Off the Wall With Louisiana Tech's Dalton Skelton
Louisiana Tech has been one of Conference USA’s most consistent teams over the last three years and is once again this season one of the best teams in the league. The Bulldogs (33-17) are on the NCAA Tournament bubble and have a golden opportunity to make a statement this weekend when they travel to No. 13 Southern Mississippi.
The Golden Eagles (19-4) are in first place in CUSA and have a 3.5-game edge on the Bulldogs (16-8). Louisiana Tech is on the tournament bubble because it ranks No. 60 in RPI, but a road series win would improve that mark and keep it in the mix for a conference title, which LaTech has not won since 1987.
The Bulldogs’ pitching has been a key to its success this season and they lead CUSA with a 3.02 team ERA. But their offense has taken a step forward in the second half and they lead CUSA in batting in conference play (.301).
Redshirt senior shortstop Dalton Skelton has been a regular in the Bulldogs’ lineup over the last two years after he transferred from Jones County (Miss.) JC. He is this season hitting .299/.381/.515 with nine home runs. Baseball America caught up with Skelton before this weekend’s big series to talk about LaTech’s season, this weekend’s series and his pregame Snapchat routine.
You guys have been playing well really all year. What’s been the key for this team?
“I really feel like our pitching staff has stepped up this year. We lost a few guys last year but the guys we had come in this year really played a huge part for us this year and stepped up on the mound. We struggled hitting at first, but I think we finally got it together and started hitting as a team. They’re just balancing each other out now and that’s been a huge part of our success this year.”
You’re having a strong year yourself. How are you feeling at the plate?
“I feel really good this season. I don’t know what it was, but I guess this summer I focused on more of the offensive standpoint. I feel like I have the majority of the defensive stuff as a go-to and I wanted to focus more on my offensive numbers this year. So, I feel really good at the plate this year.”
You won a national title at Jones County JC and a few of your teammates from there are also at LaTech now. What’s it like being able to continue playing with them?
“The team chemistry is really what stands out to me during those years. I feel like here at Tech – having a few of those guys come over here with me – I feel like we all bond really well together and we play really well together. I feel like it has kind of rubbed off on the rest of the team and we have built a team chemistry with the whole team and not just have a clique of the Jones County guys and the other junior college guys. I feel like we’ve mixed it all together and have the whole team chemistry going at once.”
Do you have any pregame rituals?
“I’ll send like two Snapchats, one to my brother’s girlfriend and one to mine. I’ll just tell them it’s gameday. It’s like the same picture every day. I do that every single day just about when we have a game. I sent it to (my brother’s girlfriend) once – we had a snapchat streak going and I sent it to her one day and then I started hitting really good and we started playing good as a team and so I stuck with it and kept it going.”
Your brother Dustin is playing at Mississippi State. What was it like growing up in a baseball family like that?
“It was great. Me and my brother would literally go outside and throw a baseball or hit a baseball or play whiffle ball or something. We always had to do something baseball every day. That’s all we wanted to do all the time. It was really fun. To see where he is now, being an SEC player, it’s really awesome. We have a younger brother (Colton, 14), he is just as good as both of us, if not better already.”
What’s your walkup music and why did you pick it?
“’King’ by Bizzle. I picked that because my brother at Mississippi State recommended it. He was like, ‘this is one of the best walkout songs I’ve ever heard.’ I listened to it and I was like, ‘I really like that.’ I went with it and I feel like it’s brought me some success this year, so I stuck with it.”
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You guys get great fan support at Louisiana Tech. What’s it like playing in front of those crowds at the Love Shack?
“I think we have the best fans in the country. Pretty loyal fans. We see the same fans every game. They don’t really miss any home games at all. They like to interact with us. That’s the best part about it – getting to talk with our fans and getting to see them every day at home and hearting them cheer us on.”
This weekend is a big series at Southern Miss. What are you looking forward to this weekend?
“We’re really looking forward to having a really hard-nosed battle with those guys. They’re a good club. A lot of us have played with guys on there and we know how they work. They’ve got really good talent and we’re really excited to see what we can do against them. We know we have a really good chance beating them. We’re really excited about going up there and giving it our all for the guys next to us and for the coaches and to play our heart out for them.”
We’re getting down to the end of the season. What do you feel like you guys have to do these next couple weeks to shore up your NCAA Tournament resume?
“We’re really looking to win our last two series of the season. Two out of three would be huge against Southern Miss. That would put us at the top of the conference, I believe. Finishing out of Old Dominion, some series wins would really help us out a lot getting a regional bid.”