2014 UL Softball Preview: Infielders
UL head coach Michael Lotief with sophomore infielder Samantha Walsh
With the graduation of All-American shortstop Nerissa Myers, as well as All-Sun Belt Conference first baseman Matte Haack, the infield for Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajuns softball team will look very different in 2014.
Myers, who garnered third-team All-America honors in 2012, after hitting a .391, along with 13 home runs, 79 RBI’s, 21 stolen bases, and a school-record 83 runs scored, missed 18 games with an ankle injury last season, but still managed to hit a .400, which was good enough for second on the team, along with eight homers, 37 RBI’s, and 52 runs scored.
How important was Myers to the Cajuns last year? Well, consider the fact that they were 9-9 in the games that she missed due to injury, and 38-6 in games in which she played, and I think you have your answer.
Myers was one of the most electrifying players to ever put on a Louisiana uniform. She could beat you with power, with speed, or with defense. The bottom line is trying to replace Myers is like trying to lick you elbow, or counting to infinity, or renting a dvd at Blockbuster, or trying to find a good movie that Rob Schneider starred in, or watching the Chicago Cubs win the World Series…it’s almost impossible.
Hacck will prove difficult to replace as well, after belting 22 home runs, and driving in 114 runs in her two years with the Cajuns. She was an underrated athlete, who put up big numbers, and seemed to always come through in the clutch.
With the losses of Myers and Haack, this year’s infield won’t be as experienced, athletic, dynamic, or as good defensively as last year’s group, but shouldn’t be expected to be.
Still, there’s a lot of talent on the infield, with two returning starters, and a couple of players primed to maybe come into their own, along with quality depth.
This year’s infield may not have that one “special” player, but they are all good enough to make up one really good unit.
Shelbi Redfearn, a senior from Stillwater, Oklahoma, who played the outfield last year, will likely see the majority of her time at first base this year.
Redfearn spent the first two years of her collegiate career at Baylor, where she played in 95 games, starting 78 in the outfield.
Last year, after transferring to UL, Redfearn hit an .083, but she had an incredible fall, which has carried over into the spring, and she’s now looking like the player the Cajuns thought they were getting a year ago.
Redfearn may be one of the keys to this year’s team. No, you can’t expect her to slug at the gazillion clip which she seemed to do in the fall, but with her talent, and being in the system for a second year, there’s no reason not to think that she won’t have a big year.
You can’t help but like Redfearn. She transferred, after being a starter on an NCAA Regional team, and had a decrease in playing time when she got to UL. But she didn’t complain, kept working hard, had a fantastic fall, and seems primed to go out with a bang in her senior year.
One of only two seniors on this year’s team, Redfearn will have to be a leader on and off the field, if the Cajuns are going to be successful in 2014.
The other senior, Natalie Fernandez, will likely open the year at second base, although she could see action at both short, where she saw time in the fall, and at third base, where she played the last two years.
Fernandez, out of Live Oak high School in Denham Springs, La. has been one of the more underrated players on Louisiana’s star-studded team over the last three years. After hitting a .365 in 55 games, including 29 starts as a freshman in 2011, she has played in all 111 games since, starting 110.
Fernandez had a great sophomore year, hitting a .436 in 2012, with a .500 on-base percentage, while stealing 20 bases.
Last season Fernandez’s batting average and on-base percentage dropped, to a .345, and a .411, respectively, but those are numbers that most players in the country would love to have.
Fernandez, because she’s a slapper, has been under-appreciated by some, but she’s a .375 lifetime hitter who has played multiple positions, and has created havoc on the base paths, not to mention always being in the line-up
Look for Fernandez’s numbers this year to be similar to 2011, which would help the offense immensely, and put an exclamation point on a stellar, and extremely underrated career.
Samantha Walsh, the starting second baseman last season, will likely see most of her time at shortstop this year, although she can easily make the switch back to second base, or even make the move to third base, if needed.
Walsh, a third-year sophomore from Ingleside, Texas, played 11 games at shortstop last season, with the injury to Myers. She finished her freshman campaign hitting a .244, with six homers, and 22 RBI’s.
With a lot of tools, Walsh has the ability to turn into an offensive force. She has good power up the middle of the diamond, good hand-eye coordination, and a good idea of the strike zone. It would not be a surprise to see her hit double-digit home runs in 2014.
Again, Walsh shouldn’t be expected to be Myers, defensively, but if she makes the routine plays at shortstop, which she did in her short stint there last year, she’ll be not only an asset, but maybe one of the top infielders in the Sun Belt Conference.
Kelsey Vincent, who flashed some serious power potential as a freshman in 2013, may see a lot of time at third base in 2014.
A sophomore from Tomball, Texas, Vincent saw all of her defensive time at first baseman last year, when she hit a .135, but showed some pop, with four home runs in only 52 at-bats.
Vincent has a long swing, and there’s pluses and minuses to that, with a plus being that she can provide you production with one swing of the bat.
Working with arguably the best hitting coach in the country, in Michael Lotief, along with serious raw power, Vincent has the potential to turn into a big time power threat for the next three years.
Sara Corbello, a sophomore from Barbe High School in Lake Charles, La. will likely see most of her time at the designated hitter spot, but she’s being listed as an infielder, due to her ability to play first base.
Corbello had an impressive freshman campaign, hitting a .291, with eight homers and 35 RBI’s, but won’t have the the protection of the likes of Myers, Haack, Sarah Draheim, and Brianna Cherry.
Now entering her second year, with a year of experience, to go along with her unlimited power-potential, Corbello has the ability to headline the middle of an order, and be the protector. That would allow the rest of the line-up to see better pitches, and improve their numbers because of it.
With 20-home run type of power, Corbello is going to be fun to watch over the next three season.
Megan Thomas, a sophomore from New Iberia, hit a .333 in nine at-bats as a freshman a year ago. She provides speed, athleticism, and versatility, and may see an increase in playing if she continues to progress, due to those skills. Regardless, because of her ability to come in as a late-inning defensive replacement, and her speed, which coach Lotief can utilize by using her as a pinch runner, Thomas can prove to be an extremely important member of this year’s team, even if she doesn’t get a lot of starts.
Corin Voinche, who started seven games at shortstop in Myers’ absence last year, provides the Cajuns with some depth, and another option on the infield. Voinche, a sophomore form Teurlings Catholic, hit a .125 in 8 at-bats as a freshman, before an injury cut her season short.
Voinche can really field, and can help the team a numerous ways. Like Thomas, she can start, but even when she doesn’t, she has the ability to maybe come off the bench as a defensive specialist, and win a game or two for you with her glove.
Ciarra Cherry, the sister of former Cajun centerfielder Brianna Cherry is expected to be redshirted this season. Cherry, like her sister, is a great athlete, and could be used in the outfield, if needed.
This year’s group of infielders, while not providing the resume that last year’s did, is a talented group, and one that, if they play up to their capabilities, will help the Cajuns win a lot of games. Will there be a drop off, defensively? Sure. But this group has power, speed, and a winning mentality, so expect big things, especially as the year progresses.
This has been the third of a four segment preview of the 2014 Louisiana Ragin’ Cajun softball team.
Last Thursday, we looked at this year’s pitching staff.
Last Friday, we previewed this year’s crop of catchers.
On Tuesday, in the final installment, we’ll preview the outfielders.
The Cajuns will begin their 2014 regular season schedule on Friday, February 7, when they take on Northern Iowa and Texas in the opening day of play in the 2014 Louisiana Classics at Lamson park.