2017 Squad Beginning to Take Shape for Diamond `Dogs

Dec. 26, 2016

RUSTON, La. - As Louisiana Tech Baseball wrapped up their fall practice in November, the shape of the 2017 roster was beginning to form as battles for playing time emerged in a talented roster under first-year head coach Lane Burroughs.

Louisiana Tech returns six of their eight position players in the playing field, while also bringing back designated hitter Jonathan Washam, bringing that total to seven-of-nine hitters from a team who finished runner-up in the Starkville Regional just a season ago. The Bulldogs also bring back their top seven batting averages from last years' squad , as well as 39-of-50 home runs hit.

With so many returning starters to a powerful lineup, there are but a few spots of for grabs, making the completion for them, all that more intense.

In the infield, Louisiana Tech fans will see Chase Lunceford at third base, Jordan Washam at second base and Cody Daigle at first. With the departure of Chandler Hall at shortstop, look for junior college transfer Dalton Skelton to take the reins, with senior Garrett Dodd also battling for playing time at the position.

Skelton, who led Jones County to an NJCAA National Championship in 2016, batted .313 for the Bobcats with a .891 OPS, 15 doubles, four triples, two home runs and 15 stolen bases without being caught a single time. He ranked third in the NJCAA with 155 assists and among players with 150 assists or more, he also ranked third in fielding percentage.

 

 

Dodd was with the Bulldogs last season and saw action in 35 contests. He carried a .324 batting average in 68 at bats, hitting five doubles, a triple and driving in seven runs. Dodd also stole four bases and held an OPS of .839.

Junior Brent Diaz remains the offensive option behind the plate for the Bulldogs, but defensively, Burroughs described senior Colby Hamilton as an incredible defensive catcher.

Diaz started 59 games last season for LA Tech and slugged eight doubles, three triples, five home runs and 31 RBI to go along with a .273 batting average. Hamilton appeared in seven games last season and threw out runners at 50 percent clip.

In the outfield, Louisiana Tech returns Raphael Gladu and Sean Ullrich leaving a centerfield slot open with the departure of Bryce Stark.

True freshman Parker Bates is currently battling junior college transfers Mason Mallard and Mason Robinson for that final spot in center.

In his final two seasons at Robert E. Lee High School, Bates posted batting averages over .350 on his way to earning all-East Texas honors during his senior campaign.

Mallard is coming off an NBC World Series appearance with NJCAA Team USA, after receiving third team all-American honors with Tyler Junior College. In his final season with Tyler JC, Mallard hit .389, stole 43 bases, scored 67 runs and posted a 1.109 OPS.

Robinson batted .293 last season for Wallace-Dothan Community College, hitting five home runs, sealing nine bases, driving in 33 runs, while also scoring 32 runs himself. His 19 doubles ranked top-70 in the nation. Robinson also launched a grand slam in Louisiana Tech's fall world series in early-November.

On the hill, the `Diamond Dogs will have to replace three major league draft picks from 2016 in Phillip Diehl, Adam Atkins and Braden Bristo, as well as Tyler Clancy who graduated last spring.

Casey Sutton, who was the Sunday starter for the Bulldogs last season, is likely to stay in the rotation in 2017, perhaps also remaining in the back-end of the weekend rotation as a Saturday or Sunday starter.

Kent Hasler, Tyler Follis, Austin Harrison, Cameron Linck and Graham Ahlrich are in the mix for starting spots, whether as mid-week starters or in the weekend rotation.

Hasler is a junior college transfer from Mesa Community College, where last year he posted a 9-1 record and 1.93 ERA in 102.1 innings. Hasler registered a 106/29 strikeout-to-walk ratio, striking out over a batter an inning for the Thunderbirds. Those numbers earned Hasler NJCAA all-American honors.

Follis is a true freshman from Sulphur Springs, Texas. In his time with Sulphur Springs, Follis registered a 35-7 record to go along with a 1.29 ERA and 330 strikeouts.

Harrison joins LA Tech after two years at Meridian Community College, where in 2016 he pitched a team-high 69.1 innings, posting a 6-2 record with 48 strikeouts.

Both Linck and Ahlrich were with the Bulldogs last season, as Linck started 11 games in 2016.

Linck registered a 4-1 record over 58.2 innings last season, posting a 3.38 ERA with 57 strikeouts. In the NCAA Tournament, Linck showed just how dominant he could be, holding nationally-ranked Cal State Fullerton to just two runs over six innings propelling the `Dogs to the regional final against Mississippi State. Earlier in the season in a game against FIU, Linck went 7.1 innings, striking out 10, while giving up just a lone earned run.

Ahlrich is another Bulldog who could break into the starting rotation after appearing in relief 18 times in 2016. Ahlrich displayed his stamina in the Conference USA Tournament going a season-high five innings against Rice and limiting the Owls to just one run.

In relief Nate Harris, who certainly has the "stuff" to be a starter, will be the go-to arm out of the pen for Burroughs who raved on the impact the senior made for the Bulldogs last season. Harris appeared in 28 games, all in relief, making five saves and striking out 72 in 67 innings.

Harris is as valuable as they come as a relief pitcher, possessing the ability to go through an opponents' lineup multiple times. Harris pitched three or more innings in relief on 12 different occasions in 2016 and twice went five innings in relief. It was in those long outings that Harris was at his best. In those 12 games, he lasted 43 innings and gave up just four runs ... good for an astounding 0.83 ERA and 10.5 K/9 (Strikeouts per nine innings).

To this point in the offseason, Matt Miller, a junior college transfer from Heartland Community College, is the favorite to land the closing job. Miller who is coming off of an arm injury pitched just four innings in two seasons at Heartland, not allowing a run.

However, during his high school days, Miller posted a 0.90 ERA at Aurora Central High School, which earned him the Christian Gold Player of the Year Award.

So while the Bulldogs return so many familiar faces from the 40-win squad of last season, Burroughs and company will also be looking to mix in a few new faces to the 2017 squad, working to build upon a memorable 2016 season for Louisiana Tech Baseball.

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