Lady Cajuns: déjà vu all over again

by Leslie Turk

You think the NCAA Division I softball committee may learn after this one?

You think the NCAA Division I softball committee may learn after this one?

With all due respect, considering that UL interim athletic director Scott Farmer is the chairman of the group that selects and assigns teams in the NCAA softball tournament, the committee fell victim to insanity once again this year when it came to the Ragin' Cajuns.

The quote commonly attributed to Albert Einstein: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results."

Two years straight, the softball committee has sent the Cajuns into an NCAA regional against a nationally-ranked host team. Two years straight, the Cajuns have helped end that ranked team's season before those hosts even made it to Championship Sunday.

Last year it was LSU that didn't make it out of the second day of the double-elimination regionals in Baton Rouge, thanks in part to a loss to the UL squad. On Saturday, the Cajuns made it two in two years by knocking off national No. 3-seed Texas 5-3 in Austin, Texas.

Regardless of what happens on Sunday, when the Cajuns have to beat Houston's Cougars twice to keep their season alive and advance to the Super Regional (the first game is at 1 p.m., with the second, if necessary, starting right after), UL has once again made a national splash in softball by ending the season of the host and heavily-favored Longhorns.

They did it thanks to the continued power hitting of Christi Orgeron, Gabrielle Bridges -the only senior on the Cajun roster -and others in the middle of the lineup. They did it thanks to the continued success of the slap-happy group that hits 8-9-1 in the lineup -Natalie Fernandez, Katie Smith and Nerissa Myers.

But mostly, they did it on Ashley Brignac's strong right arm. The former national prep player of the year, who missed most of the last two seasons with a shoulder injury that eventually required surgery, had to hurl almost every pitch of the regional after an injury to number two starter Christina Hamilton in Saturday's first game. But Brignac still took a shutout into the final inning against the third-ranked Longhorns, an effort similar to her dominant performance in the Women's College World Series three years ago when she beat No. 1-ranked Florida.

Make no mistake; the odds are still long for the Cajuns to advance to the Super Regionals. They'll have to beat Houston - a team that beat them 7-2 on Friday to snap an 11-game winning streak - and do it twice in a row on Sunday to keep their season alive.

Even if that doesn't happen, though, the UL softball team and program (note the difference) have made repeated statements over the past two weeks. The Cajun team humbled everyone in its path in the Sun Belt Tournament which it hosted at Lamson Park, run-ruling the league's second-best team in Florida Atlantic 8-0 in the title game.

The Cajun program, meanwhile, drew over 10,000 fans to the newly-renovated Lamson facility for that tournament, smashing the tournament attendance record by well, nobody really knows, because the numbers have never been worth counting anywhere else. But it is noteworthy that only one other Sun Belt BASEBALL tournament has ever drawn 10,000 fans, that one coming here in Lafayette a few years ago.

Naturally, the NCAA committee ignored all of that, ignored the now-51-win total this season and shipped the Cajuns off to a pwer-packed regional hosted by a high national seed. And all it takes is a cursory look at the results, or a little watching of the regional action on the ESPN networks, to realize that there were some really weak regionals staged by the committee, and several teams not nearly as good as the Cajuns, Longhorns or Cougars will be advancing to the Super Regional round.

Fortunately for the Cajun players, they've been under-seeded by the NCAA softball committee for so many years that it doesn't bother them anymore.

But you'd think the group of supposedly educated and sports-savvy collegiate administrators that make up that group would learn from its mistakes. Don't blame Farmer; he has to leave the room when it comes time to discuss the Cajuns' fate in the NCAA bracket seedings and positioning. He's probably holding back an "I told you so" to his committee mates right about now.

But the committee wouldn't understand, anyway. In Einstein's eyes, they're insane, and who are we to argue with Albert Einstein?