Looking at the Southeastern Louisiana University: Starting Pitching

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Sophomore righthander Brandon Efferson looks ready to take a starting role

FROM CBB NEWS SOURCE

The first of a five-part weekly breakdown of the 2009 Southeastern Louisiana University Baseball Team leading up to Opening Week.

HAMMOND – To say the 2009 Southeastern Louisiana University baseball team’s pitching staff has a tough act to follow is a bit of an understatement. The 2008 Lions claimed the Southland Conference team ERA title with a 4.26 mark (244 ER/516.0 IP), took the league’s team strikeout title with 481 punchouts and boasted the individual league champ in each category in Brent Varnado (3.33 ERA) and Wade Miley (119 K) en route to a 32-27 season and a trip to the SLC Tournament semifinals.

Unfortunately, for Southeastern, the Lions saw Miley depart after being selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the supplemental first round of last June’s Major League Draft, while Varnado, Josh Black, Rene’ LeBlanc and Adam Jones graduated after the 2008 campaign.

In total Southeastern will look to replace 20 wins, 48 starts, seven complete games and 343 strikeouts. However, head coach Jay Artigues says the 2009 version of the Lions’ rotation will be up to the task.

“You don’t try to fill those shoes,” Artigues said. “Those guys, Wade and Brent, went off and did a great job when they were here. But we expect really big things of some of these guys coming in. The good thing about this staff is that we’re actually deeper on the mound this year.

“It’s very important to have that when you’re playing five nights a week. That extra game puts a lot of pressure on your staff. To have the number of quality guys that we have to go out there takes some stress off of everyone. You’re not leaning on the same guys early in the year and they don’t get as tired later in the year. This year’s club has that luxury more so than we have in the past.”

With opening day still more than a month away, Artigues and his staff are still looking for the last few pieces of the rotation to step forward before finalizing the weekend rotation and assigning midweek starts. However, they like what they have seen so far as six main candidates have made the Lion coaching staff take notice.

Sophomore righthander Brandon Efferson, who was selected in the 17th Round of the MLB Draft by the New York Mets following a standout high school career returns after cutting his teeth with the Lions as freshman in 2008.

Senior righthander Chris Cappo, who saw action in the bullpen and in the starting rotation last season, will look to return to the form he had in 2007 when he pitched the Lions to a win over Tulane before injuries shortened his season.

Meanwhile, sophomore lefthander David Smith returns to the Lions after impressing the Lion coaching staff with how much progress he has shown during the offseason.

The Lions’ three returning front runners are joined by a trio of transfers in junior righthanders Ryan Boudreaux and Tyler Watkins and junior lefty Shawn Herring.

“All six of these guys are very capable of filling these starting roles,” Artigues said. “We have a good mix of guys who can go out and just take over games and guys who are going to get a lot of ground balls and get a lot of innings. That’s what gives you the chance to win the ballgame and the series.”

The first test of the Lions’ reloaded rotation will come in the form of defending Ohio Valley Conference champion Eastern Illinois. First pitch of the 2009 season is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Feb. 20 against the Panthers. By then, Artigues and his staff will know who is ready to pick up where the Lions’ 2008 starting squad left off.

The Returners:

Chris Cappo – Sr. – RHP – 6-4 – 223 – Chalmette, La./Brother Martin HS

Jay Artigues Says: “Chris has taken tremendous strides in his senior year. He’s become the leader of the staff and really taken everyone under his wing. He’s been with us four years here at Southeastern and he should really solidify himself as one of our top arms entering the season. He started as a true freshman, but injuries kind of pushed him back. Now he’s healthy again, if he stays healthy he should really push for one of those spots.”

Brandon Efferson – So. – RHP – 5-11 – 175 – Zachary, La./Zachary HS

Jay Artigues Says: “Efferson has been a guy that has done a super job for us. Last year we were fortunate that we didn’t have to throw him to the wolves. He came into here after getting drafted by the Mets and because we had so many senior arms, we were able to gradually work him in there and give him the experience he needs. This year he has really solidified himself and proven that he can pitch on weekends.”

David Smith – So. – LHP – 6-2 – 215 – New Orleans, La./Brother Martin HS

Jay Artigues Says: “David Smith is another sophomore, a lefty out of Brother Martin. He’s done a great job in the offseason of improving his control. He has so much movement on his fastball and now he’s learned how to control that. If he stays that way, he could really compete for a spot as well.”

The Newcomers:

Ryan Boudreaux – Jr. – RHP – 6-4 – 225 – Gonzales, La./LSU-Eunice

Jay Artigues Says: “Ryan was the ace of the staff at LSU-Eunice last year and helped them win the Division II JUCO national title. He has done a great job coming in here. He reminds me a lot of Brent Varnado, in that he fills up the strike zone and he’s not going to get you beat. He’s always going to throw strikes and give you a chance to win every time out.”

Shawn Herring – Jr. – LHP – 6-1 – 193 – Florence, Ala./Northwest Shoals CC

Jay Artigues Says: “Shawn Herring is at lefty that pitches on both sides of the plate. He’s more of a swing-and-miss type of pitcher. Pro scouts have shown some interest in him. He has the potential to come in and be one of the top arms in this league.”

Tyler Watkins – Jr. – RHP – 6-5 – 203 – Petal, Miss./Pearl River CC

Jay Artigues Says: “Tyler Watkins is a big right hander out of Pearl River. He’s not overpowering, but he has a lot of movement on his pitches. Everything cuts, everything moves. The thing about Tyler is that he fills up the strike zone. He doesn’t walk anybody. If he does that with the cutter he throws consistently for strikes, he is going to get a lot of ground balls and that wins in our league.”