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Ms. Ashley Elizabeth Evans
1905 Wellerman Rd.
West Monroe, La 71291
|Softball: Cajuns' Evans getting her swing back in time
April 29, 2005 -
Welcome back, Ashley Evans.
As recent games indicate, the West Monroe product is getting her stroke back as a key player for Louisiana's Ragin' Cajun softball team.
In last weekend's Sun Belt Conference series sweep of North Texas, Evans homered to provide the difference in a 1-0 victory on Saturday and came back for a three-run shot to get the Cajuns in gear in an 8-0 victory on Sunday.
When the Cajuns visited Nicholls State on Wednesday, Evans struck again with the winning home run in a 2-1 victory in Game One and drove in two more runs in the 9-0 second game win.
When you've battled an ailing back all season, days like that are treasured ones.
"It's tough to work so hard in the fall and the spring, and to be hurt," said Evans, who now has six homers and 19 runs batted in. "You're in pain every day. My teammates are working tirelessly, with me in the dugout.
"My teammates have been very supportive. Last year I had some really good games. When I've struggled this year they've tried to pick me up, to pick up the slack in the lineup."
Evans saw action in 22 games as a pinch hitter in 2002, then was hopeful of a larger role in 2003 when she hurt her hand in the sixth game and missed the rest of a season that finished with the Cajuns playing in the Women's College World Series.
Last year, playing in 62 of 68 games, Evans exploded at the plate with a .340 batting average, six home runs and 31 RBI en route to All-Sun Belt Conference honors while playing first base, all three outfield positions and designated hitter.
She went 8-for-14 with two doubles, two home runs and six RBIs in Florida State's Seminole Classic, then hit .452 in postseason play (counting the Sun Belt Tournament) to help lead UL to the NCAA Regional finals.
Although she missed five games with a rib injury, it was a breakout year for Evans. That has made this year even more frustrating.
"Nothing helped," Evans said. "I've had physical therapy, taken time off. The coaches have had me just hitting in practice, instead of working on defense. Hitting is much harder on my back, but there's a spot for me on offense with the DH role. It's hard to get better now.
"Last year I was hurt, but it was only for two weeks. This put a big glitch in my season. I've never had an injury I couldn't overcome."
Last weekend's 1-0 win over UNT showed Evans could still produce when others were dormant.
"I had just missed twice, when the centerfielder caught the ball at the wall," Evans said, "so I asked coach Mike (Lotief) what was I doing. He told me the adjustments I needed to make, and to visualize doing it.
"It's great to have my swing back. I'd much rather have it at the end of the season than at the beginning."
The three-run blast on Sunday came from a new spot in the lineup.
"I haven't hit in the No. 4 hole since last year," Evans said. "That tells me they have all the confidence in the world in me, so I've got to step up. It's my job.
"It means a lot that they keep putting me in the lineup. They never quit believing in me."
"Ashley won some games for us last year," Lotief said. "When she's had problems, it hasn't been for lack of work or lack of effort. She was hurt. You can't do anything about that."
Evans is typical of the kind of players the Cajuns seek - players who may not be the All-Americans in high school or select play, but are willing to work to improve.
"A lot of us are not superstars," Evans said. "A lot of us who are recruited are average players, but we get better every year. We have good kids, team leaders, a lot of seniors. And we have good chemistry. I've talked to players on other teams, and they say 'Y'all don't have any bickering.'
"We come from little towns in Louisiana (and Texas). We don't get the pick of the crop. But what we are is good."
Opponents are noticing, too.
"A few years ago, a team like Arizona wouldn't have given us any respect," Evans said. "But when they came here, they stepped on the field like it was the World Series. We're not some sorry team. We're here to beat them."
Playing teams like Arizona and in tournaments like the Kia Klassic helps the Cajuns prepare to dominate the Sun Belt and aim for the NCAA beyond.
"We use the Kia to assess where we're at," Evans said. "We always have our faults shown to us, which is good. We work on that, then go to the next big tournament, see what we need to do, and get that fixed. We get to the field and get to work as soon as we get back."
Evans was planning to attend Bossier Community College until she played a weekend tournament in Lafayette with her Rippers teammates and impressed UL coaches.
"They asked me if I'd like to stay and have a visit, and I said, 'yeah'," Evans said. "I met Jill Robertson and Summar Lapeyrouse and saw these are good people. The coaches called back and I told them I definitely want to come.
"I've made so many friends since I came here."
Evans and her teammates head to Bowling Green this weekend for a big Sun Belt series at Western Kentucky, then finish regular-season play at home against Middle Tennessee next weekend in preparation for the Sun Belt Tournament at WKU.
"It's always nice to have a weekend like we did last weekend to get our confidence up for the conference tournament and NCAA Regionals," Evans said. "We always try to get better.
"We're still out here, getting our reps. It's the time to pick it up, not relax."
With Ashley Evans rounding into form, the Cajuns are in better shape to do that.
Originally published April 29, 2005
Cajun sophomore battles injury bug to be top hitter.
April 30, 2004
LAFAYETTE � It was hard for Ashley Evans not to think, �Oh no, not again.�
Just as she was hitting her stride as the Cajuns� No. 4 hitter, the UL Lafayette sophomore was injured in the Kia Klassic in March while making a catch against the U.S. Olympic Team.
�Lisa Fernandez hit a shot to right center field,� Evans said. �She hit it so hard that it knocked me back, and when I came down my knee went into my chest and it fractured cartilage in my rib cage.
�I was nervous, because last year I broke my hand and had to take a medical redshirt. I played in the next game, but then had to sit. It was hard to tell my coaches that I couldn�t play against Arizona in a playoff game at the Kia.
�I was just getting into the swing of things and starting doing everything right. I was lucky it wasn�t worse.�
Time has helped Evans, a former West Monroe star who has played in 45 games and has 37 starts.
�I went home and got treatment,� Evans said. �The doctor told me to take a week off, and if I could deal with the pain I could play.
�The worst thing was having muscle spasms in my back. Each time I hit the ball it hurt. It�s hard to watch the team play without me. I had to get back out there.�
The Cajuns don�t want to do that, not with Evans hitting a team-leading .343 with 6 home runs and 26 runs batted in.
�Coach Michael Lotief works with me every day on my swing,� Evans said. �I�ve been working since my freshman year trying to get it right, and I�m trying something different this year.
�(Freshman) Holly Tankersley and I talk back and forth all the time, and now I know I can do it each time.�
The Cajuns are 45-6 on the season and a perfect 11-0 in Sun Belt Conference play heading into their final home weekend of the regular season against Western Kentucky.
As the only softball champion the Sun Belt has ever known, UL is the league�s gold standard. But a youthful roster and injuries have made it a challenging year.
The year began with senior Jill Robertson tearing an anterior cruciate ligament and needing season-ending surgery, and senior outfielder Tiffany Grayson is still battling a shoulder injury.
More recently, pitching ace Brooke Mitchell and shortstop Tiffany Hebert � both juniors � were sidelined by horrific injuries in action against Florida International.
That�s not what new starters need to see as they try to make their own adjustments to the college game. But the squad is still on target.
�Tiffany is very smart with the game,� Evans said. �And she�s good with hitting, with things the younger players don�t understand. She talks to us and helps us.
�It�s hard when you come here and you�re the best player at your high school and figure to start, and the coaches tell you you may not start this year or the next year, but they have a plan for you.
�The younger players have grown up a lot since last fall and this spring. We don�t let each other get down on ourselves. We tell each other, �It�s OK, we�ll pick you up.� We have a positive attitude about it.�
While she was sidelined last year, Evans was able to pick up pointers from Robertson, All-American third baseman Becky McMurtry and first baseman Summar Lapeyrouse, who is now a graduate assistant with the Cajuns.
�Becky was a clutch hitter,� Evans said. �You could watch her, and in her attitude you could tell she was going to get a hit. She was telling the pitcher, �You�re not going to throw it past me.� She would put the ball in play, and also hit home runs.
�Summar�s attitude was always awesome. And, Jill�s hurt, but she still comes out and checks on us.�
That cohesiveness between teammates is no accident. It�s the way the program is built.
�I�ve never been on a team with such good teammates,� Evans said. �They�re all like sisters. We�re like a family. They would call me when I was hurt to see if I was OK.
�When we get a break and want to relax, we get together and chill out, go see a movie. Softball is in the back of your mind, but we do have time to relax.�
The Cajuns are known across campus as a nationally-ranked softball squad, but they�re also known for their performance in the classroom.
�All our teachers know us,� Evans said. �We wear our softball T-shirts to class, because sometimes we go right from class to practice, and the other students ask us how things are going. The sororities and fraternities support us.
�We�re known as softball players and students, too, and I definitely think we get respect for it.�
Evans took a semester final in business law on Wednesday night, and plans to get successful marks on her 12 hours of classes.
�I�m only taking 12 hours this semester, but I�m getting better grades. I�m worried about statistics, but I should have three B�s and an A.�
That focus translates back to the field, too.
�There�s a lot of talent on the team,� Evans said. �There�s always someone right behind you who wants to play, so you work hard every day. You see others working hard, and it�s a good atmosphere around you. I don�t like to fail for my team.�
The Cajuns reached the Women�s College World Series in 2003 for the first time since 1996, and they want to go back this spring.
�Last year, we weren�t expected to make it to the College World Series,� Evans said. �When we got there, there was all this Cal State Fullerton (UL�s regional host) stuff there, so they weren�t expecting us.
�There�s definitely pressure to go back, but the pressure is outside. We don�t let it in.
�We want to get it done for each other. We have the same mindset. It�s how we got there before.�
�The Lafayette Daily Advertiser
April 30, 2004
|Softball:|| 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006|
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