Cajuns Baseball Preview Part One: Pitching Depth is a Strong Suit
When the 2015 season ended in Baton Rouge, fans of Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns baseball took a deep breath and said, "Wow. We did this with a bunch of freshmen."
Not all of the Cajuns' contributors were in the freshmen class, but the frosh did combine for 44 starts, 21 wins and 14 saves.
And now they return...with an experienced supporting class and two freshmen who were rated the two best pitching prospects in the state of Louisiana a year ago.
Louisiana head coach Tony Robichaux knows he could have something pretty special. But he also knows it's not going to be as easy as just putting one of these guys out on the mound.
"These guys have been in the program for a year. Our opponents now have video on them to break down and they have scouting reports. They aren't going to sneak up on anyone," Robichaux said.
Gunner Leger (6-5 2.99 ERA), Evan Guillory (5-0, 4.05) and Wyatt Marks (6-1, 1 save, 3.24) were all starting on the weekend for the Cajuns in 2015. And, Dylan Moore (3-3, 1.60) saved a school record 13 games in a team-high 32 appearances.
That's four big pieces to a pitching puzzle.
Add to that, senor workhorse Will Bacon (6-3, 3.14, 2 saves in 28 appearances) and senior Chris Charpentier (4-3, 5 saves, 5.08) and now you're looking at a deep, experienced staff.
Junior Reagan Bazar (0-0, 1 save, 3.38) didn't pitch as much a year ago as he did as a freshman, but "Big Thunder" has worked hard to harness professional level stuff and is closer to mastering a breaking pitch. Senior Nick Zaunbrecher (0-0 4.32) returns as well, along with flamethrowers Eric Carter (1-1, 4.05) and Logan Stoelke (1-1, 1.64).
That's 476.1 innings out of 588.1 that will be back in a Cajun uniform.
Oh, and about those freshmen....
Right hander Nick Lee (Longville/S. Beauregard) and left hander Hogan Harris (Lafayette/St. Thomas More) both could have gone high in the draft and made some good immediate money, but chose to attend college. Lee will throw 90-93 consistently and has a college ready changeup and slider. Harris doesn't throw quite as hard (89-91) but also has a polished assortment.
Lee will be a starter. Harris is good enough to start, but, outside of Leger, he's the only lefty and will probably be used more out of the bullpen.
This kind of depth will give Robichaux the luxury of setting up a four man starting rotation with a regular midweek starter if he so chooses. The experience in the bullpen, especially if a couple continue to develop, will give him the option of shortening the game and taking some of the load off those starting pitchers.
Many who have followed the program think this is the deepest, most talented pitching staff Robichaux has had since the 2000 College World Series team.
But this is a staff that has something else it didn't have a year ago.
Expectations. High expectations.