Less than two weeks until Opening Day for Ragin’ Cajuns softball. After a 52-6 finish in the 2019 campaign, high expectations loom for the 2020 season as many preseason polls have them in the top 10.
This team definitely has its eyes on Oklahoma City, but head coach Gerry Glasco and his Cajuns know that preseason rankings don’t earn them a trip to the Women’s College World Series.
“You know the athletes are going to enjoy it, enjoy the polls, enjoy the talk,” Glasco says. “That’s why we play the game. You talk about the game, enjoy the game. The respect that they get through the polls and stuff that’s great, but it doesn’t help us win any games. We just block it out.”
“Obviously, the end goal is Oklahoma City,” senior outfielder Sarah Hudek says. “We haven’t discussed that much, and I think that’s a good thing. We need to take it one day at a time, one pitch at a time. That’s something the coaches really reiterated. I think that’s the best way to go forward, especially going into season.”
“It’s exciting,” senior catcher Julie Rawls says. “You get to see yourself on ESPN. That’s a new thing for me. I didn’t have that in my recent years. It is exciting. I like to repost it and get all my hometown people to see that we’re up there. It is exciting, but it’s a goal. We have to keep ourselves up there for the rest of the season. We can’t let it slide. We have to prove ourselves and keep moving up.”
A big reason for the high expectations: the pitching staff. Louisiana boasts two All-Americans in returning senior Summer Ellyson and transfer senior from Oregon Megan Kleist.
“I believe that having two pitchers who can take the load off of each other, not just physically but mentally, is gonna be a lot less load on either one of those two girls,” Glaso says. “The biggest thing, is if we do get into a situation where we have somebody get sore or hurt or injured, we can really be careful with soreness. We can stop the soreness before we know for sure if it’s a hurt or just sore. There’s a lot of advantages to having two good arms to really depend on versus just one.”
“We compliment each other as far as what we throw and how we think about the game,” Ellyson says. “We both have the same level of intelligence when it comes to what to throw to batters, when to throw to batters, how to approach an at-bat, and things like that. I find we compliment each other well, and we get along. We both have a common goal.”
That common goal has created an undeniable chemistry among this team. The bond between the Cajuns is a key component Glasco is thankful for, but admits he didn’t expect right away.
“I was expecting to have chemistry issues,” Glasco says. “I thought that would be our number one challenge. As of today, that’s not been any factor. They’ve just really seem to feed and thrive off of each other in practice and enjoy each other. They’re a fun, loose team, which is always a good sign. We’ll see. When you put 9 out there on Opening Day, that’s when you’ll know. Two or three days after that, we’ll know.”
Opening Day is this Friday night, as the Cajuns host Ball State here at Lamson Park. First pitch set for shortly after 4 p.m.