Armed and Dangerous: The Cajuns’ Pitchers – From the Bird’s Nest
Last year, the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns' pitching staff used ten pitchers who threw double digit innings and finished with a sparkling 3.25 team ERA. They led the Cajuns to a co-championship in the Sun Belt Conference, a third straight tournament title and a fourth straight berth in the NCAA Regionals.
Ten deep is awfully good in college baseball.
This year, the Cajuns have a dozen they believe they can count on.
First, it must be acknowledged the Cajuns lost two solid bullpen arms. Eric Carter (6-2, 4 sv, 2.08 ERA) was nearly unhittable by the end of the season. And, Will Bacon (1-0. 1 3.53), after a slow start, blossomed in conference play with an ERA of 0.61 in seven league appearances.
But the Cajuns will reload with a junior college All-American, a solid reliever returning after a year's absence and a couple of redshirt freshmen head coach Tony Robichaux likes...a lot.
The roles for this pitching staff still must be defined. But there are a couple that already are.
Gunner Leger (7-3, 2.26) is the leader of the staff. The junior left-hander is a pre-season all-league pick and sets the table for the weekend not only with his ability, but his leadership. Sun Belt Freshman of the Year Nick Lee (7--1, 3.31) just got better as the season progressed as his velocity increased to go along with a deadly changeup. The Cajuns won 14 of his 15 starts on the season.
And, there were very few in college baseball last season better at the end of the game than Dylan Moore.
The junior sparkled for the second straight season with a 6-1 mark and a school record 14 saves. His 0.91 ERA was a testament to his brilliance. His only loss on the season came on an unearned run.
Wyatt Marks and Evan Guillory have both been weekend starters during their careers. Last season Guillory (5-6, 4.34) was used mostly as a starter in mid-week and is expected to have that role again. Marks (5-7, 4.50) was the hard-luck guy on the staff last season, but was brilliant in the SBC title game against Georgia Southern. He could be the Sunday starter.
Left hander Colten Schmidt comes in as a first-team NJCAA All-American after a stellar sophomore season at San Jacinto, where he went 11-1 with a 2.08 ERA, notching 108 strikeouts in 97 innings in leading his team to the national championship game. He did not pitch in the fall because of his college workload but has impressed as expected in the spring. If he locks down the Sunday job, that would free Marks to take over the role Carter and Bacon had a year ago.
Senior Colton Lee, who missed the 2016 season, will be another late inning reliever. Lee has a devastating slider that he delivers from the side and was 2-3 with three saves in 2015.
But, as the television pitchman would say, wait...there's more.
Lefty Hogan Harris (2-0, 1 sv. 3.90) and senior righty Jevin Huval (3-1, 3 sv. 3.11) are back as well and both could be used in long or short relief. Harris could also be a spot starter when the Cajuns play two mid-week games. He'll probably be most needed in the 'pen, however, especially if Schmidt is starting.
Senior Chris Charpentier (0-0, 4.30) has logged some valuable innings in his career and will pitch out of the pen as well. Robichaux has also said two redshirt freshmen, Jack Burk and Jacob Norman are going to log innings, probably in mid week games. Burk is probably the farthest along because of his command. But both will pitch.
Robichaux has never been a textbook guy when it comes to the use of his bullpen. Moore logged five outs or more in 16 of his 26 appearances last season. But this staff has enough talent and experience to where the Cajjuns' skipper can use multiple bullpen arms an inning at a time and shorten the game if all are effective. Either way, Robichaux has proven to be a master when it comes to using his staff and he'll put his team in position to win, regardless of how the bullpen works.
The Cajuns will need all these arms, especially early in the season when everyone is on a pitch count. The reality is, very few teams in America have this deep an arsenal.