The Ragin’ Cajuns found out Monday that they would make the second-longest trip among all traveling teams for this weekend’s Super Regional (only Oregon to Texas is longer than the Cajuns’ 1,400-mile jaunt) … and they’d do it in the second-quickest turnaround among the eight such gatherings.
Seemingly only hours after their wrapup 6-2 victory over the Cardinal on Sunday to earn its second Super Regional trip in three years, UL was on a plane to Tempe, Ariz., Tuesday afternoon and preparing to face third-ranked Arizona State beginning Thursday evening.
That Super Regional matchup is one of two that begin on Thursday – three more start Friday and three more begin Saturday, an homage to the ESPN networks that will televise every Super Regional on one of its platforms. The other Thursday starter is Michigan at Alabama, a relatively benign 750-mile trip as compared to UL’s haul.
“We understand that,” said Cajun co-head coach Michael Lotief at a Monday press gathering. “We understand that we have a quick turnaround. But those are distractions, and we’re not focusing on that.”
Lotief says the squad is instead focused on taking two wins Thursday and Friday and getting back to the Women’s College World Series for the first time since 2008, when then-freshman pitcher Ashley Brignac beat Florida before the Cajuns fell to Texas A&M and Alabama.
To do that, they’ll have to win two out of three against the Sun Devils, the first of those coming at 9 p.m. local time Thursday on ESPN2. The second game is at 8 p.m. Friday, with an if-necessary third game immediately after at approximately 10:30 p.m.
And the Cajuns want to do what ASU did last year – battle its way to Oklahoma City for the World Series, and then run the table there to claim the national title.
“The opponent that sits in front of us is very worthy,” Lotief said. “A good team is getting ready to go home.”
Those two “good” teams are remarkably similar.
Both are among the nation’s best-hitting teams. UL ranks third nationally and ASU fifth in team batting average (.345 and .337). They are first and third in run production (UL leads the country with 8.1 runs per game, ASU is third at 7.1), and ASU is third nationally in slugging percentage.
UL’s Christi Orgeron and Nerissa Myers rank first and third nationally in runs batted in (94 and 79 respectively) and the Cajuns have three of the nation’s top-five run producers (Myers leads at 1.43 per game). ASU’s Katelyn Boyd joins UL’s Katie Smith among the nation’s top 10 hitters for average.
Both also boast two solid pitchers. ASU’s Dallas Escobedo (22-5. 2.28) and Hillary Back (20-1, 1.62) will match up with UL’s Brignac (23-3, 2.02) and freshman sensation Jordan Wallace (26-1, 2.10). Both Cajun pitchers had complete-game wins in the regional round and split up throwing in the final game (Brignac went 5 2/3 innings and Wallace came on to get the last four outs), while ASU went with Escobedo for most of its regional win – one that took an extra game after ASU lost to Syracuse in Sunday’s opener and was pushed to an “if necessary” game.
“They (ASU) have power and a lot of good pitchers,” Lotief said. “But we’re not playing them. We’re playing against ourselves.”