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2011 Cajun Baseball Preview–part one

photo courtesy ragincajuns.com

Ten days from now, Louisiana’s Ragin’  Cajun baseball team will take the field for the opener in the 2011 baseball season.  Their opponent will be Southeast Missouri State of the Ohio Valley Conference.  SEMO will be a solid first test for the Cajuns.  The squad from Cape Girardeau went toe to toe with several schools from the SEC last year and performed well before stumbling in conference play later in the season.

And, while there are four full intersquad games to go before the Cajuns suit up for real, things are starting to become a little clearer for Robichaux and his staff. 

CATCHER–Both Freshman Michael Strentz and JUCO transfer Chris Sinclair will see action behind the plate.  Strentz, a former Comeaux High standout, is the better athlete and hitter.  He’ll be the primary guy as long as he shows he can hit college pitching.  But since Strentz is a freshman, don’t expect him to catch 56 games.  Sinclair spent a year at ULM under current Cajuns assistant Mike Trahan before heading to junior college.  Sinclair hits from the left side, which will give Robichaux some options.  Sinclair has the better arm of the two, so don’t be surprised to see him in the game in the late innings if the Cajuns have the lead.  Sinclair should get plenty of midweek starts as well.

FIRST BASE–The Cajuns have options here, but it will be almost impossible to replace the defense of departed senior Justin Robichaux.  At the beginning of the season, look for sophomore Tyler Frederick to move from third base and get the starting nod.  “T-Fred” hit well as a freshman *.294, 4, 26) for the Cajuns and should be even better with a year under his belt.  But his biggest job will be to save as many errors for the defense as possible.  Freshman Chase Compton has a sweet swing from the left side and first base is his natural position.  Compton was used exclusively as a DH in the fall while rehabbing from an arm injury but is good to go now.  He’ll also be a DH candidate.  Trask Switzenberg, who struggled offensively last year, could be used as a late inning defensive replacement.

SECOND BASE–At the beginning of last season, Robichaux experimented with Jordan Porrier at third base, but he struggled there.  He moved back to his natural position and was solid.  Porrier’s big contribution to this team, however is in the #3 hole, after leading the club in hitting (.329), slugging (.629) and extra base hits (36).  He finished second on the team in homers (12) and RBI (56). Porrier hit left handers well the second half of the season.  He kicked a few defensively last year, but was also part of a Cajuns defense that turned 60 double plays.  He also has deceptive speed, stealing eight of eleven bases last year.

SHORTSTOP–Greg Fontenot has turned out to be the perfect nine-hole hitter.  Fontenot blossomed as a hitter last year and finished third on the club in hitting (.321) and knocked in 34 runs from the bottom of the order.  Fontenot also got much better defensively, committing only nine errors all season, after 19 the season before.  Fontenot showed great durablilty last year, starting all 60 games for the Cajuns.  Because of the Cajuns’ depth, he might actually get an occasional night off this season.

Robichaux has said he wants to “season” some freshman this year.  The Cajuns have 13 seniors and have signed what appears to be an outstanding class for 2012.  But the Cajuns will be young next year and the Cajuns skipper wants to get some freshman some playing time this year to get them ready for the future.  That includes infielder Ryan Leonards, who can play shortstop, second or third base.  Leonards was impressive swinging the bat in the fall, and has tremendous speed.  He’ll be used as a pinch hitter, pinch runner and will spell at shortstop to give Fontenot an occasional rest.

THIRD BASE–Robichaux pretty much knew that junior college transfer Jordan Bourque was going to play somewhere.  The question was where?  The answer is third base.  Bourque is a good athlete who can play third, second or short.  He also brings a solid bat to the Cajuns lineup.  Leonards can back him up here, or Frederick can move over from first base.  Switzenberg is also a possibility if need be.  Expect Bourque to hit in the middle of the lineup.  He’s a good gap to gap hitter with some pop in his bat.  He’s solid defensively as well.

Infielders Tyler Girouard and Thomas Simoneaux will redshirt this year.

The infield for the Cajuns should be solid on defense.  They’ve got some athleticism and, with Strentz, Porrier and Bourque, have some power as well.  But Robichaux loves the depth and the options he has.  Watching Leonards and Compton mature, along with Strentz, will be one of  the things for fans to watch this year.

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