Why Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns softball player Julie Rawls put off law school to play again
Then COVID-19 turned life upside down.
Rawls’ 2020 senior season had just gotten going when it was canceled. But the NCAA later granted athletes an extra year of eligibility.
“She had to decide if she should put her professional life on hold to play another year of softball,” coach Gerry Glasco said.
With a marketing degree, the next move was up to Rawls.
“It was tough at first,” Rawls said, “because … law school takes three years, and I just kind of wanted to get that started so I could start my life that way.”
She decided torts and civil procedure could wait. Rawls, a 2019 first team All-Sun Belt Conference pick, preferred helping the Cajuns (44-10) chase a national championship.
The quest begins Friday (5:30 p.m., ESPN3) against George Washington (37-9) at the Baton Rouge Regional. LSU (32-19) opens against McNeese (34-24).
Rawls’ decision-making began by talking daily with shortstop Alissa Dalton.
“It was honestly like, ‘OK, if you’re coming back I’m coming back,’ ” Rawls said. “It was back and forth like that, because we both had hard decisions and we both love playing.
“When we both decided, we had this goal. It was like, ‘We’re coming back, and we’re coming back for all of it.’ … We came here to prove a point, and prove who the Ragin’ Cajuns are.”
The Cajuns had a No. 1 RPI ranking when the 2020 season was cut short, denying them a Women’s College World Series shot.
“Me and her coming back,” Dalton said, “has kind of been to … finish the job and go to (Super Regionals) and then make it to the World Series.”
Others offered their advice.
“I talked to some of my adult friends, and my mom – that kind of age group – and they pretty much said, ‘You have the rest of your life to be in the work force. Don’t rush that. You love softball. You love that atmosphere. If you have the chance, then you have to take it,’ ” she said.
“I’m glad I took it, because that’s true. I think I would have regretted it every day if I didn’t.”
So Rawls started 2021 behind the plate, where she spent most of 2019-20.
But an early season thumb injury prompted Glasco to activate freshman Sophie Piskos and move Rawls to her natural outfield position, which she played for Northwestern State in 2017-18.
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Rawls, starting in right, has a team-high nine home runs.
“It’s helped her a bunch,” Piskos said, “because, one, her legs are fresh, and, second, she’s an outstanding outfielder and she’s an amazing hitter.”
Rawls started 47 of 58 games at catcher in 2019. It took a toll.
But Rawls showed her speed during last week’s Sun Belt Tournament, stealing a base and making some flashy defensive plays.
“I was shocked how fast she was from first to second,” Glasco said. “I was like, ‘Wow.’
“We kind of minimize her athleticism when you put her behind the dish. There was … one low line drive where she had to charge in to make that catch. Very few outfielders can make that play.”
Rawls accustomed to making her case
Rawls is back her in element.
“It’s fun running around the grass and diving a few times,” she said.
She misses catching – “I loved being in that atmosphere and touching the ball every play and getting that relationship with the pitcher” – but doesn’t miss the nearly 300 squats required from a full-time each weekend.
“We had weights (Monday),” Rawls said, “and everybody kind of was like, ‘I’m sore today.’ I said, ‘Well, I feel good. I’m ready to go.’”
Rawls also is ready to resume her postgraduate plans once the season concludes.
She studied last fall for the LSAT, then took the pre-law school exam in February. Rawls hopes to get accepted by a program in her home state – perhaps the University of Texas, or St. Mary’s in San Antonio – and start after a gap year spent saving money.
Becoming a lawyer is a pursuit that makes sense to her.
“I’m really competitive,” Rawls said, “and I honestly love to argue, and so my mom always mentioned … ‘You’d be a great one; I’m promise you.’ ”
Softball has helped prepare Rawls to argue her case.
“Being a catcher,” she said, “you can actually have your voice in the game and kind of give (the umpire) your opinion.
“A lot of them … ask for your opinion. So it’s kind of fun to go back and forth on what you think is a strike and what they think is a strike.”