5 Things We Have Already Learned About 2018 UL Softball
What are some things we have already learned about the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns?
Yes, the 2018 college softball season is only two weeks old, but we can only judge based on we've seen; with the rest just being speculation.
Sure, a lot can still change over the next three months, and likely will, but the 15th-ranked Cajuns, who are 7-2 on the season, are off to a good start, and there are a number of reasons why.
Below, I list 5 early season observations that I believe have helped Louisiana to their early season success.
1)---A Different Style---"How different will this year's team be, in terms of style of play?" was an often asked question prior to the season. Well, we learned quickly that Louisiana is going to be a different type of team this year, as they're going to be much more aggressive on the basepaths. Some of that is philosophy, and some of it is out of necessity. Gerry Glasco is not a big sacrifice-bunt guy, but he sure does like to use the bunt to be aggressive, as we've seen with four bunts already this season that have scored runners from third base. Through 9 games this season, the Cajuns have 23 stolen bases. At this pace, they'd get over 160. Last season, they stole 54 bases the entire season, while accumulating 52 in 2016. UL doesn't have the power of last year's team, so they have to find other ways to score runs, and they've done that with their speed and aggressiveness.
2)---A Gutsy Mentality---One thing I've learned about this team early on is that they will fight you. There is no need to question their intestinal fortitude. In the opening tournament of the season, the Mardi Gras Classic, Louisiana was tested twice by Eastern Illinois, once in a 2-1 win, and another in a 14-10 extra-inning triumph. They found a way to win a close game, and they found a way to win a slugfest. Even more impressive was the fact they relinquished a 4-run lead in the 7th inning of that latter game, making four errors in the contest, and yet still won. They got punched, and yet answered right back. They came away victorious, playing far from their best softball. They showed their fighting mentality in the final game of the series against Florida on Sunday as well. After losing the first two games of the series, by scores of 4-0 and 9-0, they fell behind, 2-0, on Sunday. Instead of folding their tents, the Cajuns came back to tie it, and then after falling behind, 3-2, in the top half of the 11th inning, defeated the second-ranked team in the nation, 4-3, on a dramatic walk-off home run in the bottom half of the frame by freshman Casidy Chaumont. Pitcher Summer Ellyson threw 185 pitches in one of the gutsiest efforts I've seen. This team is still a work in progress, so they're not going to always be perfect, but there's no question that they're always going to fight.
3)---A Leadoff Hitter Has Been Found---One of the big questions entering 2018 was; "Who is going to be the leadoff hitter?" It's not like they didn't have a good option, as Kara Gremillion compiled an on-base-percentage of .471 hitting in that role last season. But Glasco wanted Gremillion hitting more in the middle of the order, where she could drive in more runs. It looks now like outfielder Brittany Rodriguez is going to allow UL to hit Gremillion in more of a run-producing spot. A two-time All-Southland Conference selection at Lamar the past two seasons, Rodriguez has been solid in the lead off spot, with a .444 on-base-percentage, which ranks third on the team, right behind Alissa Dalton (.471) and Gremillion (.452). Rodriguez has been solid in that role, and I expect her to continue to set the tables.
4)---The Pitching Staff Will Rely On Numerous Arms---Another big question entering the 2018 season was; "Who is going to be the ace of the pitching staff?" After two weekends, we still don't know, and that is probably a good thing. Senior right-hander Kylee Jo Trahan was named the Sun Belt Conference Pitcher of the Week after the first week, one in which she went 3-0 with a 0.47 ERA. Sophomore right hander Summer Ellyson, who struck out a school record 20 batters in a 7-inning game against Evansville on opening weekend, was named Sun Belt Conference Pitcher of the Week after the second weekend, one in which she defeated Florida, holding the Gators to three runs over 11 innings. Glasco used freshman right-hander Casey Dixon as his opening game starter, and also started her in the second game of the series against Florida. Freshman Carrie Boswell has proven that she can be counted upon to give quality innings as well. There might not be an "ace", as Glasco is going to pitch who he thinks matches up best against the opposition. There may be a different "ace", depending on who the Cajuns play against. So, while the question of "who is going to be the ace?" may not have been answered yet, the question of "do the Cajuns have enough pitching to be a really good team this year?" sure has.
5)---Casidy Chaumont Is At Home At Second Base---Louisiana suffered a big blow with the injury to Brittany Holland. The question then was; "Who is going to play second base and take up the slack?" Chaumont may be the answer to that question. The opening game centerfielder, Chaumont was transitioned to the outfield, but moved to second, after Holland's injury. Chaumont, who played second base at Sam Houston High School, looked very much at home there last week. With Holland out, and UL starting three slappers in the outfield, they need a power bat in the order, and Chaumont can provide that. Expect freshman Jolie Readeaux to see time at multiple positions, including second, as she moves back into her "super utility" type of role, but after the way she looked last week, both offensively and defensively, expect Chaumont to be the primary option at second base.
And here's a bonus for you, just because I have to mention her: Alissa Dalton is really good.
Offensively, Dalton leads the team in hitting (.455), slugging percentage (.545), and runs batted in (10).
Defensively, Dalton has not made an error over 9 games and 27 chances at shortstop.
If there were any questions about how good Dalton was going to be, they have most definitely been answered.
If Dalton stays healthy, she's be a candidate for conference Player of the Year honors.
It's been a good start for the Cajuns. Now, they have to keep their foot on the gas.