NewsAround Acadiana

Actions

Cajuns set to host Texas in season opening series

Posted: 9:38 PM, Feb 14, 2019
Updated: 2019-02-14 23:25:42-05

LAFAYETTE (Press Release) – The 2019 Louisiana Baseball season opens in dramatic fashion this weekend when the Ragin’ Cajuns welcome the 23rd-ranked Texas Longhorns to M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field at Russo Park for a three-game series. It is the second-straight season the two programs will face off to kick off their respective campaigns.

First pitch on Friday evening is slated for 6:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on Cox Sports Television (CST). Saturday’s and Sunday’s contests will begin at 2 p.m. and 1 p.m., respectively, and can both be streamed at RaginCajuns.com/Watch.

The Ragin’ Cajuns return 16 letterwinners from last season’s squad that won the West Division of the Sun Belt Conference. The team finished with a 34-25 record and an 18-12 mark in league play. That experience paid off in the preseason voting after Louisiana was picked to win the West Division for the third-straight season, picking up 71 points in the coaches’ poll and receiving 11 of the 12 first place votes.

Highlighting the returners ahead of the 2019 season is 2017 Golden Spikes semifinalist and All-America selection Gunner Leger, who headlined three Ragin’ Cajuns on the 2019 Preseason All-Sun Belt Team. Leger seeks to pick up where he left off in during his historic season when he posted a 10-2 record in 15 starts with a 1.97 ERA. In 91.1 innings, Leger struck out 84 batters while limiting opponents to a .206 average and combined to post six shutouts.

Joining Leger on the preseason team was fellow senior Daniel Lahare and sophomore Hayden Cantrelle. Lahare was Louisiana’s top offensive performer in 2018, leading the team in batting average (.321), OPS (.858), runs scored (50), hits (69), triples (4), total bases (101) and slugging percentage (.470) in 2018. He also put together a 19-game hitting streak towards the end of the season that helped the Ragin’ Cajuns go 22-9 in the second half of the year.Cantrelle started in all 59 games last year and is looking to build off the success from his rookie season in which he batted .287 (60-for-209) and finished with 22 RBI, four home runs, two triples and 13 doubles.

Senior Hunter Kasuls will also look to make a splash this season after starting all 59 games in 2019. The team’s starting second baseman in 2018 hit .250 (58-232) with five homers, 12 doubles and three triples. He also tied the Sun Belt Conference Tournament record with nine RBI against Little Rock on May 23.

There will be plenty of new faces making appearances this year, including junior Brandon Young, who was tabbed as Saturday’s starter for the Ragin’ Cajuns. Young joins the team from Howard Community College, where he recorded an 8-3 record in 2017 and rung up 34 batters in 2018.

Grant Cox, Jack Burk, Austin Perrin, Brock Batty, Michael Leaumont and Caleb Armstrong all saw time on the mound last season and will look to make an impact this year.

No. 23 Texas is coming off a 2018 campaign in which it posted a 42-23 overall record and 17-7 mark in league play en route to winning the Big 12 Conference Championship and advancing to the College World Series in Omaha.

The Longhorns are led by Preseason All-Big 12 selections Duke Ellis and Zach Zubia, who were both selected First Team All-Conference a season ago. Ellis hit .289 in 2018 and finished the year with one home run, 27 RBI and 16 stolen bases, while Zubia collected 45 RBI, hit 14 doubles and matched a team high with 11 home runs.

Sophomore right-hander Bryce Elder will take the mound for Texas on opening night. Elder appeared in 22 games last season and finished with a 6-1 record while recording a 5.55 ERA and 31 strikeouts to just 18 walks.

Louisiana and Texas will meet for the 39th time when the first pitch is tossed on Friday night, with the Longhorns leading the all-time series, 31-7. However, the Ragin’ Cajuns have won four of the last seven meetings dating back to 1999.

The Ragin’ Cajuns are led by collegiate baseball coaching icon Tony Robichaux, who is entering his 25th season at the helm of the program with 1,149 career wins, ranking him eighth among active Division I coaches.