A Look at Cajuns’ Baseball – The Pitchers
Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajuns begin their season this Friday night with a four game series against Eastern Illinois (hear all the games this weekend on 96.5 KPEL or kpel965.com.) Yesterday we went over the position players, which had mostly familiar names.
But there will be some faces you see this weekend that are going to be new to you. Here’s a preview of the pitchers who could be difference makers for the Cajuns.
The son of head coach Tony Robichaux took over as the Friday night starter a few weeks into the season and, by the time 2013 was over, became one of the best pitchers in the league. Pitches with an attitude that belies his quiet demeanor off the field. Robichaux throws 89-91 consistently and has touched as high as 94. His fastball has plenty of sink and when he’s got the good stuff, the infield stays busy. But Robichaux developed a slider in the off season that could add the strikeout pitch to his arsenal. If that turns out to be the case, the vote he got for pre-season pitcher of the year could very well come to fruition.
Tony Robichaux defines control as getting the ball over the plate. He defines command as getting the ball where you want it to be. Baranik has command of three pitches. Has enough power to strikeout hitters, but has the mental approach to find the pitch that gets a hitter out. Robichaux loves Baraniks’s approach to the game and said playing for programs like LSU and Miami-Dade has prepared Baranik to be a potentially dominating pitcher in the Sun Belt. Baranik would be a Friday night starter for more than half of the league teams.
Spent one year at Arkansas before transferring to Northeast Texas CC. Like Baranik, having spent tme at an SEC school has matured him and given him a leg up on experience. Similar to Baranik in that he has command of three pitches. Velocity is consistently near 90 and can touch higher. Has continually shown improvement as he becomes more familiar with Robichaux’s pitching system. Like Baranik and Austin Robichaux, Milhorn is going to compete on every pitch.
Crafty lefty who spent the entire season in the Cajuns’ starting rotation a year ago. Led the team in starts with 17. Threw 29 pitches in a start against Sam Houston State in an NCAA regional and then started the next game later that evening against LSU, throwing 104 pitches and allowing just one earned run. Location is important for Boutte, who isn’t going to overpower his opponent. Boutte will give up hits, but has shown an ability to pitch well with men on base. He starts the season as the fourth starter, which will make him the mid week starter. But if one of the right handers should falter, Boutte’s experience can get him back in the weekend rotation.
Tony Robichaux says no player has transformed his body better than Plitt, who went through a rigorous conditioning program in the off-season. Has made great physical and mental progress since last season. Showed he can pitch against good teams and earned three starts during the season. Pitched 7.0 innings in relief in a win over Sam Houston State in the NCAA regionals, allowing just four hits. Plitt will be used as a midweek starter, especially in a five game week. But don’t be surprised to see him as a late inning reliever on Friday night as well.
Wilson split time between the bullpen and as a starter, with 12 starts in 22 appearances. This year, the plan is to use him exclusively as a late inning reliever. The entire team loves Wilson’s desire to compete. He has an attitude on the mound that many pitchers do not. He has a good fastball and a changeup that can get both lefties and righties out. With experience as a starter, Wilson can also come in early if a starter falters and eat up innings. But the coaching staff would like to use him in short situations and get him into the game twice on the weekend.
Another competitor who comes in the game ready to fight you. Set the UL single season saves record in 2013. Quickest worker on the squad, which sets the tempo to his advantage. Slider is his out pitch, but can throw the two seam fastball with effectiveness. Hicks has a degenerative back condition has hasn’t pitched in the fall to save wear and tear. Was less effective toward the latter part of the season, probably because his body just wore down. Robe hopes to use him in a setup role and get six outs from him. Hicks will tell you every day that he wants the ball, but in reality, less will probably mean more in 2014.
Drafted in the 33rd round by Pittsburgh in the 2013 amateur draft. Flame throwing right hander who might throw harder than any pitcher in Cajuns’ history. Can consistently touch 95 MPH and has been clocked as high as 98 in high school. Robichaux says Bazar was “born with a plus fastball.” Robichaux worked with him in the fall to develop a better slider. Unlike other pitchers who need to learn a curve and changeup, Bazar just needs to perfect his slider. That and his fastball could be a devastating combination. Needs to get some better command, but as the season progresses, should be called upon more and more. He could develop, this year, into the ninth inning guy out of the pen. He’s not there yet, however.
Fifth year senior who brings experience and maturity to the staff. Carter missed the 2011 season with an injury and didn’t pitch much in the first half of last season. Got better physically as the season progressed and wound up getting two starts later in the year. But his biggest value is as a six out pitcher because he can be dominant at times with a finish-pitch slider. He’ll pitch out of the pen and could see weekend action.
A year in the system should be beneficial for Zaunbrecher, who saw action mostly in long relief last season. Has enough stuff to finish hitters, but has to have more consistent command. A middle reliever’s job is to change the momentum of the game, and Zaunbrecher is good enough to come out of the pen for a couple of innings and stabilize things. You may see him on the weekend, but he’ll definitely see action in midweek games.
One of three freshman pitchers that could see early season action for the Cajuns. Charpentier has a very good breaking ball and excellent command of it. He can use it to finish hitters. Like all freshmen, still has plenty to learn, especially in Robe’s pitching system. Don’t be surprised, though, if he gets some chances out of the pen early in the season, especially in mid-week games.
Physically, he might remind you of a lefthanded Matt Hicks, but he’s a different kind of pitcher. Will trick you more than overpower you, although his breaking stuff is good enough to set up a sneaky fastball. Best pitch is his cutter. Like Hicks, a very quick worker. Has good arm speed. Along with Charpentier, could get some early season pen work. How he handles that responsibility will go a long way to getting more innings as the season progresses.