Lions baseball looks to improve after falling short in 2019 season


Gerard Borne/The Lion's Roar

Sophomore pitcher Grant Upton throws a pitch in the Feb. 8 Alumni game. The Lion’s next game will be at home on Feb. 18 against the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

After finishing the 2019 season 33-27, the university baseball team will look to lean on its 15 transferred players to make a big push in the 2020 season.

Of the 15 transfers, nine are from a junior or community college, and six are from another Division I university.

Head coach Matt Riser talked about the potential the new players showed during fall practice and how he expects them to compete this season.

“We have a good mix of transfers and a good mix of freshmen,” explained Riser. “To be completely honest with you, these guys have gone pretty hard this season. The fall training session, the early springs, and the intrasquad scrimmages all went really well. I can’t wait to see what they bring to the field and see what this team has.”

The sixth-year head coach shared why he thinks this year’s team will be an exciting group to watch.

“They’re going to be a fun team to watch this season,” said Riser. “They run hard, and they work really hard. At the end of the day, that’s all you can ask for.”

With Sam Houston State University winning the 2019 regular-season championship and McNeese State University winning the Southland Conference Tournament, Riser expects both teams to bring forth the same energy they did in 2019.

“A lot of teams are going to compete this season,” shared Riser. “You’re always going to have Sam Houston State stepping up. They always have a team that’s going to pop up and surprise you. Last season, it was McNeese. One time, it was Central Arkansas. Some years, it will be teams you never even expect to show up.”

After losing three starting infielders – Cody Grosse, Brennan Breaud and Kyle Schimpf – Riser predicts that some of the transfer players will fill the infield void.

“We have some transfers that are going to step up and be a force for us this season,” shared Riser. “Evan Keller from LSU Eunice, our second basemen will be Champ Artigues transfer from LA Tech, our first basemen will be Preston Faulkner. He has shown the ability to be a good defender along with providing some power in the lineup.”

With ace pitcher Corey Gaconi leaving for the MLB Draft, Riser shared who he thinks will fill in as the team’s ace.

“All three starters are going to be the ones we lean on,” said Riser. “Grant Upton, Justin Simanek and Will Warren. Daniel Dugas will help and do a good job with throwing strikes. If you look at the newcomers, the freshmen class has a lot of potential to do really good.”

The 1-1 Lions’ next game will be a rematch at home against the University of Louisiana at Lafayette on Tuesday, Feb. 18.