During last year’s best-of-seven playoff series between Baton Rouge Community College and Delgado, ineffective pitching doomed BRCC.
The Bears fell in five games.
No wonder BRCC coach LJ Dupuy’s primary goal this year is to develop his pitching staff.
That task, along with the Bears’ 2016 season, will begin with a doubleheader against Panola Community College starting at 1 p.m. Saturday at Pete Goldsby Field. After injuries crippled the rotation last season, Dupuy hopes his pitchers can stay healthy and start the season with a strong performance against the Ponies.
“We feel like we have the arms. Now we’ve got to be able to get guys who can really pitch at this level,” he said. “And there’s a big difference. You can throw hard and not be able to get guys out. You’ve got to be able to locate.”
BRCC has the luxury of beginning its season at home, which looked like a slim possibility a few days ago. Heavy rains pounded the area earlier this week, creating muddy and wet conditions that prompted Dupuy’s attempts Wednesday morning to relocate the series.
When he learned Louisiana-Lafayette and Northwestern State’s turf fields were unavailable, the coach decided to play the series in Baton Rouge — but at a slight cost. The teams canceled Friday’s originally scheduled opener, opting to wait an extra day for the field to dry rather than have players risk injury in sloppy elements. Game 3 of the series is set for 1 p.m. Sunday.
“We always do what’s best for the players, and we don’t want any injuries for sure,” Dupuy said. “Not at this time of year.”
The Bears experienced their share of injuries while posting a 22-26-1 record last year — a long list that included starting pitcher Jesse Nigro. He’ll start the opener before fellow right-handers Todd Porche and Chase Martin take the mound for the following two games.
Dupuy will have some assistance developing his deep bullpen. He recently hired Roy Corcoran, a former LSU and professional pitcher, as the team’s pitching coach.
While Dupuy is most concerned with getting his hurlers up to speed, he’s confident in his position players. Five everyday players return for a team that hit .309 last season, and Dupuy called the Bears’ hitting and speed on the bases “the strong point of the team.”
“The kids we have here, without any injuries and that lineup playing the whole season, we’ll be as strong as we’ve ever been,” Dupuy said.
The coach raved about St. Michael graduate JT Mauldin, who will bat cleanup and take over first base duties. Dupuy also expects Mauldin to occupy the closer role once he fully recovers from an arm injury.
Dupuy pegged shortstop Tyler LaPorte as a “budding superstar,” citing the freshman’s defensive prowess and potent bat. McKay Mouton, a versatile utility player last season, is listed on the team’s roster as a second baseman, but Dupuy said the Crowley native can also play in the outfield or serve as a relief pitcher.
But Dupuy knows good hitting and defense sometimes isn’t enough. After experiencing that firsthand in 2015, he’s hopeful his pitchers will pick up the slack this year.
“I feel like they’ve got the right makeup and attitudes that these kids are going to develop real well,” Dupuy said. “So by the end of this season, we should have a quality pitching staff.”
Whitty ‘not ready’ to pitch
Troy Whitty is still on the road to recovery.
The right-handed pitcher transferred from LSU following fall practice, landing across town at BRCC after injuries consistently derailed his stay across town. A shoulder injury forced him to miss last season, and Dupuy said he’s still not ready to pitch.
Whitty threw well in a recent bullpen session, said Dupuy, who envisions the transfer in a relief role once he’s back to full health.
“He’s on a schedule to be back. At this point, he’s throwing about an inning at a time,” the coach said. “Hopefully we’ll get him back and strengthened up here by March.”