wallace’s pitching career at UL, it’s pretty evident the Cajuns will be leaning on her pretty heavily when they travel to meet the Auburn Tigers in NCAA Super Regional best-of-three series that begins 1 p.m. Friday.

There are several things working here.

For one, there’s the assumption he’s sensing that Wallace, or any All-American caliber athlete, is supposed to be great throughout their careers. Secondly, many overlook how much more difficult it is to dominate as a pitcher in today’s world of college softball.

It’s kind of like comparing Peyton Manning to John Unitas. Manning has posted incredible numbers against much more sophisticated defensive schemes, but Unitas played before they legislated offense into the league. Defensive ends could virtually take his head off, and defensive backs could get very physical with receivers.

Two decades ago, college pitchers typically threw more innings. For example, the days of Courtney Blades throwing 1,261 innings in her career are over. By contrast, Wallace has been a huge part of four teams that have gone to Super Regionals or beyond and she’s thrown 691 innings so far in her career.

UL pitcher Jordan Wallace smiles as softball Coach

UL pitcher Jordan Wallace smiles as softball Coach Michael Lotief heaps praise on her while speaking to the media Monday, May 18, 2015, during a press conference at the UL Sports Information Office in Lafayette, La. (Photo: Leslie Westbrook, The Advertiser, Leslie Westbrook, The Advertiser)

The most innings ever thrown in UL history is 908 by Brooke Mitchell.

We need to forget those comparisons. The ball is different, the bat is different and there are a lot more powerful hitters to face these days.

It indeed is a different world. When Wallace was asked what went through her mind when Baylor’s Heather Stearns started Sunday’s if necessary game at Lamson Park after pitching the game before it, she responded, "Poor girl."

Blades and many of her colleagues would have expected her to do just that.

Indeed, both the challenges and the expectations are different in 2015.

When the Cajuns won three games at the Women’s College World Series back in 1993, they hit 24 home runs and scored 318 runs in 64 games as a team that season. In 52 games so far this season, UL has 112 homers and 426 runs scored.

"There’s so much more pressure on the kids in the circle now, because there’s so much more offense in the game now," Lotief said.

As a result, it’s more difficult to dominate for four straight seasons. Lotief is basically saying look at a guy like Detroit’s Justin Verlander when analyzing Wallace’s career.

One year, he’s got a 2.40 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP to win the Cy Young and then a 2.64 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP the next year, so he’s this great unhittable pitcher now, right? Wrong, the next season, he dropped down to a 3.46 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP.

He’s saying, don’t judge Wallace’s career on the softball pitchers of yesteryear, but more like you would an elite Major League pitcher who endures roller coaster rides at times.

Lotief maintains that Wallace has never lost "her stuff" and that her slipping to 14-3 with a 4.04 ERA in 102.1 innings once in the midst of a brilliant four-year career should no longer be viewed as some freak show.

Paul Kieu/The Advertiser UL pitcher Jordan Wallace

Paul Kieu/The Advertiser UL pitcher Jordan Wallace (7) will try to put an up-and-down weekend at Oregon behind her when the Cajuns try to wrap up the Sun Belt title at UL Monroe this weekend. UL pitcher Jordan Wallace (7) throws to a Baylor batter during an NCAA softball game at Lamson Park in Lafayette, LA, Saturday, April 11, 2015. (Photo: Paul Kieu, The Advertiser)

In Lotief’s mind, Wallace’s "bounce back" isn’t the fact that she’s pitching better this season, but "once she came to peace with her contributions, who she is, what she means, that’s the bounce-back."

With all of that said, Wallace knows what it’s like to carry a team on her back. She did it as a sophomore. Christina Hamilton did it as a junior last season.

That duo figures to tag-team it this weekend in Auburn. The Tigers, meanwhile, have three pitchers with ERAs between 2,88 and 4.13 and innings pitched totals between 107 and 138.2.

Both will be facing powerful lineups. Auburn has 92 homers and 490 runs so far.

If there are any lingering doubts about the legacy of Wallace or Hamilton, this weekend is a great opportunity to squash those forever.

Super Regional


UL at Auburn

(At Jane B. Moore Field)

Friday: UL (41-10) vs. Auburn (52-9), 1 p.m. (ESPNU)

Saturday: UL vs. Auburn, 11 a.m. (ESPN)

x-Saturday: UL vs. Auburn, 2 p.m. (ESPN)

x – If necessary