Putting UL Softball’s Opening Weekend In Perspective
With high expectations comes a stricter grading scale.
Such is the case with the Louisiana Ragin' Cajun softball team.
Make no mistake; Louisiana didn't play up to their expectations on opening weekend,
Their goal was, and is, to qualify for the Women's College World Series, and they know that they have to be better than they were last weekend to do that.
And while it's okay, and accurate to say that they have to be better, especially offensively, it's also accurate to say that you don't qualify for the WCWS in February, and it's also accurate to say that the sky isn't falling, regardless of high expectations.
UL went 3-1 last weekend, won two of those games in mercy-rule fashion, outscored the opposition 23-5, allowed only three earned runs and lost their lone game to a team that is picked to finish first in their conference.
Most teams in the country would love to have that start, but again; this team is going to be held to a higher standard, by themselves as much as anybody else.
This program has an incredible history, which is why there are always high expectations in the first place.
It is a program that has made 21-consecutive NCAA Regional appearances, including 29 in the last 30 years.
The only year since 1990 in which Louisiana failed to appear in a regional was 1998.
Louisiana is one of only 9 programs to appear in an NCAA Regional every year since 2000, joining Alabama, Arizona, Florida St., Michigan, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, UCLA, and Washington.
Based upon their incredible past success, and their high aspirations, this team is going to be judged on a different level than other schools, and by their own admission, they have to be better than they were last weekend.
But please; let's also keep in mind that it was only four games.
Do you know that last year the Cajuns qualified for the Women's College World Series?
That answer is 2014.
Do you remember how UL began that season?
They opened the year with a 10-8 win over Northern Iowa, a game in which they trailed, 7-5, going into the 7th inning.
After a 10-7 loss to Texas, they beat North Carolina, 6-5, in ten innings, after trailing, 5-4, through six innings.
Following another loss to Texas, this one by the score of 7-3, Louisiana played Purdue to a 7-7 tie, after trailing, 5-3, through six innings.
So, that team opened the year with a 2-2-1 record on opening weekend and were fortunate to do that well, trailing all five games through six innings.
Going further, the next weekend that squad suffered a 15-1 loss to Michigan.
8 games into 2014, that UL team was 4-3-1, and had an overall team ERA. of over 8.00.
Following an 8-5 loss to South Florida the following weekend the Cajuns were 8-5-1, and a lot of people counted them out.
Big mistake. All Louisiana did was go 33-2 the rest of the way, won an NCAA Regional and Super Regional, both at home, avenged the two early season losses to Texas with two wins over the Longhorns in the postseason, and qualified for the 2014 WCWS.
There are other seasons that can be used as examples, such as 2017, when the Cajuns began the season 4-3, before losing only three more regular-season games, but I bring up 2014 because that was the last year Louisiana went to Oklahoma City.
And very few teams are going to play at an incredibly high level all season.
Alabama, who was ranked #1 in a number of polls to begin this season, struggled mightily last weekend.
The Crimson Tide went 1-3 last weekend, blew a 7-1 lead in one game, got mercy-ruled in another, and allowed 27 runs over four games.
I get it; if you're a UL fan you're not worried about Alabama or the 2014 Cajun team; I'm just pointing out that it's a long season, and we have to judge everything on the large sample size.
The goal is to make it to the WCWS, and I believe this team is more than talented enough to get there.
Their pitching is as good as it gets, they have great team make-up, and I know, based on last year, that they'll hit.
I say at the end of the year that this team is a legit top ten team, making them a legitimate WCWS contender.
Maybe I'm right, and maybe I'm wrong, but I do know we'll need more than one weekend to determine if I am, no matter how strict the grading scale.