The 13th-ranked Louisiana Ragin' Cajun softball team opens up their 2014 schedule on Friday, in the opening day of play in the Louisiana Classic at Lamson Park.
Louisiana, who went 47-15 last season, including an NCAA Super Regional appearance, their second-straight, and third in the last four years, will take on the Northern Iowa Panthers on Friday at 2 o'clock, before facing the 10th-ranked Texas Longhorns at 4:30 pm.
On Saturday, the Cajuns will play twice again, meeting North Carolina at 2 o'clock, before a rematch with Texas at 4:30.
UL will wrap-up play in the season-opening tournament on Sunday, as they face Northern Iowa for a second time, at 11:30 am.
Let's take a look at the three team that the Cajuns will be playing:
Northern Iowa Panthers---The Panthers finished 27-26 last season and won the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. They return seven starters from last season, as well as transfers Rikki Alcaraz (LSU) and Chelsea Ross (Oklahoma St.), and are picked to win their conference in 2014.
Northern Iowa hit a .252 as a team last year, with 33 home runs and 47 stolen bases, while compiling an overall team ERA. of 2.95.
The Panthers return senior pitcher Jamie Fisher, who won ten straight games, after beginning the year 1-7. She finished with an overall record of 22-15, including a 1.99 ERA.
Northern Iowa returns three infielders, and all three outfielders, and may not only be the most underrated team that the Cajuns will face this weekend, but also one of the most underrated that they'll face all year.
Texas Longhorns---Texas went 51-10 last season, including a trip to the Women's College World Series.
The Longhorns return All-American Candidates Taylor Thom and Brejae Washington, along with two other starters from a team that hit a .322 with 49 home runs and 126 stolen bases.
Thom had a terrific 2013 season, hitting a .382, along with 15 homers, 66 RBI's, and 21 stolen bases, while Washington hit a .368 with 32 steals.
With the graduation of pitcher Blaire Luna, who went 32-7 with a 1.28 ERA. a season ago, the jury is out on the Longhorns pitching staff, but their line-up and talent make them a legitimate top ten team, and a candidate to head back to Oklahoma City again this year.
North Carolina Tar Heels---The Tar Heels went 40-21, overall, and 13-8 in ACC play in 2013, while appearing in an NCAA Regional for the tenth time in the last 11 years.
North Carolina returns six starters from last year, including sophomore shortstop Kristen Brown, who belted 11 homes runs last year, and catcher Amber Parrish, who hit a .329 in 2013. Both were named to the All-ACC team in 2013.
Also returning is senior pitcher Lori Spingola, who went 30-15 with a 2.50 ERA. last year.
The Tar Heels led the ACC in hitting last year, with a .300 batting average, while finishing fourth in pitching, with a 3.11 ERA.
North Carolina will have a another solid club in 2014, with another NCAA Regional appearance very likely.
You can listen to the action of all five UL game this weekend on Sports Radio ESPN 1420, and espn1420.com
After this weekend, the Cajuns are on the road for the first time on Wednesday, when they travel to Ruston to take on Louisiana Tech, before hosting Valparaiso, Michigan, Memphis, and Central Arkansas in the Ragin' Cajuns Invitational February 14-16.