Louisiana Tech baseball coach Lane Burroughs has never shied away from competition and the 2021 Bulldog schedule is proof of just that philosophy.
Tech opens its season this weekend in Baton Rouge when the Bulldogs face Notre Dame (Friday at 11 a.m.), Air Force (Saturday at 11 a.m.) and LSU (Sunday at 3:30 p.m.). All three games can be heard on the LA Tech Sports Radio Network with Teddy Allen calling the action.
“I saw someone picked Notre Dame as an Omaha sleeper,” said Burroughs, whose team was 11-6 last year before the season was cancelled due to COVID19. “We will have our hands full right out of the gate. We will face a left-handed pitcher that has been their guy for the last two years. He is a fifth-year senior. We know they will have a really good team this year.
“We have Air Force, who always has a good team. They will be disciplined, and they are coached so well. And then of course LSU. We feel like by the time we open up C-USA play, there should not be anything we haven’t seen. We will have faced some really good teams. We will be battle tested.”
With the type of experience and talent that Burroughs’ lineup card possesses this year, playing tough competition isn’t something that will concern the Tech skipper. The Bulldogs return every hitter from last year’s team, including preseason all-CUSA selections Parker Bates (.422, 8 HR, 28 RBI), Taylor Young (.309, 5 HR, 15 RBI), and Hunter Wells (.324, 1 HR, 15 RBI). Bates was tabbed the Conference USA Preseason Player of the Year by the league coaches as well as a number of other publications.
Steele Netterville was left off the preseason all-league team, despite hitting .407 with six home runs and 22 RBI in just 17 games in 2020. Offensive options are plentiful for Burroughs.
“Taylor Young told me the other night after our intra-squad, ‘I would hate to be you,’” said Burroughs. “He meant me having the challenge of making out a lineup every day. If you want to call it a problem, it is a good one to have.
“We have options and we can play match-ups. We have some really good players that aren’t going to be starting. We have talked about that. If someone is injured or if someone is sick – we are in a year that a guy could miss 10 days to two weeks in a drop of a hat — it feels great to have that depth.
“We have 12 or 13 hitters who have been in the program and know what we expect. We are going to need it. We have a tough schedule. It’s a bear. We are going to need that experience.”
On the bump, Tech returns all of its arms and welcomes eight newcomers as well. Jonathan Fincher (2-2, 2.66 ERA), Jarret Whorff (1-1, 3.47 ERA), Tyler Follis (0-0. 3.79 ERA) and Kyle Griffen (1-1, 3.10 ERA) are four of the top arms returning while Ryan Jennings returns from an injury that forced him out of last year.
“We need so many quality arms because it is going to be different this year with the four-game Conference USA series,” said Burroughs. “As far as our normal weekend rotation, every one of those guys is back. We feel like we have four or five really good starters. And we are going to need them and others to step up with the schedule we are facing.”
Tech was tabbed second in the West Division in the preseason Conference USA Coaches Poll, behind Southern Miss – a team that the Bulldogs will face eight times this year.
The Bulldogs will open their brand new stadium on Friday. Feb. 26 when they host Southern.
Photo: Ryan Bates courtesy of LA Tech Athletic Communications