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Softball: Seniors prepare to leave softball sisterhood

Ragin’ Cajuns’ last home game this afternoon

Call it the divine secrets of the rah-rah sisterhood.

Lacey Bertucci is related to long-ago president Chester A. Arthur, and one of her desires is to own and operate her own amusement park.

Desi Chatman, given her choice, would rather be watching college football or basketball, befitting her all-around athlete status.

Tara Hamilton says she’s going to visit Fiji to scuba dive one day, and she’s part of the way there since she’s already got her scuba certification.

Different? Sure. But make no mistake, they are sisters.

"I’m leaving behind 20 sisters," Chatman said. "It’s a sisterhood we have here."

"It’s like our own sorority," Hamilton said of the UL softball team. "That’s what I’m going to miss the most, having this kind of relationship."

Hamilton, Chatman and Bertucci are the officers of this sorority, the seniors that will likely play their final games at Lamson Park today when the Ragin’ Cajuns host Nicholls State in a 4 p.m. doubleheader. It’s the final regular-season home appearance for the 22nd (National Fastpitch Coaches Association poll) and 24th (USA Softball poll) ranked Cajuns.

"Some of the other girls are already saying that they’re going to miss me," Bertucci said. "I told them I didn’t want to talk about it. I’m not going to face reality. I don’t want to grow up, but I guess I have to."

The threesome has done a lot of growing up this season as the leaders of a squad expected to be mired in a "rebuilding" year. That was before the Cajuns started out 20-2 and put together an 8-3 record against teams ranked in the NCAA Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) top 20.

"We had those great early wins," Bertucci said, "and people realized we were better than they thought we’d be. We never thought about it that way. We were ranked at the start and we always thought that’s where we’re supposed to be."

"You never want to go out in your senior year with a rebuilding year," Hamilton said. "You want to go out on top. The ‘rebuilding’ went away when we beat a lot of good teams, and now we’re just trying to keep getting better."

"Everybody said we were going to be young," Chatman said, "but our young players don’t play like young players. They’ve helped us get where we need to be. At this point of the year, our freshmen are no longer freshmen."

The Cajuns (42-13) began the season with 15 first-year or redshirt freshmen on the roster, and desperately in need of leadership after the departure of several of the program’s best-ever players over the past couple of seasons.

A lot of that leadership has come, ironically, from the right side of the diamond. Bertucci has been a fixture at first base for four seasons, most of Hamilton’s action has been at second base and Chatman is the regular right fielder, although she’s moved around the outfield with injuries forcing UL to shuffle its lineup.

Bertucci and Chatman both arrived at UL in 2003, Bertucci from Folsom and Covington High and Chatman out of Comeaux High. Hamilton, a native of Lumberton, Texas, who played one season at Wisconsin, joined the Cajuns one year later.

Bertucci played in a school-record 68 games, starting 67, as a freshman and earned second-team All-Sun Belt honors before moving up to first team the last two years. Hamilton has started 114 games over the past three years and made the Sun Belt All-Tournament team last year.

Chatman was a late bloomer after not playing high school softball, concentrating on basketball (a school record 41 points in one game) and track (state records in the shot put and discus). She did play select softball in the summer, enough to earn Most Valuable Player honors in the AFA National Tournament in 2002, and she’s currently hitting a career-high .290 along with more hits (45), doubles (10), homers (eight) and RBI (35) this year than her first three years combined.

Those first three years flew by for all three. So has their senior season. But reality started setting in last Sunday, when UL was the visiting team for North Texas’ Senior Day. The Cajuns finished off a three-game sweep of the Mean Green in that game.

"Holy smokes, they’re out there doing that and that’s us this week," Hamilton said. "That’s when it started to sink in. It’s the last time to do something that’s been your whole life."

"It’s like only a couple of days ago I was here on a recruiting visit," Bertucci said. "Now anytime I hear some of the younger girls talk about how they hope it goes by fast, I tell them they’ll regret that when they’re seniors."

"It’s like I woke up today and I’m a senior," Chatman said. "I’m emotional, so I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. But after the game starts it’ll be like any other game and let’s get to work. It’ll hit me later."

Nicholls State (26-24) at UL (42-13)

4 p.m. today (DH), Lamson Park

 

  • Radio: KPEL-AM (1420) with Steve Peloquin, air time 3:45p.m.

     

  • Last meeting: The teams split a doubleheader in Thibodaux earlier this season, UL winning the opener 6-1 and Nicholls taking the nightcap 61. It was UL’s first loss and the Cajuns’ only loss in their first 15 games.

     

  • Last time out: UL took three games at North Texas in Sun Belt Conference play, winning 6-5, 12-3 and 4-2. Nicholls State won three games at home from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in Southland Conference play.

     

  • Probable pitchers: UL, Brittany Cuevas (Fr., RH, 27-7, 1.95), Holly Tankersley (Jr., RH, 12-5, 2.70) or Amanda Hill (Fr., RH, 1-0, 1.97). Nicholls State, Krystal Ensminger (12-13, 4.23) and Jessica Barksdale (Jr., 6-6, 2.42).

     

  • Top hitters: UL, DH/OF Holly Tankersley (Jr., .382, 15 HR, 50 RBI), OF/SS Karli Hubbard (So., .325, 11 RBI), 3B Melissa Verde (Fr., .301, 7 HR, 41 RBI); Nicholls State, SS/OF Kathryn Harrell (Jr., .404, 2 HR, 8 RBI), 3B Leah Peterson (Sr., .365, 11 HR, 44 RBI), 1B Amy Thibodeaux (Jr., .356, 9 HR, 39 RBI).

     

  • Lagniappe: Final regular-season home appearance for squad and seniors Lacey Bertucci, Desi Chatman and Tara Hamilton … Regular Cajun shortstop Codi Runyan is doubtful today with a back injury and is listed as day-to-day for the weekend and next week’s Sun Belt Tournament … Kodi Butler, a former standout at St. Thomas More, is on the Nicholls roster.

     

  • Next: UL at UL Monroe Saturday, 1 p.m. doubleheader, and Sunday, noon single game, Monroe.