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Head baseball coach Tony Robichaux as the Ragin' Cajuns take on the Loyola Marymount Lions at M.L. Tigue Moore Field on March 9, 2019.

The Louisiana baseball team is hoping to rebound from a tough 2019 season under new leadership and expectations.

After the death of the legendary former Head Coach Tony Robichaux, Matt Deggs, former head coach at Sam Houston State and assistant at Louisiana, is taking over as head coach of the Ragin’ Cajuns, and he will look to capture the success he had at both of his last two stops.

At Sam Houston State, Deggs led the Bearkats to a Super Regional in 2017 and won the Southland conference in three of his five years there. 

Louisiana has not made the postseason or won the Sun Belt Conference Tournament since the 2016 season, stretching the drought to three years.

The Ragin’ Cajuns were ranked 24th nationally in the preseason Collegiate Baseball Division 1 poll on Dec. 16. Louisiana is also among the favorites in the Sun Belt Conference this season.

The Ragin’ Cajuns had the most first-place votes to win the West Division with five, but they had one less overall point than UT Arlington and finished second in the Sun Belt coaches preseason West poll with 57 points. In the East, South Alabama and Coastal Carolina are the projected top two teams.

Louisiana had one player on the preseason All-SBC team. Shortstop Hayden Cantrelle, the leadoff hitter for most of 2019 for the Ragin’ Cajuns, hit .309 with 31 RBI and 28 stolen bases in his 2019 sophomore season. It is the second consecutive year on the preseason team for Cantrelle, who has cemented himself as one of the best hitters on the team.

One of the biggest issues for the 2019 team that finished 28-31 was pitching consistency. A group of new and young pitchers had issues at times in 2019 against tough competition. The weekend rotation changed multiple times and, even with one of the best offenses the Ragin’ Cajuns have had, the pitching simply gave up too many runs to be successful.

This season, pitchers Jacob Schultz, Austin Perrin and Brandon Young should all be players looking to shine in the weekend rotation. Each pitcher showed flashes in 2019 with the Ragin’ Cajuns.

Schultz started seven games for Louisiana but had 16 appearances out of the bullpen. The junior had one of the best seasons for a Ragin’ Cajuns pitcher in 2019 with a 3.65 ERA and he kept opposing hitters to a .239 batting average, both among the best in the Sun Belt. Schultz gives Deggs options to pitch as either a starter or key bullpen pitcher. 

Junior Austin Perrin’s numbers improved from his freshman season, and he leads the team in innings pitched. Even with his 4.52 ERA, Perrin had dominant performances, but inconsistency hurt his sophomore season. Young led the team in strikeouts in 2019 with 72 in just over 54 innings pitched but had a 4.80 ERA. 

Senior Jack Burk could also be a name to watch out for in the rotation. Similar to Perrin, Burk had dominant performances in 2019 but was also inconsistent in limited innings. Burk only threw just over 44 innings, less than the other three names, but had a 2.82 ERA, one of the lowest on the team that season. 

After losing key batters in the lineup, the Ragin’ Cajuns offense will have a different look in 2020, and the pitching, without a real defined ace, will have to make up for that. 

Louisiana opens the 2020 season at home with a game against Southeastern Louisiana on Friday, Feb. 14 and then hosts Louisiana Tech on Saturday, Feb. 15 and Sunday, Feb. 16.

 

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