Mardi Gras is just four day away, but Maryland baseball is celebrating early with a road trip down to Lafayette, Louisiana, to play the Ragin’ Cajuns for a weekend series.
Louisiana-Lafayette is off to a rough start this season, going into the weekend series with a 1-6 record. However, three of those games were in a series against then-No. 23 Texas and all three games were close.
The Ragin’ Cajuns haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2016, but this year’s team was the preseason favorite to win the West Division of the Sun Belt Conference. They also have home-field advantage this weekend, and with all of the excitement leading up to Mardi Gras, the atmosphere will make it a tough environment for Maryland to play in, especially with the Terps’ new and young roster.
The Terps are coming into the weekend riding a five-game winning streak, having won at VCU on Tuesday, 4-3. Maryland also has reigning Big Ten Player and Freshman of the Week Maxwell Costes, who went 4-for-9 over the weekend against Maine, driving in six runs, including four in Sunday’s 9-6 win.
But Maryland’s starting pitching has been its biggest strength so far. Senior Hunter Parsons has a 1.38 ERA in two starts, giving up two earned runs and seven hits over 13 innings pitched. Last weekend, Parsons threw eight shutout innings against Maine in a dominating performance. After a rough outing in his Maryland debut, Zach Thompson settled down well against Maine, throwing 6.2 innings of two-run ball and carrying a shutout into the seventh. Freshman Trevor LaBonte was a surprise last weekend, allowing one run in five innings in his first career start.
Still, Louisiana-Lafayette will be the first true road series for several players, including the latter two starting pitchers. Let’s take a closer look at the Ragin’ Cajuns.
Louisiana-Lafayette struggled at the plate as a team last season, hitting .242/.323/.348, and offensive struggles for this team have been constant in recent years. Coming into 2019, the Ragin’ Cajuns lost five arms from their pitching staff, but they got a massive boost from the return of left-handed starting pitcher and 2017 Sun Belt Pitcher of the Year Gunner Leger, who hasn’t given up an earned run so far in five innings of work.
While Louisiana-Lafayette will rely on Leger to be its big-time starter, it will take some time for him to return to full health. The early stars have been Dalton Horton and Jacob Schultz, who both have ERAs under 1.00, giving up a combined two earned runs in 21.1 innings of work. All three have a sub-.200 batting average against, so Maryland will need to capitalize on their opportunities early on.
As Leger works his way back to 100 percent health Austin Perrin started last Friday’s game against Sam Houston State, throwing six innings of six-hit, three-run ball, striking out two. Perrin currently has a 5.23 ERA this season, giving up six earned runs in 10.1 innings of work, giving up three runs in 3.1 innings of work in his first start of the season.
On the offensive end, Hunter Kasuls and Handsome Monica have led the charge. Both are currently hitting over .300 and slugging over .560, with 21 combined hits, three home runs and eight RBI. Maryland’s pitchers will be focusing their attention on them for sure.
Friday’s game begins at 7:30 p.m. ET. The teams play again at 3 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.