SEE ALSO: College Preview Index
2016 Record (Ranking): 43-21 (22). RPI: 17.
Coach (Record at school): Tony Robichaux (817-513-1, 18 years).
Postseason History: 16 regionals (active streak: 4), 1 CWS trip (2000), 0 national titles.
Over the years, Louisiana-Lafayette has been known for its powerful offenses, peaking with the team that led the nation in home runs in 2013. That identity changed last year, as the Ragin’ Cajuns were more a middle-of-the-road offensive outfit and instead rode the Sun Belt Conference’s No. 1 pitching staff to earn a regional hosting bid.
After watching ULL’s offense dry up in a pair of losses to eventual national runner-up Arizona in that regional, coach Tony Robichaux expects a more opportunistic attack in 2017.
“We realize that to make that jump, you have to be able to perform because your scoring chances at the end (of the season) are minimized,” Robichaux said. “The pitching gets so much better. You leave that runner stranded—the leadoff double and you squander it, or you get that guy to third and don’t get him in—those things can do you in at the end of the year.”
This year’s Cajuns probably won’t return to their homer-heavy ways of those other recent editions, but they do bring back their leading power hitter in Joe Robbins. Freshman Todd Lott, an unsigned 20th-round pick in last year’s draft, has the potential to be an impact, middle-of-the-order bat from the jump, as could junior college transfer Handsome Monica, who ironically started his career at Arizona before going the junior college route.
Fellow junior college transfer Tyler Stover adds another hitter with gap-to-gap power to join the ranks of what Robichaux called his team’s “veteran-y” returning core—players like Robbins, Brenn Conrad and Alex Pinero. Pinero’s energetic play was particularly galvanizing down the stretch for ULL last season.
“We can be a little bit more bigger, a little bit more physical,” Robichaux said. “But we’re also working on pressure-offense too, and not just having to rely all the time on being big and physical because that won’t match up on certain nights. But I do believe we have a chance this season to be a little bit bigger, a little bit more physical than we were last year.”
If the Cajuns do need their pitching to shoulder more of the load again, the good news is they have a trio of proven commodities to build around, with all-conference closer Dylan Moore anchoring the bullpen and Gunner Leger and Nick Lee, last year’s Sun Belt freshman of the year, leading the rotation. Pitchability lefty Leger isn’t your prototypical overpowering Friday ace, but he allows the Cajuns to give teams different looks over the course of a weekend when paired with the harder-throwing righty Lee. Much the same can be said of the bullpen, where Moore will be set up by a varied mix of arms like low-slot righty Colton Lee—no relation to Nick—and power lefty Hogan Harris.
The Cajuns’ neighborhood just got tougher, too, as Coastal Carolina joins the Sun Belt for 2017. ULL has been the league’s top dog, winning either the regular season or tournament title in each of the last three seasons, but now will have to go through the defending national champions to stay on that perch. In Robichaux’s eyes, however, adding Coastal to the league can only mean good things for his program.
“The better your conference gets, the better you get,” he said. “At the end of the day, you can’t sharpen knives with Kleenex. There’s only one way to get better, and that’s to play better people. So we’re glad to have them in our conference.”
|C||Handsome Monica, Jr.||Tr.—Northwest Florida State JC|
|1B||Tyler Stover, Jr.||Tr.—Solano (Calif.) CC|
|2B||Hunter Kasuls, So.||.234||.315||.289||1||11||4|
|3B||Alex Pinero, Sr.||.312||.355||.406||2||24||1|
|SS||Brad Antchak, Sr.||.246||.343||.336||1||12||5|
|LF||Todd Lott, Fr.||HS—Jacksonville, Fla.|
|CF||Joe Robbins, Sr.||.286||.387||.491||10||37||10|
|RF||Steven Sensley, Jr.||.252||.349||.417||6||23||2|
|DH||Brenn Conrad, Sr.||.280||.384||.411||4||43||5|
|LHP||Gunner Leger, Jr.||7||3||2.26||92||81||0|
|RHP||Nick Lee, So.||7||1||3.31||87||75||0|
|LHP||Colten Schmidt, Jr.||Tr.—San Jacinto (Texas) JC|
|RP||Dylan Moore, Jr.||6||1||0.91||50||59||14|