College Preview Capsules: No. 13 Louisiana-Lafayette

No. 13 Louisiana-Lafayettelouisianalafayette
2015 Record (Ranking): 42-23 (16). RPI: 53.
Coach (Record at school): Tony Robichaux (774-492-1, 17 years)
Postseason History: 15 regionals (active streak: 3), 1 CWS trip (2000), 0 national titles.

Louisiana-Lafayette got off to an inauspicious start in the postseason last year, losing the opening game of the Sun Belt Conference tournament to Texas State. But the Ragin’ Cajuns rebounded, winning their next eight games to come out of the losers’ bracket to win the conference tournament and then sweep through the Houston Regional, setting up a super regional showdown with Louisiana State.

The Cajuns’ run ended in Baton Rouge, as the Tigers swept them to advance to the College World Series. Despite the disappointing finish, ULL’s consecutive appearances in super regionals set up this year’s team—which returns 20 letterwinners—to build on its success.

2016 Lineup
C Nick Thurman, Sr. .257 .332 .339 1 37 5
1B Stefan Trosclair, Sr. .338 .441 .635 16 53 15
2B Hunter Kasuls, Fr. HS—Richmond, Texas
3B Brenn Conrad, Jr. .241 .284 .317 1 22 5
SS Brad Antchak, Jr. Tr.—Northeastern Oklahoma CC
LF Keenon Fontenot, So. .179 .233 .250 0 2 0
CF Kyle Clement, Sr. .346 .401 .615 8 32 3
RF Ishmael Edwards, Jr. Tr.—Howard (Texas) JC
DH Steven Sensley, So. Tr.—LSU Eunice JC
Pos. Name, Year W L ERA IP SO SV
LHP Gunner Leger, So. 6 5 2.99 114 87 0
RHP Wyatt Marks, So. 6 1 3.14 67 68 1
RHP Nick Lee, Fr. HS—Longville, La.
RP Dylan Moore, So. 3 3 1.60 51 40 13

“It was a good experience being in a hard-fought Sun Belt tournament and then in the regional—all on the road—and then we finished at LSU,” coach Tony Robichaux said. “We didn’t do what we wanted, we didn’t finish, but being in that venue and taking on a tough program like that was good experience.”

Outfielder Kyle Clement and first baseman Stefan Trosclair lead the returners in the lineup. Clement led the team in hitting (.346), and Trosclair topped the Sun Belt in home runs (16), runs (55), RBIs (53) and slugging percentage (.631) in his first year after transferring from LSU-Eunice JC.

The Cajuns have to replace shortstop Blake Trahan, who was drafted in the third round by the Reds. The centerpiece of the team, Trahan hit .315/.424/.406 with 17 stolen bases and was named Sun Belt player of the year, but his impact was felt beyond the diamond.

“It’s very tough because you have a lot of parameters to replace,” Robichaux said. “Other people have to step up in those surrounding areas and help out. I don’t know if you ever truly replace a guy like that.”

Junior college transfer Brad Antchak and freshman Hunter Kasuls, who are both capable, steady defenders, are expected to take over in the middle of the diamond this season. Both are a part of the 20th-ranked recruiting class the Cajuns brought in this fall, their first-ever Top 25 class. In addition to the infielders, ULL added outfielders Ishmael Edwards and Steven Sensley, two juco transfers who should add power to the lineup.

But for the second year in a row, the Cajuns’ most important recruits are pitchers. Last year, it was lefthander Gunner Leger and righthanders Wyatt Marks and Dylan Moore who stepped into prominent roles on the staff and excelled as freshmen. This year, expectations are high for lefthander Hogan Harris and righthander Nick Lee. Lee is an exciting, projectable prospect with a fastball that gets up to 94 and promising offspeed stuff. Harris is a power lefthander with a hard curveball.

Robichaux expects both to contribute, but the success of last year’s freshmen will make it possible to ease them into action this spring.

“We want to try to speed up their maturation process and try to get them mentally and physically prepared to pitch at a young age,” he said. “But I don’t think they’ll have to get thrown as hard as last year’s freshmen.”

Leger quickly took over the Friday night spot for the Cajuns, showing an advanced understanding for pitching. Marks, a physical righthander who made 10 starts last season, will follow Leger in the rotation this spring, giving Lafayette a steadying presence during weekend series.

“It calms a team,” Robichaux said. “That’s why teams that have frontline arms on Friday, Saturday and Sunday are so successful.”

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