It wasn’t difficult to see what topped the priority list for UL’s 2021 baseball signing class.
Ragin’ Cajuns coach Matt Deggs officially added 12 to his roster, and half of those were junior-college pitchers.
"The 12-player class is need-based and centered around the best fits for what we do as a program,” Deggs said. “Everything for us begins and ends on the mound, and we believe that we have signed some really good arms that not only have very high ceilings but also have a feel to pitch with their fastballs; all have the making of an out pitch, love to compete and have shown that they can field their positions and hold runners.”
The six junior-college pitchers are: Antoine Harris of Mississippi Gulf Coast JC, Tommy Ray of John A. Logan College in Illinois, Tony Rossi of Florida Manatee JC, Dylan Theut of Blinn College, Peyton Zabel of Iowa Western and Bo Bonds of Chipola College.
Theut is the only left-hander in that group, but the class also included two southpaw high school pitchers in Cole Elkins of Homstead High in Indiana and Barbe’s Adam Guth.
The position players include: Jack Clark from Texas, Barbe third baseman Kyle DeBarge, Benton utility player Clint Lasiter and Catholic High of Baton Rouge first baseman Mason Zambo.
“Speed and strength, combined with versatility, are what make up the four position players that we signed,” Deggs added. “All four are high school players that have advanced skillsets already and we believe they will push as soon as they arrive on campus.”
Zabel was a 19th-round pick by the Brewers two years ago.
"Peyton may just be the premier junior-college right-hander in the country this season,” Talbot said. “There is present big-league stuff to go along with a monster frame.The FB is already mid to upper 90's with a power breaking ball to finish hitters.”
Bonds had a 1.80 ERA with 39 strikeouts, and opponents only hit .136 against him.
"Bo is a versatile arm capable of being a dominant back-end bullpen piece or spot starter,” UL assistant Jeremy Talbot said. “He features a 90-92 attacking fastball, complimented by a wipeout swing and miss power curveball.
Originally from Chalmette, Harris was drafted by the Twins out of high school.
“He has worked hard at the junior college level to refine his craft and parlay that well of talent into a professional future on the mound,” Talbot said. “Already previously drafted by the Minnesota Twins out of high school, Harris is at present a low to mid 90's arm with that projects to of even more in the future.”
Ray only threw seven innings in the shortened 2020 season, but was 6-1 with a 2.01 ERA in 97-1/3 high school innings.
“He has weekend type stuff and will enable us to continue to run out physically imposing arms should we lose our current power arms to the draft this year,” Talbot said.
Rossi, who was offered by the Tigers after the spring season, had 30 strikeouts in 15 innings.
"Another big physical right-hander, Tony features power stuff with a fastball that has been up to 96 and consistently 92-94,” Talbot said.
Theut had a 0.49 ERA with 25 strikeouts in 18-1/3 innings in the spring.
"Dylan has the rare ability to induce swing and miss with his fastball which has been up to 93,” Talbot said. “There is funk and deception to his delivery that enabled him to put up dominant numbers at the Texas junior college level.”
Lasiter hit .436 for a state championship Benton club.
"Clint has been one of the premier bats in North Louisiana since his early high school days,” Talbot said. “He has present strength at contact and good barrel awareness, which could translate well to the Division I level.”
Zambo hit .414 with three homers as a junior.