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Baseball: Starting lineup, pitching rotation predictions for Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns baseball

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Feb. 18, 2021

The Ragin’ Cajuns baseball team goes into the 2021 season packed with pitching options.

But UL has something to prove after going 8-9 in a COVID-19 shortened 2020, coach Matt Deggs’ first year after succeeding the late Tony Robichaux.

The Cajuns will start that task riding the arms of Connor CookeHayden Durke and preseason All-Sun Belt Conference pick Conor Angel.

They open with a three-game series at Tulane starting Friday at 2 p.m..

Here’s what to know about UL’s lineup:

On the infield: Matt Deggs has shortstop options

The Ragin’ Cajuns need a successor at shortstop for Hayden Cantrelle, a three-year starter taken by Milwaukee in the fifth round of the 2020 Major League Baseball Draft.

Contenders include transfers Bobby Lada (Bossier Paris Community College), Brett Borgogno (Cal State Fullerton) and Sam Riola (Iowa Western CC).

Numbers game:Stats may deceive for MLB prospect Cantrelle

“That’s still a position that is going to have to play itself out,” Deggs said, “and it might even possibly give us, even though we don’t like doing this at short, a chance to match up.”

With Lada and Borgogno perhaps leading the battle, Riola is a possibility at second or third with Johnathan Brandon – who broke his leg prior to last season – at whichever spot Rialo does not take.

Brandon Talley, a reliever who had six infield starts last year, is a possibility at first along with juco transfer Kevin Fitzgerald, who spent time at third last fall but is working his way back from injury.  Fitzgerald could also DH when he’s not on the infield.

In the outfield: Brennan Breaux is back

Brennan Breaux, a transfer from LSU who has played three seasons at UL, is back with an extra season of eligibility granted by the NCAA due to COVID-19.

If Breaux isn’t manning his usual spot in centerfield he could start in left. Contending to start in center is Tyler Robertson, a rangy juco transfer.

“(He) can fly,” said Deggs, an ex-Cajuns assistant who returned to UL after coaching Sam Houston State. “Very, very strong. Still somewhat raw, but a very, very bright future.”

Candidates in right include returning starting corner outfielder Connor Kimple, freshman Carson Roccaforte and LSU transfer CJ Willis, a utilityman from Ruston High.

Related:Ragin’ Cajuns softball team nationally ranked and loaded with lineup options

Behind the plate: Drake Osborne stakes claim

Drake Osborne, a graduate transfer from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, separated himself during the preseason.

But the Cajuns have options behind the plate with Nick Hagedorn – who had starts at catcher, first base and DH last season – and Julian Brock both back, key for a coach who likes interchangeable parts.

If Brock backs up Osborne, Hagedorn – who ended last season on a four-game hitting streak – could also DH.

Starting rotation: Angel, Durke have ‘big-league stuff’

The Cajuns have a good one in Angel, who struck out 26 in 21.2 innings including four starts and one relief appearance last season.

“The kid has big-league stuff … as well as several others,” Deggs said.

Also on that list is Durke, a freshman from North Vermilion High who is Perfect Game’s and D1Baseball’s Sun Belt preseason Freshman of the Year.

Carter Robinson (1.31, 20.2 innings in four starts last season) is another possible weekend starter.

Potential midweek starters early in the season including juco transfer Spencer Arrighetti, who had 16 relief appearances as a freshman at TCU; Will Moriarty (1-2 in four starts for the Cajuns last season); Jason Nelson, who missed UL’s 2020 season due to Tommy John surgery; and Chipper Menard, a freshman from New Iberia High. All except Menard are righties.

More:UL pitcher Young opts to sign with the Baltimore Orioles

In the pen: Connor Cooke could close

Deggs wanted depth because of the fear COVID-19 contract tracing could decimate his bullpen any given week.

He has plenty.  

Deggs said another Cajun with “big-league stuff” is Cooke, D1Baseball’s Sun Belt Pitcher of the Year. Cooke (17 strikeouts in 12.2 innings) worked exclusively in relief last season. He has starter potential, but also could close and should begin the season as a reliever.

Other relievers Deggs could call on include Jacob Schultz (3.65 ERA over 66.2 innings in 2019); lefties Talley and Austin Perrin (67.2 inning in 2019, but injured and out last year); and senior Jack Burk (3.79 career ERA in 152.0 innings), who was limited by injury to two short appearances last season.

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