DJ Sanders Is The Future Of Ragin’ Cajuns Softball
DJ Sanders is only a sophomore, and Michael Lotief is already prepared to give her the keys to the Ragin' Cajuns Softball program.
As a freshman, Sanders was the most consistent defensive shortstop in the Sun Belt Conference. In one offseason, her bat caught up with her glove. As a sophomore, she's tied for second on the team with 13 home runs (nine more than her total as a freshman) and displaying incredible power and potential at the plate.
Coach Lotief is familiar with talent. He handled a ton of it in his time at the helm of the Ragin' Cajuns Softball program. He thinks Sanders is unique, and she could change the way softball is played.
"She has a physical ability to be the best ever at that position. Not only at our school, I'm talking about in the game," Lotief said in all seriousness. "She could redefine that position. She's the future of this team and this program."
They don't make many shortstops with Sanders' combination of power at the plate and grace with the glove. Lotief knows some of it is in her genes, but the rest is in her work ethic.
Lotief descibed his stunning sophomore as "a tireless worker" and "a rock as a teammate." Sanders said most of the work she had to do was in the mental department.
“Last year, I was worried about doing it right. 'I’m messing up,' this and that, where I actually wasn’t able to simplify the game," Sanders said. "I’ve gotten to the point where, yes, I am trying to accomplish something at the plate, but I also have to keep it simple and just compete.”
Overthinking can hamper even the best hitters. With the game slowed down and her own questions quieted, Sanders was primed to break out in a major way.
In front of the cameras, she's shy (watch her try to survive a press conference in the video below) and humble. Her teammate, Lexie Elkins, is similar in that way. Even for the best players, it's hard to accept praise at times. There are going to be a lot more complimentary articles and quotes thrown Sanders way before she's done playing for Lotief, but he doesn't think the kind words will dull her edge on gameday.
She might not ever get comfortable hearing how good people think she is, but she's not going to let that stop her from improving.
"Don't let DJ's 'awww shucks' mentality fool you. That's a very competitive kid that helped solidify our defense," Lotief warned anybody who might take her quiet demeanor in the wrong way.
If there was any question about Sanders' standing in the softball world, it was answered this offseason. Team USA gave her the chance to play with the best players on the globe, and she belonged. Her defense earned her the invitation, and her time wearing the red, white and blue helped boost her confidence with the bat.
"It was nice to be able to play with a lot of the girls from around the country and just, I don’t know, kind of be at the same level," Sanders said with a nervous smile. She didn't want to sound too over the top, but she was right. She was indeed at their level.
Sanders is part of something special already though. She didn't need Team USA to introduce her to greatness. The Ragin' Cajuns are on pace to compete for another College World Series, and they are going to rely on Sanders to keep shouldering her part of the load.
Her shoulders get stronger every day, which is good. She's going to be carrying this program into the future, so she better get comfortable with the weight on her back.