♫ Should I stay or should I go? ♫
The Clash probably weren’t thinking about Louisiana Tech’s baseball roster construction when writing that song. Because if they were, they forgot one important part of the process: the players that decided to come to Tech.
Newcomers are always a bit hard to judge until you see them play. And often, it may take a season or two for their talent to reaiiy shine through. But one player that will probably have a huge part in the success of this year’s team is Ben Brantley.
The freshman first baseman was a top 500 recruit coming out of high school and the 32nd best first base recruit in the country. To top that, Brantley is the highest rated first baseman out of the state of Mississippi.
The baseball prospect site Perfect Game ranks players on a scale from 0-10, and Brantley came in at a very respectable 9, which translates to “Potential top-10 round pick and/or highest level college prospect”. Sprinkle in his All-Mississippi honors during his Junior and Senior seasons, and Brantley is one of the most highly touted recruits for Tech in recent history.
Another freshman expected to be in the lineup on opening day is Jorge Corona, a catcher from Florida.
Coming out of high school, Corona was ranked as the 419th catcher in the nation, which doesn’t seem all that impressive. But the Kansas City Royals saw something in him when they drafted him in the 39th round.
Between convincing Corona to turn down the draft bid and stealing a football recruit from Harvard, I can only assume Tech has become a recruiting powerhouse due to all those new parking lots around campus.
Corona isn’t the only freshman catcher Tech carries on their roster this year, with Kyle Hasler also joining the team. Hasler wasn’t ranked coming out of high school, but Head Coach Lane Burroughs has mentioned he might get the chance start some this season.
And if the name Hasler sounds familiar, you might be thinking of Kent Hasler, Kyle’s brother, who pitched for Tech only a few years ago.
Wrapping up the freshmen is Cole McConnell, an outfielder from Texas. The 88th ranked OF in the state might see some action as a pinch hitter this season when Tech needs a lefty bat.
Adarius Myers was on campus last year, but sat out with a redshirt. Coming out of high school, Myers was ranked the 143rd overall outfielder recruit in the nation, and the 6th best in Mississippi.
Perfect Game listed him as the 22nd best incoming freshman to the conference last year, partially due to his back-to-back Mississippi 3A Player of the Year awards.
With his redshirt year behind him, Myers should make an immediate impact on this team.
The Good News: Tech went out and got a stellar Junior College pitcher that could have helped soften the blow from losing our entire starting rotation.
The Bad News: He’s currently injured.
Ryan Jennings was expected to be the Friday night starter before experiencing an elbow injury that’s kept him off the practice field. There’s no structural damage to the elbow, but it’s still unknown when Jennings will make his Bulldog debut.
At Wharton Junior College, the right hander posted a 3.76 ERA over 64.2 innings, which was more innings than any pitcher threw for Tech last year.
Speaking of JUCO right handed pitchers, Tech also added Shamar Page to this year’s team. Page put up a 2.76 ERA over the 166 innings he pitched in his two year stint at Pearl River Community College.
The specialty for Page is strikeouts: While at PRCC, he averaged 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings. Tech will face stiffer competition in Conference USA than Page did at the JUCO level, but a 10.9 K/9 would have placed Jennings third on the team a year ago.
It’s impossible to tell how good a player will be when they take a leap from one level to another. But Tech has put together a good unit of newcomers that will be immediately make an impact and fill in to some of the team’s most needed areas.
So now that we’ve talked about the players for three straight days, tomorrow let’s move on to something a bit more daunting: the schedule.