Feb. 13, 2013
RUSTON - Headed up by 10 seniors and 13 juniors, the 2013 Louisiana Tech baseball team is an experienced bunch more than any other in head coach Wade Simoneaux's 11-year tenure as the man in charge of the Bulldogs.
Ten seniors is the most in Simoneaux's time at Tech, and with a record of 27-28 in 2012, Simoneaux returns a team full of players who were a part of history, as last year's team had the best showing of any team in the program's history after advancing to the semifinals of the Western Athletic Conference Tournament.
Although the team eventually fell to former conference foe Fresno State one game prior to the championship matchup, the Bulldogs are set to enter the 2013 season with high hopes as they begin their last year as a WAC member before joining Conference USA next season.
"Our guys were disappointed we did not win the tournament because we thought we could win it last year, and it was tough with the bracket we were in," Simoneaux said. "This is the largest senior class in my 11 years at Tech. Add to it 13 juniors, and it should equal an exciting, veteran club for us this season."
Tech returns 20 letterwinners to this year's squad after the loss of three impact players to graduation and the 2012 Major League Baseball Draft in first baseman Alex Williams, pitcher Jeb Stefan and outfielder Justin Gordey.
Even with losses at critical positions, with senior leadership at an all-time high, Simoneaux is getting ready to begin the 2013 season with a veteran squad in tow.
"It is good to have those returners because with the new guys, younger guys and junior college guys, you are going to have some growing pains and learning curves with when they are really going to pick up the way you want things done."
Looking ahead to the 2013 schedule, the Bulldogs are set to face six teams that made the NCAA Baseball Tournament in 2012 in a combined 21 games scheduled this coming season against those teams, 11 of those to take place on Tech's home field in Ruston. Those six teams include mid-week matchups against Baylor and Rice, as well as series against UT Arlington, New Mexico State, Dallas Baptist and Oral Roberts.
Playing a total of 56 games, Tech will host eight home series, five of those being Western Athletic Conference contests, including marquee matchups against Nebraska, who hosted Tech last season, Oral Roberts and Stephen F. Austin at J.C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park.
A 12-game home stretch highlights this year's schedule, as the Bulldogs will host three straight weekend series and three mid-week games from March15-31.
Entering its 12th and final season as a member of the WAC, Tech will have to face off against new competition before officially joining Conference USA after the 2013 season.
Six of Tech's nine conference series will be against WAC newcomers Seattle U, UT Arlington, Texas State, CSU Bakersfield, Dallas Baptist and UTSA, with three of those taking place in Ruston.
Although the team will have to face new competition in conference play this season, the Bulldogs will see a few familiar faces in New Mexico State, Sacramento State and San Jose State in the final contests between these teams as WAC opponents.
The Bulldogs will open the season Feb. 15, 16 and 17 with a three-game non-conference series against UT Arlington in a series that was agreed upon before the Mavericks' move to the WAC this season.
Tech will also face off against three in-state foes in 2013 with a road series scheduled with the Cowboys of McNeese State and mid-week contests with Grambling State and Northwestern State.
"As far as our overall record, we play a tough schedule," Simoneaux said. "We play 20-25 games against teams that were in the NCAA Regionals last year. We hope to be one of those teams that are in the NCAA Regionals this year, and we need to butt heads with teams like that to have an opportunity to show we can make it."
With the help of a rebuilt Western Athletic Conference, the LA Tech baseball team will become familiar with the Lone Star State as the Bulldogs will face seven different teams from the state of Texas, with four of those scheduled as conference series.
The 2013 WAC Tournament is also set to be held in Grand Prairie, Texas, for the first time in the history of the conference May 22-26, with the tournament field increasing from six teams last year to eight this season.
The Bulldogs return three reliable veterans behind the plate in juniors Tyler Qualls and Kyle Arnsberg, and sophomore Jacob Derouen with all three players set to see valuable time behind the plate in 2013.
"We have three good catchers, Derouen being one of those along with Arnsberg and Qualls," Simoneaux said. "Those are three veteran catchers that, in my eyes, could run the show back there by themselves without us calling pitches."
Qualls, a native of Jackson, Mo., was a force both at the plate and defensively for Tech in 2012. Not only is he an experienced mitt behind the plate for the Bulldogs, but Qualls will also be a force in the batter's box after notching a .336 batting average and 20 runs batted in last year.
Qualls will split time with Arnsberg, a junior from Arlington, Texas who will also see time at the designated hitter position for the Bulldogs when not behind the plate. Arnsberg started 29 games last season and saw action in 40, hitting .278 with 25 runs, five doubles and a homerun in 2012.
Derouen saw action in 21 games as a redshirt freshman in 2012, hitting .241 in 29 at bats. The Lafayette native is set to see plenty of playing time for the Bulldogs in 2013 both behind the plate and as a designated hitter alongside Qualls and Arnsberg.
Sophomore Phil Maton, a freshman All-American selection last season, will return as the Friday night starter for the Bulldogs, while Petersen and Richie Navari, a junior college transfer, will start on the mound on Saturday and Sunday respectively.
"We are going to pitch deeper this year," Simoneaux said. "We are going to pitch one through 12, whereas last year we probably pitched one through seven or eight. That is going to show up in our midweek games with Rice, Baylor and teams like that. I do not know if we are going to have a pitching advantage, but we are going to be highly competitive in midweek games because of our pitching depth."
Eight veteran pitchers will be available out of the bullpen for Tech in 2013, including returners Ben Carlisle, Doss, and Alvis, along with newcomers Omar Ugarte, Adam Derouen, Tucker Ward, Luke Giddens, Laetten Galbraith and Clark Carlisle. The addition of several junior college pitchers should give the Bulldogs added depth on the mound this coming season.
Tech returns an experience group to the infield in 2013, with all-WAC honoree Ryan Gebhardt at shortstop, Taylor Terrasas and Austin Hedges splitting time at second, and Ryan Jones returning from injury to play third base.
"With Gebhardt, Hedges, and we also have Terrasas in the middle, we are very strong up the middle," Simoneaux said of the middle of the infield.
Junior college transfer Tyler Ervine will take the place of Alex Williams at first to round out the infield for the 'Dogs, while Arnsberg and Bre'shon Kimbell will also see time at first base this season.
Burch, who started in right field for Tech last season, has certainly earned the respect of his teammates and head coach for the wide variety of skills he has showcased this offseason.
"He is a 6-foot-5 gazelle out there," Simoneaux said. "He may lead the country in centerfield assists this year. He is very good in centerfield, he covers a lot of ground and he is going to be a weapon for us this year."
Season tickets for the upcoming season are available now and can be purchased by calling the Tech Ticket Office at 318-257-3631, emailing email@example.com or logging on to www.LATechSports.com.
For complete coverage of LA Tech baseball, follow @LATechBSB on Twitter or visit the official home of Louisiana Tech athletics at www.LATechSports.com.