The Ragin' Cajuns, ranked No. 11 in the final 2015 polls and coming off a fourth straight NCAA Super Regional appearance, have scheduled 16 playing dates at Lamson Park. Two tournaments are slated for the facility: Louisiana Classics (Feb. 19-21) and Ragin' Cajuns Invitational (Feb. 26-28).
Key matchups in the non-conference portion of the schedule include Oregon's visit to Lamson Park in February for the Louisiana Classics – a return of the Cajuns visit to Eugene, Ore., last April – plus a doubleheader at Baylor on March 29 and a three-game series April 16-17 at Florida.
In Sun Belt Conference play, Louisiana hosts South Alabama (March 12-13), Texas State (April 2-3), Appalachian State (April 23-24) and ULM (May 7-8). Road SBC series include UT Arlington (March 19-20), Troy (March 25-26), Georgia State (April 9-10) and Georgia Southern (April 30-May 1).
The 2016 Sun Belt Conference Championship will be held May 11-14 in Mobile, Ala., at Jaguar Field on the campus of the University of South Alabama. The NCAA Tournament is scheduled to begin May 20 with the regional round at campus sites.
"We are excited about the challenges of the schedule which features great competition that will test us and make us better," Lotief said. "Also, we are in the middle of some awesome home-and-home arrangements that bring the best softball teams in the country to play at Lamson Park in front of the best fans in the country. Our home crowd and environment is so unique and special and we are working hard and looking forward to another great season."
The Ragin' Cajuns, who return eight of the nine hitters from last season's record-setting offense, start the 2016 season – the 14th under Lotief's direction – participating in the Sand Dollar Classic at the Gulf Shores Sportsplex in Gulf Shores, Ala., Feb. 12-14.
The following weekend, the squad makes its home debut in the Louisiana Classics (Feb. 19-21). This year's field features Oregon, Campbell and Central Arkansas.
Louisiana finishes February at Lamson Park, hosting Texas Tech in a doubleheader on Feb. 25 immediately followed by the Ragin' Cajuns Invitational (Feb. 26-28).
The Ragin' Cajuns' first contests in March occur in Hattiesburg, Miss., during a three-game, non-conference series at Southern Miss set for March 5-6. A single game against Longwood the following Wednesday precedes the Sun Belt Conference opener with South Alabama at Lamson Park (March 12-13).
The remainder of March is spent on the road, with Sun Belt series at UT Arlington (March 19-20) and Troy (March 25-26) followed by the midweek twinbill in Waco, Texas, against Baylor on March 29 which is a rematch of the 2015 NCAA Lafayette Regional championship round.
April begins with Sun Belt series against Texas State, April 2-3 at Lamson Park, and Georgia State, April 9-10 in Atlanta.
In the middle of the month Louisiana concludes non-conference play. The Cajuns make their first-ever trip to Gainesville, Fla., for the series at defending national champion Florida (April 16-17) which starts a home-and-home that brings the Gators to Lamson Park in either 2017 or 2018, then travel to Lake Charles to meet McNeese State in a single game on April 20.
The Ragin' Cajuns conclude the regular season with six of their final nine Sun Belt games at Lamson Park. The stretch begins at home April 23-24 vs. Appalachian State, is followed by a visit to Georgia Southern April 30-May 1 and ends with Senior Weekend at Lamson Park against ULM (May 7-8).
Louisiana finished the 2015 campaign with a 42-12 record. The Ragin' Cajuns claimed their second straight Sun Belt Conference regular season championship and 13th in the 15 years of league competition since 2001. The squad appeared in the NCAA Tournament for the 17th straight year and 25th time in the past 26 years dating back to 1990. Louisiana hosted an NCAA Regional at Lamson Park for the third time in the past four years (2012, 2014,2015) and advanced to a NCAA Super Regional for the fourth straight year (2012-15).
Louisiana returns all but one of the nine hitters from its 2015 starting lineup. Six players who launched double digit home runs return in 2016: Aleah Craighton (12), Lexie Elkins (32), Haley Hayden (14), Shellie Landry (20), Kelsey Vincent (18) and Samantha Walsh (14).
Alex Stewart (10-2, 2.09 ERA) and Kylee Jo Trahan (2-1, 3.35 ERA) will be the veteran pitchers for the Ragin' Cajuns in 2016.
For more information on Ragin' Cajuns softball, fans can follow along with the team on Facebook (/RaginCajunSoftball) and Twitter (@RaginCajunSB).