LAFAYETTE — With a heavy chunk of last season’s roster that made it to a super regional tournament returning, the Louisiana-Lafayette baseball team was tabbed as preseason Sun Belt Conference favorites by the league’s coaches.
In the poll, the Cajuns received eight of 11 possible first-place votes to finish six points ahead of South Alabama, which received the other three first-place votes. This is the third consecutive season the Cajuns were picked as preseason favorites.
The Cajuns placed a league-high four players on the preseason All-SBC team, with sophomore pitchers Gunner Leger and Dylan Moore being joined by senior position players Stefan Trosclair and Kyle Clement. South Alabama and Georgia State were represented by three players apiece.
“It’s always an honor and a privilege when someone recognizes your work both individually and as a team,” coach Tony Robichaux said in a news release. “I’m glad for the guys who received preseason honors.
“The biggest challenge is that you don’t have to be ranked first to be first. That’s where the danger comes in. Ultimately, it’s someone else’s opinion. We appreciate that’s how they see it, but that’s why you play the games.”
Leger earned SBC Newcomer of the Year honors last season after posting a 6-5 record with a 2.99 ERA as a freshman. He spent the beginning of the season in the bullpen before ascending to the Friday night role, where he distinguished himself by lasting seven or more strong innings in six of his final eight starts.
Moore set a school record for saves in his freshman season, closing out 13 games in 32 appearances. He limited opponents to a .205 batting average while posting a team-best 1.60 ERA on his way to Freshman All-American honors from three separate organizations.
Like Leger, Clement and Trosclair were at their best in the latter stages of the season.
Trosclair led the SBC in both home runs (16) and RBIs (53) last season, and all but one of the home runs came after the calendar flipped to April. He provided the most dramatic moment of the season with a 12th inning grand slam in the SBC tournament title game to send the Cajuns into the NCAA tournament.
Clement was not a regular starter in the early portion of last season, but emerged as a catalyst around the same time Trosclair started belting home runs. He was hitting .205 on March 31, but became the first Cajun to hit for the cycle in 25 years on April 11 against Jackson State, and he used that as a launching point.
Clement finished the season with a team-best .346 batting average and went from part-time contributor to second-team All-SBC through the course of 2015.
South Alabama swept the preseason player of the year honors. Kevin Hill, the reigning SBC Pitcher of the Year, was named the preseason Pitcher of the Year, and outfielder Cole Billingsley was named the preseason Student Athlete of the Year.
The Cajuns open the season with a three-game series against Sam Houston State starting at 6 p.m. Feb. 19.