Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Deep infield creates competitive advantage for Lions in 2018

Posted: Tuesday, February 13, 2018 | Views: 772

Deep infield creates competitive advantage for Lions in 2018
First in a 3-part series

HAMMOND---Southeastern Louisiana baseball coach Matt Riser believes in the competitive advantages inherent in a deep roster.

After a handful of Lions were forced to play through injuries last season that would have healed with rest, recruiting coordinator Andrew Gipson set out to fix that issue.

“Last year we were extremely thin in the infield, from a depth standpoint,” Riser said. “Any injuries or any leads that got extended, we had to maintain what we had. Coach Gip did a fantastic job making sure that wasn’t the case this season. He recruited some junior college guys to come in, as we obviously had some holes to fill on the right side, losing Carson Crites and Derrick Mount.”

Southeastern loses more than 50 percent of its run production from last season and the graduation of the veteran infielders will also be felt from a leadership standpoint.

“You don’t replace guys by signing one guy,” Riser said. “You have to bring in a few and those guys will work their way into the lineup, keeping it competitive. We recruited athletes that can play multiple positions. A few of these guys played shortstop in high school, whether they came in as a J.C. guy and are second baseman now or they were a high school guy we moved to the corners.”

One of the key position battles for Southeastern in the fall was at shortstop and the Lions will have a veteran manning the position this spring.

“Brennan Breaud did a fantastic job of winning the shortstop job,” Riser said. “We brought Cody Grosse in to challenge him and was a prized recruit in this class. He brings in some four-year experience after his freshman year at Chicago State and was a JUCO All-Conference/All-Region player last year. He’s a premium defender and a premium bat we can plug into the lineup. Having those two guys at second and short is going to bring a lot of experience and create a lot of havoc at the top of the lineup.”

The Lions may have lost a good chunk of last season’s offense, but they return an offensive piece that is the envy of the conference.

“Taylor Schwaner is back, the reigning Southland Player of the Year and a consensus All-American, but we’ve got some guys really challenging him from a defensive standpoint,” Riser said. “Kyle Schimpf has done a fantastic job coming in and being the right bat from the left-handed side for us. He’s added some of the power we lost with Crites and Ryan Byers. He’s played the best at third defensively, but he has some experience at first as well. We’ll be able to go back-and-forth with him as we need to in certain matchups.”

All of the corner infielders saw time at both first and third base during both the fall and early spring practice periods, including returners Trey Morgan and Scottie Sanders.

“Then you start sprinkling in some of the freshmen,” Riser said. “Preston Faulkner is going to be able to really, really hit. He is kind of the successor to Schwaner, but he’s going to have a huge role for us as a freshman. You’ll see him at the DH spot because his bat is one we’re going to want to keep in the lineup. We’ll get creative with some ways to keep him in there, whether it’s at first or third.”

A couple of freshmen are slated to gain experience up the middle at key times throughout the season.

“There’s quality depth added in Cade Pipoly and Trey Harrington,” Riser said. “Trey was recruited to this program to be a premium defender at shortstop and what we got was a premium defender at third and second as well. He can play all those positions. He has some serious game savviness and maturity to him that you can put him in late in games to make some big plays for us. It’s probably one of the deepest infields we’ve had to date.”

The NCAA transfer rule will force Adam Sevario, a middle infielder from Prairieville, Louisiana, to sit out the season after arriving from FIU.

Behind the dish, Southeastern returns a pair of seasoned receivers.

“We’ve got two guys coming back with a year of seasoning under their belt,” Riser said. “Most JUCO guys you get one good year out of them. Daniel Wasinger had his struggles last year offensively, but emerged as a premium defender for us. If the offense can come along with the defense, it will be big for us.

“It’s kind of the flip side for Evan Pace,” Riser said. “We signed him as an elite defender, feeling the bat would come along as we got further into it and it has. He’s kind of been more the offensive piece for us and has done a good job of improving that.”

Wasinger and Pace will also spend time mentoring a promising newcomer to the program.

“You’ll see freshman Connor Manola back there as well,” Riser said. “He’s similar to Pace in body type and style, and is an extreme defender back there. He’s one of the best at receiving and blocking you’ll find anywhere in the country. We’ll need him to gain experience since we lose Wasinger at the end of the year.”

Southeastern's 2018 regular-season schedule begins Friday with a 6 p.m. game against SIU-Edwardsville, kicking off a nine-game homestand at Pat Kenelly Diamond at Alumni Field that includes games with No. 18-ranked UL Lafayette, UConn and LSU.

Single game tickets can be purchased online at www.LionSports.net/Tickets. All home games are available except the matchup with No. 9-ranked LSU. Tickets to that game will only be available for purchase by Diamond Club members and current baseball season ticket holders until Feb. 21.

Fans interested in joining the Diamond Club can do so by contacting the Lion Athletics Association at (985) 549-5091.

Season tickets, available for as little as $ $103 at baseball, remain on sale until Thursday at 5 p.m. For more information on purchasing Southeastern season or single-game tickets, contact the Southeastern Athletics Ticket Office at (985) 549-5466.

Fans are encouraged to follow @Lions_Baseball on Twitter, @SLU_LionsBaseball on Instagram, like /SLUathletics on Facebook and subscribe to the SLUathletics YouTube channel to keep up with the latest on Southeastern baseball.