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Baseball is back, well almost, at Russo Park

Posted at 5:23 PM, Jan 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-29 19:51:03-05

LAFAYETTE (KATC) — Louisiana baseball is less than three weeks away from hosting Texas, the 23rd ranked team in the Division I baseball poll.

On Tuesday, Tony Robichaux gave his players a day off, dodging the freezing temperatures, but indoors, he and a few players took the podium for the first time in a preseason press conference.

“We go out every day with the idea of winning, not just getting by,” said sophomore shortstop Hayden Cantrell.

Louisiana returns its core of hitters, but offers up a revamped pitching staff in 2019. The team will lean on a young group out of the bullpen after the MLB draft nabbed a few key arms from a season ago.

Leading the way in the rotation will be Gunner Leger. The redshirt senior missed all of 2018 after undergoing two surgeries: one on his elbow, another on his leg.

“The past few weeks I feel like I have some jump back. I don’t have to grunt to throw 83,” Leger said with a smile. “My command feels spotty, but I know as long as I feel good, that’ll come back to me.”

Leger went 10-2 in his junior season with a 1.97 ERA. Robichaux said he and Brandon Young will be the team’s 1-2 punch, but he hasn’t committed to a Friday starter yet. Much of that depends on what Leger does over the next few weeks.

“Everyone expects you to be Superman. Maybe you will, maybe you won’t,” said Robichaux. “You just need to take it easy. You won’t forget how to pitch. That’s the greatest thing about Gunner is he knows how to pitch.”

In 2018 Louisiana hit .242 as a team with 29 home runs and 254 RBI. Those numbers were program lows over the last 10 years. The Cajuns added assistant coach Jake Wells this off-season. He’s serving as a hitting coach. Utility player Daniel Lahare spoke highly of Wells and his cerebral approach at the plate.

“Knowing your mindset from pitch to pitch. Say you’re starting 0-0, you’re trying to drive the ball. You get to 2 strikes you’re shortening up. You’re trying to get behind the ball,” he said. “He’s done a good job implementing it so we’re not going up there unprepared. We have a plan.”

Robichaux himself enters his 25th year at Louisiana. When asked to speak on his tenure he pointed out he’s done everything you can but win a title.

“To be honest with you that’s what we’re chasing. Is it going to be easy? No,” Robichaux said. “There is a lot to do before you can get to that. There is a process you have to go through to get to that level and there is one team left standing at the end of the year.”

Louisiana opens the season at home on Friday, February 17.