Jan. 27, 2012
Coming off a 34-win season, Louisiana Tech's 2012 schedule is highlighted by games against seven teams that made an appearance in last year's NCAA Tournament.
Head coach Wade Simoneaux and the Bulldogs will play a total of 56 games with 14 coming against postseason teams from a year ago. LA Tech has series scheduled against Vanderbilt, Arkansas, UALR, Creighton, Dallas Baptist, Oral Roberts and Fresno State, all teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament last season.
"Our team will be battle tested by the team we get to conference play," Simoneaux said. "We have a tough non-conference road schedule against teams that can really exploit our weaknesses. We want to find out where we stand prior to WAC play."
Louisiana Tech begins its season hosting University of Texas at Arlington Feb. 17-19 at J.C. Love Field. Tech travels to Little Rock, Arkansas to play defending Sun Belt Conference champion UALR on Feb. 22.
The Bulldogs will get arguably their toughest test of the season Feb. 29 when they travel to face nationally-ranked Vanderbilt for a game. The Commodores finished the 2011 season with the most wins in school history, 54, and were one of eight teams that advanced to the College World Series.
Another highlight of Louisiana Tech's slate will come March 14 when it travels to Ameritrade Park, home of the College World Series, for a game against defending Missouri Valley Conference champion Creighton.
Following the Creighton game, Tech travels to Lincoln to face former major league star Darin Erstad and the Nebraska Cornhuskers in a four-game series. Erstad is in his first season as the head coach at Nebraska after a stellar major league career that saw him play 14 years with Anaheim Angels, Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros.
The Bulldogs will host future WAC member Dallas Baptist for a three-game series beginning on March 23. Dallas Baptist finished the 2011 season ranked ninth in the nation in home runs and advanced to the Super Regionals of the NCAA Tournament.
Louisiana Tech begins conference play April 6 when they host Sacramento State for a three-game series. Tech also hosts WAC series against Hawaii (April 26-28) and San Jose State (May 4-6). The Bulldogs road conference series include Nevada (April 13-15), New Mexico State (April 19-21) and defending champion Fresno State (May 18-20).
The conference tournament begins on May 23 in Mesa, Arizona.
Tech returns 15 letter winners and six redshirts and welcomes 14 new players. The Bulldogs only have two seniors on the team. Louisiana Tech lost six seniors to graduation and three juniors to the MLB Draft. The 34 wins were the most for a Tech team since the 2007 season.
The 2011 season saw the Bulldogs' pitching staff shatter a number of single-season records, setting records for innings pitched (517.2) and saves (18). The pitching rotation lost two players to the MLB Draft, Mike Jefferson (22nd round by Pittsburgh) and Kyle Roliard (13th round by Kansas City), but return juniors Jeb Stefan and Trevor Peterson. Stefan and Peterson will anchor a rotation that is expected to be one of the strongest in the conference. Stefan led the WAC in fewest hits allowed by a starter (63) and led Tech with seven wins and pitched two complete games in 14 starts with one shut out. Peterson led all Bulldog pitchers with 16 games started, pitching 83.1 innings and compiling a 6-4 record with a 5.08 ERA.
Junior Jamie Gilley is expected to take over the third spot and redshirt freshman Chris Sadberry will round out the rotation. Gilley redshirted last season but pitched extremely well in the Fall World Series, leading all pitchers with a 1.00 ERA in two starts. He allowed one run on four hits in nine innings while striking out 13. Left-handed pitcher Sadberry started two games for LA Tech in 2011 before redshirting the season. He allowed three runs on six hits in 4.1 innings.
The bullpen is highlighted by closer Caleb Dudley. Dudley broke Tech's single-season saves and appearances records in 2011, while becoming one of the best finishers in the country. He went 5-2 in 2011 with a 3.30 ERA, 12 saves and 44 strikeouts in 57.1 innings pitched. He made 32 appearances, including two spot starts for the Bulldogs. He goes into the 2012 season only four saves away from tying Buddy Aulds for the top spot in Tech's history (18). Dudley recorded one save during the Fall World Series in 6.2 innings. He finished the five-game series allowing only one run on one hit with eight strikeouts.
Left-handers Sam Alvis and Ben Carlisle return to the bullpen as the primary set-up men for Dudley. Alvis became a shut-down lefty as he recorded a 3.79 ERA with 16 strikeouts in 19 innings. In 21 appearances, he held opposing hitters to a .232 batting average. In 2011, Carlisle made 16 appearances, including two starts for Tech and struck out 23 hitters in 26.2 innings pitched. Carlisle made three appearances in the Fall World Series. He picked up one win and allowed one run on five hits in 7.2 innings while striking out nine.
JUCO transfers James Ferguson and Nate Chambers and freshmen Phil Maton and Mitch Antony join the bullpen. Chambers had a great fall, as he picked up a win in his only start of the fall World Series. He pitched five innings of one run ball.
Maton compiled a 24-3 record with a 1.24 ERA and 227 strikeouts in 180.2 innings as a starter for Glenwood High School in Chatham, Ill. He made two appearances out of the bullpen during the Fall World Series, allowing four hits and struck out seven in six innings. Benn Fairbanks is also expected to join the bullpen as he attempts to recover from Tommy John Surgery.
Simoneaux is excited about his pitching staff and says it's one of the major strengths of the team going into the 2012 season.
"Stefan, Peterson and Gilley will anchor the rotation and Sadberry will probably be the fourth starter on this team," Simoneaux said. "We have Dudley, Carlisle and Alvis coming back to the bullpen and adding Ferguson, Chambers, Maton and Antony to it gives us a deep staff. We have four legitimate starters and eight guys in the bullpen that we are confident in."