UL Softball – Opening Week Review
Louisiana's Ragin' Cajun softball team opened-up their 2012 regular season schedule in impressive fashion last weekend, sweeping through the 26th Annual Louisiana Classics Tournament at Lamson Park.
Louisiana went 3-0 over the weekend, and won all three game in mercy-rule fashion, defeating Rutgers (15-1), #24 Tulsa (19-4), and Mississippi Valley St. (21-0).
I'm thoroughly convinced that UL gets off to such unbelievable starts because they're just ahead of everybody at the beginning of the year.
Last year, UL jumped out to a 10-0 start, and outscored the opposition, 135-2, in those ten games.
In 2010, the Cajuns won their first six games, outscoring the opposition 58-9.
2009 was a bit of an aberration, as Ole Miss came in and took two games in a season-opening three-game series, but Louisiana promptly went on a 12-game win streak.
Going back further, UL won nine-straight games to start 2008, seven-straight, and 14-of-15 to start 2007, 22-straight to begin 2006, 11-straight, and 15-of-16 to open up the 2005 season, and 20-of-21 to start the 2004 season.
Now, the Cajuns have been awfully good late in the year too, as evidenced by their ten Sun Belt Conference Tournament Championships, their two College World Series appearances since 2003, and their 2010 Super Regional berth.
Just last year, UL eliminated nationally ranked Texas on their home field in an NCAA Regional.
I have just always maintained that Louisiana, because of their work ethic, as much as their ability, is just more prepared and ready to go than most teams that they play the first 2-3 weeks of the season.
I've heard the argument that the reason why that's the case is because of a perceived soft schedule, and I have to tell you that I completely disagree.
They've played solid programs such as Arkansas, Iowa St., Connecticut, San Diego St., Kentucky, Southern Miss, North Carolina, and Georgia during some of the years that I mentioned, and those are all quality teams that usually have high rpi's.
Can you pick out a few teams that aren't strong, at all? Sure, but they've also played some pretty good teams, and my point is that they not only won most of those games, but crushed most of those teams in doing so.
A perfect example of what I'm talking about is UL's 19-4 win over Tulsa on Saturday.
Tulsa was co-champions of Conference-USA in 2011, and are the favorites to win the league this year. They came in ranked #24 to start the year, and featured one of the top freshmen pitchers in the country from a year ago, in Aimee Creger.
Creger was not only the C-USA pitcher of the year a season ago, but she was also a 3rd-team NFCA All-American selection, finishing second in the country with only 3.30 hits allowed per game.
Creger is one of the top pitchers in the nation, and the Cajuns just lit her up, scoring eight runs, the most that she's allowed in her career, in only five innings.
Still gonna try to convince me that they haven't beaten "anybody" to start the year?
Now, onto the matter of how UL looked over the weekend.
Obviously, there's going to be a whole lot more good than bad. It's hard to find many negatives when you out-score your opponents 55-5 in three games.
I liked what I saw of freshman pitcher Jordan Wallace.
Wallace started two games, and allowed only two hits over six innings of work. She did walk five hitters, but that's more than likely just from a young pitcher suffering from nerves in her college debut.
Senior Ashley Brignac, the 2011 Sun Belt Conference Pitcher of the Year, allowed only one hit, and no walks, while striking out four in 3.2 innings of work.
Brignac looks like she's added a couple of other pitchers to her already impressive arsenal, which could make her even better.
Shelbee Rodgers, Allie Chenault, Maggie Ham, and Prophet Gaspard all were sound, and it looks like all can be counted on to supply depth.
It's hard to imagine that there are too many other staffs in the country that has the quality depth that Louisiana has in the circle.
Offensively, UL led the country in runs scored per game a season ago, and I think they could be even better this year.
Outfielder Christi Orgeron was named the tournament MVP, hitting an .818, with two homers, nine runs scored, and 12 rbi's.
It will be hard for Orgeron to reach 20 homers again this year however, just because she might not see 20 good pitches to hit.
I swore that second baseman Paige Cormier wouldn't surprise me again after her breakout 2011 season, but she did. Cormier showed a lot of power, blasting four home runs, while hitting a .636, and driving in nine runs. If Cormier has indeed added power to her game, this offense could be downright scary.
Outfielder Brianna Cherry had a great fall, and many are expecting her to have her breakout year this season. She didn't disappoint on opening weekend, hitting a going 7-for-11, with nine rbi's. What was really impressive about Cherry was that she hit the ball hard up-the-middle, so that tells me she was right on everything. If Cherry's tools catches up with her talent, watch out!
Katie Smith did her job in the lead-off spot, getting on base 50% of the time, and Natalie Fernandez stayed on base, reaching 60% of the time.
Nerissa Myers, who has abandoned the slap game, belted a grand slam home run, and drove in seven runs on Sunday against Mississippi Valley St.
Louisiana was very impressive over the weekend, and they could get even better. That may have to happen, because other teams will.
Softball is a long season, and this team will have it's share of peaks and valleys, although I believe they'll have a lot more hills, but they've got the chance to be really good.
Enjoy the year, because they're going to be really fun to watch.
The Cajuns continue play this weekend, as they host the Mardi Gras Invitational.