UL softball team hits the road to toughen up for later
Ragin’ Cajuns coach Gerry Glasco wants to fortify his UL softball team for the postseason.
As if playing a pair against now-No. 6 LSU last weekend wasn’t enough, it’s about to get real.
The No. 10 Cajuns head next to Birmingham, Alabama, for the UAB Blazer Classic, where they’ll play No. 8 Oklahoma State on Friday, Oklahoma State again and Ole Miss on Saturday and Ole Miss again and host Alabama-Birmingham on Sunday.
The five games are part of a stretch with 11 straight and 14 of 15 away from home for the 7-2 Cajuns, who beat LSU 2-1 last Saturday at Lamson Park before falling 4-3 to the Tigers on Sunday in Baton Rouge.
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After this weekend, UL plays a doubleheader Tuesday at No. 3 Texas followed by a three-game weekend series opening Feb. 28 at No. 7 Florida.
The grind is all because Glasco thinks he has a Women’s College World Series-caliber club and wants to position it for a lengthy postseason run.
If the Cajuns can knock off enough nationally ranked teams early, then take care of business the rest of the way, they’ll be in line to host not only an NCAA Regional but maybe also a Super Regional, if they indeed get that far.
“This particular team, with the talent we have and the goals we have,” Glasco said, “it was a no-brainer to just go out and try to add anybody that wanted to play that had room to put us on their schedule.
“Even tougher,” he added, “we’re going on the road.”
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WHERE MEMORIES ARE MADE
If Glasco had his way, the Cajuns would play their toughest opponents late in the regular season.
But the reality of Sun Belt Conference play doesn’t allow that, prompting him to improvise.
So UL has played LSU, and will play Oklahoma State at a neutral site, and will travel to Texas and Florida, and also will play an Ole Miss team that’s opened 1-8 but that eliminated the Cajuns from the Oxford Super Regional last year.
“I’m hoping it will help a lot,” Glasco said of the stretch that awaits.
“I wish we could have gotten more games the last month of the season, but we can’t. So the best we can do is really toughen up our (pre-conference) schedule.”
Cajun players love playing so many ranked teams so early in the year.
“It definitely helps,” first baseman Sarah Hudek said.
“I’m excited about it because we’re gonna be able to play some really good competition, and we’re gonna be able to see the level of play that we know we’re capable of, and (be) able to show that we’re capable of playing against any Power 5 and, honestly, beating most of them.
“So I think a lot of us are really excited about it,” added Hudek, who began her college career at Texas A&M. “It’s going to be a lot of traveling … but that’s where a lot of memories are made.”
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Catcher Julie Rawls is a senior who played at Southland Conference-member Northwestern State before coming to UL.
“I really like the schedule,” she said.
“Being from a smaller school, and transferring here, I’m real excited to play those big schools and get to show them who we are, and showing them the talent that we have … because we know we’re one of the top teams.
“We have some of the best talent I’ve ever seen,” Rawls added. “So I’m real excited to get to go out there and play the big names … and just getting to see that kind of pitching and letting us get prepared for the postseason.”
TIME FOR FUN
The intense prep for postseason play, however, comes with potential peril.
Glasco acknowledges as much.
“The biggest thing I worried about (with) that schedule is just the amount of travel,” he said. “It’s gonna be, really, a strain on our student-athletes, physically, in the weight room.”
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Without as much access as usual to their home training facility, the Cajuns coach said he wonders about “how we come out of that, and if we can avoid injuries right after that.”
Then there’s the reality that the Cajuns will be away from the classroom for quite a while this month and early in the next.
“We’re in the fourth, fifth week of semester,” Glasco said, “so I know the kids have a lot of testing going on right now.
“I hate that, that we have to do that right now this time of year, because I want my kids to be really good early in the semester (with) grades so they can relax more toward the end of finals.
“So I’m afraid we’re gonna be digging a little bit of a hole academically,” he added. “So I worry about those kind of things. On the softball side, I’m not worried. It’s just win-win.”
After returning home to host Campbell on March 4, UL heads back onto the road to open a three-game Sun Belt series March 6 at Coastal Carolina.
“The more we play these big teams and a tough schedule,” Glasco said, “it’s just gonna give us an opportunity … for the last 30 to 45 days of the season (to) work on things we’ve learned, work on cleaning things up where we’re vulnerable.”
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So everything considered, Glasco believes the benefits outweigh all else.
“There’s no doubt the experience we get of going on the road and playing those really tough Power 5 teams – it should come back to help us in the Regional and the Super Regional,” he said.
And if the Cajuns can host one, or even both, it should help that much more.
“Obviously having the upper hand in anything, especially in postseason,” Hudek said, “you want that.”
So she doesn’t mind whatsoever all the packing and unpacking that’s started already.
“This is probably gonna be the funnest part of the season until postseason,” Hudek said.
And the tougher it is the better.
“I know that playing those games are a lot better than winning 30-0,” Hudek said.
“Those (blowouts) are nice to win and stuff, but those 2-1 wins in the bottom of the seventh – those are the games that are ones you remember.
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RAGIN’ CAJUNS SOFTBALL
No. 10 UL (7-2) at the UAB Blazer Classic
WHEN: 1:30 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday vs. No. 8 Oklahoma State, 12:30 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. Sunday vs. Ole Miss, 1 p.m. Sunday vs. Alabama-Birmingham.
WHERE: Birmingham, Alabama
RADIO: KPEL 1420 AM