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Softball: Team taught us how little we know – photo gallery included

Kevin Foote, The Advertiser, May 25, 2017

Athletic Network footnote:
Click here for digital photos and video of the Cajuns Softball team. 

The brutal, mind-numbing roller coaster ride the UL Ragin’ Cajuns softball fans endured this past weekend in Baton Rouge will likely take some time to properly process.
In some ways, the disappointment will never really end.
After all, it was in Baton Rouge and the Cajuns were playing LSU.
It was just too much fun to say that UL had never lost at Tiger Park and had won six straight games against the Tigers to quickly sweep the final two games under the rug forever more.
Perhaps the odds were more against UL than most of us figured going into the Baton Rouge Regional.
In time, though, perhaps some of the diehards will be able to appreciate what the 2017 Cajuns were able to accomplish.
Was this team capable of extending the program’s Super Regional streak to six straight seasons? Of course; they were just one win away from achieving that feat. They started off the 2-0 and certainly were capable of one more win.
Sometimes enjoying too much success, though, can impact your legacy in the minds of some.
Think back to the preseason talk. Many of the most critical of UL’s disappointing finish were in the same boat as the rest of us.
Most of us were convinced the offense would struggle by former standards. The schedule probably deceived some, but toward the end of the regular season, many of us were starting to wonder if this year’s lineup hadn’t actually transformed itself into a more productive attack than the 2016 unit.
Buy that or not, the bottom line is this group battered Sun Belt competition like no other UL team ever. That’s certainly one notch in its belt.
The season took all followers of this program on quite an topsy-turvy ride. After looking less than stellar in the first weekend, the alarmists of the world were ready to throw up the white flag.
By the second weekend against Alabama, it was back to normal. This team looked very much like the Cajuns of old when they pounded Alabama 18-2 over the final two days of that series.
It took almost the entire season to really rear their ugly heads, but that’s exactly what happened this past weekend in Baton Rouge.
Two of the biggest preseason questions were: 1. Would the lineup pack enough of a punch after the losses of so many seasoned bats?, and 2. Who would be the No. 2 pitcher behind Alex Stewart?
For most of the season, both questions seemed almost silly. The Cajuns collected 80-plus homers and had the nation’s leader in bombs the year after Lexie Elkins graduated. They crushed the ball for the vast majority of the season.
And yet, the team really struggled to score runs this past weekend.
Folks, if McNeese and LSU had played good defense on Friday and Saturday, the Cajuns wouldn’t have scored hardly any runs all weekend after scoring at will all season long … including games against three Super Regional teams in Alabama, Texas A&M and Baylor.
Almost halfway through the season, Stewart was functionally the No. 2 pitcher. And yet, down the stretch freshman Alyssa Denham had apparently hit the freshman wall and Lotief was having to lean way too heavily on Stewart.
Moreover, hidden from many all season was how little depth this team sported. Many begged for a replacement at designated player, but that list was a very short one.
In the end, the truth may just be that this fun, spirited group of girls willed its way to overachieve and just fell one win short of getting to a level that most hardly seemed possible prior to the season opener.
Looking forward, there are more concerns.
Stewart is gone, potentially leaving the staff with sophomores and freshmen. That’s a bit scary.
While there’s a great core of leaders returning at third, shortstop, catcher and centerfield, there are no obvious returning answers at second and possibly even designated player.
Concerning that position, don’t assume anything. In her first season after transferring from Baylor, Shebi Redfearn had a miserable season, nowhere near as productive as the one Daniella Chavez just finished. In her second season, Redfearn was a mainstay in the middle of UL’s order on the 2014 World Series team.
If nothing else, this 2017 season should have taught us that we don’t know what we think we know nearly as much as we think we know it.