“I like our ball club. We’re athletic. We have a lot of the right pieces.” Louisiana Head Coach Matt Deggs is excited for his second season with the Ragin’ Cajuns.
After his first season was cut short due to the COIVD-19 pandemic, Deggs heads into 2021 with several new faces, as the Ragin’ Cajuns bring in a whopping 22 recruits. Among the 22 are three transfers from four-year schools, who will all be eligible for the 2021 season: CJ Willis (LSU), Brett Borgogno (Cal State Fullerton), and Drake Osborn (Texas A&M-Corpus Christi). The trio will provide much needed infield and catching experience, as the three have 258 division one games played among them.
Added infield depth is especially important for Louisiana after SS Hayden Cantrelle was selected in the fifth round of the 2020 MLB Draft. Across the infield, the Ragin’ Cajuns only return a total of 15 starts from a season ago.
Beyond the three four-year transfers, Deggs has been impressed with a pair of junior college transfers. OF Tyler Robertson had a “tremendous” fall according to Deggs, and IF Kevin Fitzgerald had the “best fall of any of the JuCo kids.” To go along with Robertson in the outfield, freshmen Carson Roccarforte and Conor Higgs also impressed. Deggs will need his position players to step up after the team only batted .207 in the shortened 2020 season.
While the lineup will largely be new-look, the pitching staff should provide stability for the Ragin’ Cajuns in 2021. “The backbone of this team is on the mound,” said Deggs, and there is reason to believe that the arms will help carry the team next season.
Friday night starter from 2020, Conor Angel, is back and better than ever. Deggs noted that Angel, like several of Louisiana’s pitchers, have made velocity jumps in the offseason. Angel is up to 98 mph on his fastball with a reliable changeup to turn to. While Deggs is unsure if it is the added rest this offseason has offered or the additional time for development, many of his pitchers have returned to campus better than when they left.
The Ragin’ Cajuns also return Senior Jack Burk and Junior Austin Perrin, who have pitched a combined 279.1 innings in their time at Louisiana. Both nursed injuries in the 2020 season, with Perrin’s lat injury enough to keep him out of the season altogether. However, each returns healthy for the 2021 season and will look to play key roles. Joining Burk and Perrin, Jason Nelson is also expected to return from Tommy John surgery for the 2021 season.
Additionally, Deggs had high praises for Sophomore RHP Connor Cooke who was stretched out some in the short 2020 season. “He has three plus-plus pitches, a 90-95 mph fastball, an 85/86 mph sliders, and a changeup.” Cooke struck out nine batters in a six-inning relief effort against Sam Houston State (Coach Matt Deggs's previous school) in 2020.
The Ragin’ Cajuns also add quality arm, Hayden Durke, a freshman who throws 94-96 mph. Deggs recognizes that the shortened draft possibly helped get Durke to campus, and Deggs is excited for the impact that Durke, along with the rest of his staff will have. “Any time you can pitch, that’s a strength,” said Deggs. “The world revolves around pitching. Any time you have quality arms, it’s an advantage.”
As of yet, Louisiana has not released its 2021 schedule, but they have appeared on Louisiana Tech’s schedule in non-conference play. Additionally, Troy (a fellow Sun Belt member) has released a schedule with 24 conference games (down from the typical 30). Louisiana will end the season hosting the Troy Trojans. Said Deggs, “Our league is committed to playing. Our league is really invested in baseball.”