Softball: Cajuns softball having two super shortstops is 'good problem to have'
Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, July 10, 2020
UL's Alissa Dalton throws the ball to first base as the Ragin' Cajuns play against the California Golden Bears at Lamson Park on February 11, 2019. (Photo: James Mays/Special to the Advertiser)
Two super shortstops.
Room in the starting lineup for just one of them at short.
What does UL coach Gerry Glasco do with both Alissa Dalton and Jade Gortarez when the 2021 college softball season gets under way?
And what does he do at third base, where he has a returnee — Melissa Mayeux — with potential?
“You know what? We’re gonna figure that out in the fall,” Glasco said. “It’s a good problem to have.
“The main thing about these two athletes (Dalton and Gortarez): They’re both such great competitors, and they’re such good, confident players.”
The "good" problem came about because Glasco figured Dalton, a senior, would be moving on after 2020.
But then the season was cut short due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, all spring sports were granted an extra season of eligibility by the NCAA, and Dalton — perhaps somewhat unexpectedly — was one of the ones who decided to stay at UL for another year.
While decisions were being made on who would remain and who would not, the Cajuns signed graduate transfer Gortarez, a product of Hillcrest High in Riverside, California, who began her college career at Texas in 2017 and spent two seasons at Arizona State.
“We already added Gortarez thinking that Dalton wouldn’t be back next year,” Glasco said.
Arizona State shortstop Jade Gortarez (15) throws out an Oregon runner at first base during Pac-12 play at Farrington Stadium in Tempe, Ariz. April 15, 2018. (Photo: Michael Chow/The Republic)
“So we had Jade coming in — a really, really good, veteran shortstop who’s played on the national level with Team USA baseball for five or six summers. Just really a nice athlete.”
Gortarez, a baseball player in high school, was picked to play on USA Baseball’s 2018 Women’s National Team roster.
She also helped lead United States teams to a 6-1 finish at the 2016 World Baseball Softball Confederation Women’s Baseball World Cup in Gijang, South Korea; to a gold medal at the 2015 Pan American Games in Ajax, Canada; and to a silver medal at the 2014 Women’s World Cup of Baseball in Japan.
Then Dalton — the 2019 Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, the league’s 2020 Preseason Player of the Year and the starter on an 18-6 team that finished the abbreviated 2020 season ranked No. 1 in NCAA RPI ratings — decided to play another year of college ball, and Glasco had two shortstops with stellar credentials on his hands.
“So to get her (Gortarez) and Dalton both here is really good,” the Cajuns coach said.
But what will Glasco do with the pair?
If either was wondering, they were not letting on — at least not in the first few weeks after the addition of Gortarez was announced.
“Neither one of them has asked me what they’re gonna do,” Glasco said during a telephone interview back in May.
“I think most kids would call — ‘Hey, Coach, what are you gonna do? Shortstop, you’ve got two of us.’
“Neither one of them has said one word to me,” he added at the time. “They’re both winners, they’re both competitors. They obviously both know who each other (is).”
And they know just how good they are.
“Dalton has earned the right to be known as one of the top shortstops in the country,” Glasco said. “I’ve always said she’s one of the top five shortstops in the country. And she’s a great offensive player.”
Dalton, from Cy-Fair High in Texas, is a three-year starter at short for UL who began her college season playing in 31 games with 29 starts at Oklahoma in 2017.
As a sophomore in 2019, she struck out just seven times in 217 plate appearances — ranking in the top 15 nationally in fewest strikeouts-to-appearances ratio — while hitting .354.
In 2019, she hit a career-high .400 and had only six strikeouts over 196 plate appearances — again in the top 15 in the country.
“And, you know, Jade — she’s got that reputation (too),” Glasco added with reference to Gortarez, who started 40 of the 44 games in which she appeared while with Texas.
“There’s nobody who would disagree she’s one of the top five shortstops in the country. There are some people who believe she’s the best defensive shortstop in the country. And she’s a very good offensive player as well.”
Gortarez — who left the Arizona State program in February and sat out 2020 — hit .347 in her final year with the Pac-12 Sun Devils, ending the season on a 12-game hitting streak.
During the 2019 Tuscaloosa NCAA Regional, she had seven hits and seven RBIs in four games played.
Gortarez also was her Arizona State club’s Defensive Player of the Year two years in a row.
“Those kind of kids know they’re gonna play; they (also) know we’re gonna help our ballclub,” Glasco said. “They know we’re gonna win. And they’re actually, I think, glad to have talent beside them.
“So it’s a credit to both those kids to be sitting here for a month and a half and neither one of them have asked me.
“They just say, ‘Coach we’re gonna be good.’ … Both kids are excited about the future,” Glasco added. “Both kids realize the program’s in a really good spot. So we’re just gonna enjoy this, and then we’ll get on the field in the fall and we’ll compete.”
Which again begs the question: What is he going to do with the pair?
“We’re gonna watch a lot of intrasquad games where Dalton is gonna be shortstop on one team and Gortarez is gonna be shortstop on the other team and we’re gonna compete and hopefully we keep both kids healthy,” Glasco said.
“Hopefully we keep both kids playing at a high level. We’re hoping to get both kids to improve offensively, even from where they’re at. Push each other.”
And one very well may nudge the other to another position.
“We’ve got a third base position that we’ve got to really get improved at,” Glasco said.
“Melissa Mayeux (a native of France who transferred to UL from Miami Dade College) did a really good job for a first-year player over there, but we were well below the level of (2019 senior) Kara Gremillion.
“We didn’t have that defensive presence over there. So one of those kids, they may play short and third,” Glasco added with reference to Dalton and Gortarez. “Who knows? Same way with Melissa (Mayeux). Everyone knows she can develop into an absolute phenomenal hitter, and she’s a very good player.
“I mean, she (Mayeux) can play shortstop for us; basically anywhere on the field, because she (also) catches. The only thing she couldn’t play is pitcher,” Glasco added. “So we’ll figure out a place. … If she keeps working and improving her bat, we’re gonna have to find a place for her.”
But wait, there’s more.
Last fall the Cajuns also signed shortstop Rebeca Laudino, a native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, who has played for Brazil’s national team.
Laudino spent the past two seasons at Florida Southwestern State College, where she hit .527 games over 56 games in 2019 and .532 over 25 in the shortened 2020 season.
Laudino returned home after her sophomore year was trimmed, however, and Glasco was not immediately sure if — because of the coronavirus that’s hit both her own country and the United States particularly hard — she’d make it to UL in time for the fall.
Cajun softball and baseball players are not scheduled to voluntary on-campus workouts until Aug. 3.
All of which leaves the Cajuns coach with many more questions than answers.
“We just want to be better all over the field,” Glasco said, “and maybe Mayeux comes back this year in her second year at third base and really plays it with a high level of confidence.
“We’ll figure it all out. But you can’t ever have too much talent. From the coach’s standpoint, it’s a really good problem to have when you worry about the depth on your roster instead of filling gaps on your roster.”