Cajuns’ Baseball 2018 Season Preview – The Pitchers
One thing that's remained pretty consistent in Tony Robichaux's tenure as Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns baseball coach has been the pitching staff is perennially at or near the top of the Sun Belt Conference.
If that's going to happen again, some new faces need to emerge sooner rather than later.
With 2017 Sun Belt Pitcher of the Year Gunner Leger redshirting after a pair of surgeries, it will be more necessary than ever to have some previously unknown names make contributions if the Cajuns are going to be successful.
But it's not like they don't have returning weapons.
Left hander Hogan Harris (5-2, 2.66 ERA) struck out 87 batters in 67.2 innings last season. Robichaux would like for him to get fewer strikeouts and more ground balls to help keep his pitch count down. One website has already named Harris the Preseason Pitcher of the Year in the Sun Belt.
Nick Lee (6-4, 5.12) will be the first to tell you he took a step back last year after a stellar freshman campaign. Control was a part of the issue as his bases on balls increased to five per nine innings. But Robichaux says Lee's stuff in the fall and preseason is back to where it was and so is his control. He's a potential All-Conference pitcher if Robichaux is right.
Sophomore Jack Burk (2-4, 2.45) showed he can be a solid pitcher for the Cajuns last season before an injury sidelined him the second half of the season. Burk was the midweek starter last year before his injury. He begins the 2018 season in the weekend rotation and has been named the opening night starter this Friday night against Texas.
Lefty Colten Schmidt spent most of last season rehabbing a shoulder injury but was healthy toward the end of the season and was used both as a starter and reliever. He was 2-1 with a 3.60 ERA in seven appearances, including three starts. He'll start the season as the top midweek starter for the Cajuns.
The Cajuns know who their starting pitchers are.
And they know who to count on with the game on the line.
Senior Dylan Moore (2-1, 3.96, 11 saves) is, far and away, the all time saves leader in Cajuns' and Sun Belt history (38). Moore wasn't totally healthy last year and his numbers showed it. He walked an uncharacteristic 28 batters in 36.1 innings and those walks came back to haunt him in a couple of appearances. But an offseason workout regimen has made the popular right hander in the best shape of his career and Robichaux believes the "D-Mo" of his first two seasons is the one Cajun fans will see this year.
Those five veteran pitchers will anchor the Cajuns' pitching staff.
What happens after that will have a lot to do with the Cajuns' success.
With Wyatt Marks headed to professional baseball, Robichaux needs another late inning relief specialist. He believes he's found one in sophomore Caleb Armstrong. The Monroe native threw only six innings with limited success. But Armstrong has dropped his arm slot and Robichaux believes his improvement, along with his mental approach to the game, will make him an effective late innings guy.
Robichaux generally likes to have ten pitchers he can count on. The other four will have to prove it on the field. Robichaux likes what he's seen out of freshman lefties Brock Batty (6-1, 198, Denham Springs) and Austin Perrin (5-9, 190 Boutte/Hahnville). He's hoping both can contribute right away. In addition, another left hander, Grant Cox (6-2, 200 Lafayette, STM) who spent time at Angelina Junior College, should get an early opportunity.
From the right side, senior Logan Stoelke, who will also play the outfield is a solid option. Stoelke threw only one inning last year, but has the stuff to get people out. Returnees Jacob Norman (nine innings) and Hayden Erbe (five 1/3 innings) are possibilities, but Robichaux has said "they need to pitch better" if they're going to be counted upon.
The Cajuns pitching staff has plenty of knowns. But there are plenty of unknowns as well. And, it will be their contributions to the depth of the pitching staff that will determine the Cajuns' success.