After a turbulent offseason, during which it replaced former head coach Michael Lotief with Gerry Glasco, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette softball team kicked off their season with the 2018 Mardi Gras Classic, spanning from Thursday, Feb. 8 to Sunday, Feb. 11.
UL Lafayette hosted and won Thursday night’s game against the Samford University Bulldogs, and will host every game in the tournament, welcoming the Eastern Illinois University Panthers, University of Evansville Purple Aces, University of Iowa Hawkeyes and University of Illinois at Chicago Flames into Lamson Park for additional contests.
Against the Bulldogs, they scored seven unanswered runs in route to a 7-1 victory. The stretch of 7 straight runs was spearheaded by Casidy Chaumont’s first collegiate home run. Beth Ashley also registered two hits to add to a team total of eight. Freshman Casey Dixon was the starting pitcher for the contest and struck out six batters. It was Glasco’s first victory as a Division 1 head coach.
The Ragin’ Cajuns will be anchored this season by returning starter Lexie Comeaux at catcher, a preseason All-Sun Belt choice. Additional infield preseason All-Sun Belt selections include veteran Kara Gremillion and the sophomore Alissa Dalton, at third base and shortstop respectively. In the outfield, preseason All-Sun Belt senior Kelli Martinez will roam left field.
Key losses for the 2018 squad include former pitching ace Alyssa Denham, who transferred to Arizona, and All-American shortstop DJ Sanders, who joined the Oregon Ducks. Both players cited Lotief’s firing as the reason for their exit.
Despite the losses, Glasco, a former top Southeastern Conference assistant, will field a nationally acclaimed squad. They are ranked at No. 22 in the USA Today/NFCA Top 25, and have been ranked in the poll for 15 consecutive seasons. Additionally, they are ranked No. 24 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll. The team has been ranked in every preseason version of the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll since its 2006 debut.
The Ragin Cajuns will take on Eastern Illinois at 4:30 p.m. and Evansville at 7 p.m. in back-to-back games on Friday. They play Eastern Illinois a second time on Saturday at 2 p.m. Eastern Illinois were 28-21 overall last season, and 10-5 in the Ohio Valley Conference. Additionally, the Panthers return 2017 OVC Newcomer of the Year catcher Haley Mitchell. Evansville were 20-33 overall last year, and 11-15 in the MIssouri Valley Conference. They return MVC Newcomer of the Year Brittany Hay.
The Ragin’ Cajuns second game on Saturday will be against Iowa University at 4:30 p.m. Iowa finished last season with a 19-32 record, 9-14 in the Big Ten. They will conclude the tournament against the University of Illinois at Chicago at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, who broke their program record for conference wins at 20-4, and went to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011 last season. The Flames return first-team all-conference players Lexi Watts and Karissa Frazier.
Glasco begins his campaign as UL Lafayette head coach after Lotief, who’d been with the program since 2001, was fired following allegations of verbal and physical abuse to student-athletes and co-workers.
The team won seven NCAA Regional championships, went to five straight NCAA Super Regionals between 2012 and 2016, made three appearances in the Women’s College World Series (2003, 2008, 2014) and won 12 Sun Belt Conference tournament titles under Lotief.
Freshman Casey Dixon prepares to throw the first pitch of the Ragin’ Cajuns 2018 campaign.