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Softball: Glasco tragedy makes No. 15 UL softball team tighter

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Feb. 7, 2019

A club whose bond was tight already, thanks to lofty aspirations, has grown even closer in recent days.

Tragedy has a way of making that happen.

And if ever a program has had to deal with its unfair share of it, it’s the UL softball team.

Ragin’ Cajuns volunteer assistant coach Geri Ann Glasco, the youngest of UL head coach Gerry Glasco and wife Vickie’s three daughters, died Jan. 24 in a multi-vehicle accident on I-10 near Lafayette that also claimed the life of another person identified as Kenneth McNeil. 

“We can all sit here and talk about the pain, or whatever, but nobody truly understands that besides people that do it every day with you for four-plus hours a day,” Cajuns shortstop Allisa Dalton told a room full of reporters earlier this week.

“We all feel the same things. We all know everybody’s struggling,” Dalton added. “So we help push each other, and keep each other going.”

More: UL volunteer coach, daughter of softball head coach, killed in wreck

That’s what’s pulled a tight team tighter.

“We feel like a really close-knit family right now,” senior catcher Lexie Comeaux said, “so it’s gonna be a good year, I think.”

Long before their loss, the Cajuns had high hopes for 2019.

With seven position starters back including Sun Belt Conference Preseason Player of the Year Dalton, 2018 RBI-leader Comeaux, and on-base percentage leader and third baseman Kara Gremillion, UL is preseason pick to win the league.

A season ago, the Cajuns went 41-16, made it to the NCAA’s Baton Rouge Regional and finished ranked No. 19.

This season — after adding outfielders Sarah Hudek and Keeli Milligan, both outfielders; 2018 MAC Freshman of the Year Bailey Curry, an infielder from Toledo; and Raina O’Neal, who had 12 homers as a freshman at Texas Tech in 2017 — UL is ranked No. 15 in the NFCA national poll and No. 18 by USA Softball.

The Cajuns also return Summer Ellyson, the Sun Belt’s Preseason Pitcher of the Year after going 23-10 with a 1.53 ERA last season.

So getting to Oklahoma City, and the Women’s College World Series — which UL has been to six times, the last in 2014 — has long been on Cajun minds.

More: Glasco's banner offseason has UL softball fans dreaming big

THE JOURNEY BEGINS

It’s a journey that will begin with Thursday’s 5 p.m. Ragin’ Cajuns Classic season-opener at Lamson Park against Fordham, followed by games Friday afternoon against Incarnate Word and Texas A&M Corpus Christi, TAMCC again on Saturday afternoon and a Monday doubleheader with California.  

“The way we’re all connected on the field is insane. … I think our opportunities are limitless,” said Dalton, who began her college career at Oklahoma. “There’s nothing that can stop us unless we stop ourselves.”

“The potential is huge. Obviously our eyes are on Oklahoma, like they are every year. But this year it feels really, really possible,” added Comeaux, a Texan from Tomball. “And that’s what we all want. I think it’s gonna happen.”

Glasco’s passing seemingly makes the Cajuns that much more intent on seeing things through.

“Since we are so close now, close-knit, family-like, I don’t see why we wouldn’t get there,” Comeaux said. “We have all the talent in the world to be able to make it all the way. So, I think the sky is the limit for this team.”

As they reach for it, the Cajuns are bound to often look up high this season.

They’ll be searching for a popular college softball star whose death rattled the sport’s small world, from the West Coast to the Deep South and beyond.

Column: Glasco family teaches us lessons far beyond softball

Glasco, 24, was a standout while playing two seasons at Georgia followed by two at Oregon.

She was picked by Akron 20th overall in the 2016 National Pro Fastpitch professional softball league draft.

And then Glasco followed her father in coaching, the family business, serving as a student assistant at Oregon and working at two other schools in that state, Mt. Hood Community College and Sandy High.

She joined her father’s staff in advance of this season, and quickly developed a relationship with Cajun players.

“She did a lot for the university in a very short amount of time,” Comeaux said.

With that thought in mind, the Cajuns are bound to keep Glasco close to their hearts this season and beyond. 

But dealing with the reality of the tragedy hasn’t been easy, and it won’t be any time soon.

“It’s kind of unspoken that we’re obviously dedicating this season to her,” Comeaux said. “She’s in our thoughts constantly. Every day is a new struggle, and we’re trying to get through it as best we can.”

Photos: Geri Ann Glasco Memorial

BACK TO ILLINOIS

To help ease the pain for both Cajun players and their coach, UL put the the team on a bus to Illinois — the family’s home state — for Glasco’s funeral.

“That’s all part of that grieving process,” said Mike Roberts, who was named the Cajuns’ associate head coach and pitching coach last August. “Obviously Geri Ann is gonna be in our thoughts for the whole year. … But I think the team is dealing with it well.”

Being in Illinois, specifically Johnston City in the southern part of the state, just a few days after the accident helped.

“I think it was really good for us to be able to go up there and not only get closure for ourselves, but to be there for Coach Glasco,” Comeaux said. “It just meant everything for him and to his family, and it meant everything to us to be able to be there for him.”



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