Feb. 14, 2014
The No. 6-ranked University of Michigan softball team will play a five-game schedule this weekend (Feb. 14-16) at the Ragin' Cajun Invitational in Lafayette, La. The trip marks the first Maize and Blue visit to Cajun Country, home of the University of Louisiana Lafayette. The Wolverines and Ragin' Cajuns will play twice during the weekend, continuing a competitive series (7-7 all time), and one that became especially interesting in 2013. Michigan knocked ULL out of the NCAA Tournament following an exciting three-game Super Regional series that was held in Ann Arbor. MGoBlue.com sat down with Michigan head coach Carol Hutchins to get her take on traveling to Lafayette for the first time and on her relationship with ULL head coach Michael Lotief.
On visiting Lafayette for the first time ... "Over the years we do have a schedule that we have been really happy with but we do like to mix it up. That way the kids in the program get to experience new places. We've been to Baton Rouge before. Personally, I've always wanted to go down to Lafayette in Louisiana. I'm excited to go."
On the passionate and softball savvy ULL fans ... "That is one of the pluses of playing there, it is a hostile environment if you're a visiting team. We are certainly really familiar with confines of Alumni Field where any hostile fans are not hostile to us. It's really good for us to go into an atmosphere like that. And of course, we're going to face some really good softball teams. Especially to play the Cajuns on their turf, it will be good for our kids."
On the importance of being tested on the road ... "The Big Ten Tournament is on the road, we play a lot of teams on the road, and you could end up in Regionals or Super Regionals on the road. You've got to learn to play when you're out of your comfort zone. You've got to learn to be comfortable in the uncomfortable -- and that's one of the major goals of the whole thing."
On the excitement of the 2013 Super Regional ... "I'm only now able to step back and enjoy the fun side of that. It was such a great atmosphere here at Alumni Field. We're not replaying the Super Regional, but clearly there will be a few of the same players playing. But it is 2014, it's a whole new year and at this point we're all trying to get better. I do expect there to be a lot of fans there that would like to pay us back, so that will be fun."
On Ragin' Cajuns head coach Michael Lotief ... "I've gotten to know Michael over many years and he is such a brilliant guy. He is not afraid to be different, his hitting style is unique to him and his program (some ULL players bat with a split grip), but they are so effective with it. He likes players who to smack it over the fence, and they are pretty good at that as I recall (ULL hit five home runs in the three-game Super Regional series). What I like about him is that he is truly a compassionate guy and he is all about the game of softball. He loves the game and he loves teaching the game. He'll sit with you at a ballpark and while we're watching, he'll talk as much softball as you want. He's not afraid to share his ideas -- he's got a good head on his shoulders that way, he's a good man."
On picking Michael Lotief's brain over the years ... "Yes, I have had that opportunity to lament our hitters and he's giving me some great advice. I remember him telling me, 'Look, these major league players go into the minors for six or seven years, why do you think your kids will learn hitting in one, two, three or four years?' He's a real patient guy and he gets it. As we all know, the swing is an evolution and these kids evolve from freshman to senior year -- he's got really good perspective on that."
On his reaction to Michigan weather ... "He thought 60 degrees here was pretty cold. When they asked him what he was going to wear at the Super Regional coaches meeting -- we were supposed to indicate what colors our teams were going to wear -- he said, 'I'm going to wear a jacket.' He had snow boots and a snow pants on when he came to home plate for our conference before game one. I'm hoping it's a little warmer than that for him when we go down there."
On making time to sample some Cajun cuisine ... "We are definitely hoping that on Saturday night we can go out and check out some Cajun food. We'll see how that goes. That meal won't make it on My Fitness Pal. It's always fun to go somewhere new. They kids see a different culture and we'll get to show the players the town a little bit. And it is always fun to be around Michael Lotief."
Contact: Michael Kasiborski (firstname.lastname@example.org)