Bulldogs Set to Open 2018 Season in Malibu
Feb. 15, 2018
MALIBU, Calif. - After wrapping up highly competitive fall and winter practice sessions, the Louisiana Tech baseball team is set to open the 2018 season on Friday, the first of four games this weekend against the Pepperdine Waves.
Friday’s first pitch is set for 2 p.m. PST, followed by a Saturday doubleheader starting at 11 a.m. PST and concluding with Sunday’s finale at 11 a.m. PST.
The new-look Bulldogs will begin this year’s campaign with plenty of new faces under second-year head coach Lane Burroughs. Tech will no doubt have holes to fill after the graduation of 15 seniors and three heading pro in last year’s MLB draft, but the uncertainty in the lineup has brought forth some spirited competition.
“We had 15 seniors last year,” Burroughs remarked. “I’ve been doing this for 24 years and I’ve never had that many seniors on a ball club. It makes it fun though. With a new team there is a lot of competition between positions and that makes every practice that much more important.”
Burroughs will call on returning junior right-hander Matt Miller to take the rubber for the season opener on Friday afternoon. Miller posted a 5.45 ERA last season, along with a 1-2 record on the year. In just over 36 innings pitched, the Aurora, Illinois, native struck out 30.
“Matt is a guy who logged a lot of quality innings last year, added Burroughs. “He’s been in the fire and he’s been in the battles and knows how to deal with stressful innings.”
On Saturday, one of the squad’s new faces will get the call in the first leg of the doubleheader. Junior college transfer Logan Robbins will make his Tech debut at 11 a.m. The Leakesville, Mississippi, product went 12-0 for Jones County JC last season while posting a 2.29 ERA across 66.2 innings pitched. Robbins also helped propel Jones County to a national championship in 2016, going 6-0 along with a save in 61.1 innings pitched as a freshman.
Pitching the back end of the two-game set is sophomore Tyler Follis. The Sulphur Springs, Texas, native made three starts for the ‘Dogs last season, and struck out 10 across 14.1 innings of work.
Rounding out the weekend set is transfer lefty Logan Bailey. The junior from Hallsville, Texas, played infield and pitched as a sophomore at Panola College, en route to a 2017 conference championship. On the mound, he went 12-2 with a 2.45 ERA while amassing 104 strikeouts over 80.2 innings pitched.
Along with the cast of capable starters, Tech returns experienced veterans who will bolster the bullpen – one of the main strengths of this year’s team according to Burroughs.
“Our pitching staff is very deep this year, said the second-year skipper. “I don’t see a Nate Harris – a Conference USA Pitcher of the Year type on this staff this year, but what I do see is depth in the bullpen. I think that can be a major strength of our club.”
“You talk about guys like Kent Hasler, who started last year as our Friday night guy and ended up being our closer. He’s got tremendous makeup – just a quality young man and a competitor. He wants the baseball. Graham Ahlrich is also back for his senior season and is a guy who pitched on the regional team. He’s a guy that you can use in so many different roles. He’s so versatile. He could start a game or close a game. He can eat a lot of innings up and bridge that gap between your starter and your closer. He’s got the ability to come in and get a strikeout when we need it. And that’s something we have this year that we didn’t have last season.”
“We have three of four guys in that bullpen that can come in and get a punch-out when we need it most. Three-out guys, six-out guys, whatever it may be, there’s depth – and I think it will be a strength of our ball club.”
On the offensive side of the ball, senior shortstop Dalton Skelton enters 2018 as the only returning position player from a season ago.
However, the projected starting lineup for Burroughs’ squad features several junior college transfers who have been through the grind of collegiate baseball and are accustomed to the grind of the long college season.
Having never faced Pepperdine in its history, Tech will have little to go upon when facing its season-opening foes on Friday. The Waves finished last season 20-32 and failed to qualify for the West Coast Conference Tournament for the first time since 2013.
Pepperdine returns five of its nine offensive starters from 2017 including junior outfielder Jordan Qsar, who hit .269 for the Waves with two home runs, and sophomore middle infielder Quincy McAfee, who played all but one game for the Waves, batting .249 with 54 hits, good for second on the team.
All three games will be streamed live on theW.tv. SportsTalk 97.7 will carry Friday and Sunday's games, with Saturday's doubleheader streamed live on the LA Tech X Mobile App, with David Gascon on the call for all four of the weekend’s contests. Live updates will be available by following @LATechBSB on Twitter.
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