2014 UL Softball Preview: Outfielders
UL sophomore outfielder Shellie Landry
Two key contributors from 2013, along with two talented newcomers, and a group of versatile returnees will headline the outfield for Louisiana's Ragin' Cajun softball team in 2014.
Louisiana will have to replace All-Sun Belt Conference performer Brianna Cherry this season. Cherry, who always had the tools to be one of the nation's very best, put up the numbers to match her tools with a breakout campaign in 2013, hitting a .393, to go along with 14 home runs, and 55 RBI's.
Keep in mind however, that Cherry didn't become a full-time starter until her junior year, and had plenty of growing pains along the way.
I mention that, because on this year's Louisiana team, one that features only two seniors and three juniors, only one of those in an outfielder. So, while talented, coaches and fans must allow this group of outfielders the chance to develop and get better as the year goes on.
Shellie Landry, a sophomore form St. Thomas More High School in Lafayette, La. returns for her sophomore year, after an impressive freshman campaign, one in which she hit a .294, while belting 15 home runs, which ranked second on the team, while driving in 61 runs, which also ranked second on the squad.
Landry has all the tools, and put up good enough numbers in her first year, to be one of the all-time UL greats by the time her career is done. She has 20-home run power, and is an extremely underrated athlete.
Speaking of her athletic ability, because of her outstanding arm, Landry is expected to make the move from left-field to right-field this year.
Scary, after putting up the type of numbers she did last year, but I expect Landry to be even better in 2014, becoming not only a fixture in the middle of the batting order, but also one of the most feared hitters in the country.
Freshman Haley Hayden helped guide West Monroe High School to a district championship in 2011. She can play the infield, but will start her college career as an outfielder, likely in centerfielder, where she can show off her speed and athleticism.
Hayden hit a .500 in her senior year in 2012, with seven home runs, and double-digit stolen bases, so she can do a little bit of everything.
After having a great fall, and showing off her versatile skills, Hayden will be fun to watch in 2014, while getting Cajun fans excited over the type of player she has the potential to develop into.
Freshman Sarah Arceneaux was an all-state selection in 2012 at St. Thomas More High School in Lafayette, La., after batting a .531 with four homers and 49 RBI’s.
Arceneaux played the infield in high school, and has the ability to play there in college, but after a great fall is on track to be the opening day left-fielder for the Cajuns.
Like Hayden, Arceneaux is talented, and versatile. She had a number of tools, and can beat the opposition in various ways.
Also like Hayden, Arceneaux is young, so while she should be a stalwart on the UL team over the next four years, she needs some time to make the adjustment to college softball.
Leandra Maly returns to the outfield, after starting 51 games a season ago.The junior, from Pearland, Texas hit a .268 in 2013, after transferring from Blinn Junior College.
Offensively, Maly is a slapper, who can turn on the ball, from time-to-time, while providing speed, coverage of the outfield, and a good arm, defensively.
Primarily a right-fielder last year, Maly will likely see time in all three spots this season.
Maly's speed, defense, and versatility, are what makes her so valuable to any team, and coach Michael Lotief is going to try to utilize all those assets the best he can.
Taylor Meaux, a sophomore from Vermilion Catholic High School in Abbeville, La. adds some quality depth. Meaux is a good defensive player, as well as a solid base runner, and can be used accordingly.
Gabrielle Felps, a sophomore from St. Amant high School in Gonzales, La. returns from last year's squad. Felps, who can also play the infield, hit a .308, with a homer in 13 at-bats as a freshman. Look for her to contribute even more in 2014.
Marie Hoag, a sophomore from Catholic-New Iberia is another returnee. She gives the Cajuns speed, athleticism, and the ability to play multiple positions.
Cassidy White, who appeared in 33 games a season ago, mostly as a pinch-runner, may fill that role again this year.
A sophomore from Flower Mound, Texas, White is another Cajun that plays solid defense, and can win a game for you on the base paths.
Kendall Smith, the younger sister of former UL great Katie Smith will be fun to watch develop over the next four years. The freshman from Ruston, La., much like her older sister, brings big time speed, along with the ability to run down balls in the gaps, to the table.
Freshman Aleah Craighton will be redshirted, in all likelihood, this year. The graduate of Dutchtown High School has great upside, with an exciting skill-set, featuring speed, and is expected to contribute heavily, as she refines her skills.
Kassidy Zeringue, a tremendous athlete who was a member of the UL soccer team as a freshman in 2013, and lettered in softball, soccer, and swimming at Lutcher High School in Lutcher, La., also factors into the equation as well. She stole over 60 bases as a high school senior, and could make an impact this year.
The outfield is young, but extremely talented, and also features a lot of depth.
Because of that depth, don't think that the outfield they put on the field on opening day will necessarily stay that way. There are a number of players that bring different skill-sets to the table, who are more than capable of beating the opposition in various ways.
Outfield play, and production, will be vital for the Cajuns, if they are to compete for a Sun Belt Conference championship in 2014, and make it to another NCAA Regional.
This is the final segment of a four-part UL softball season preview.
Last week, on Thursday, we previewed the Louisiana pitchers.
On Friday of last week we previewed the UL catchers.
Earlier this week, on Monday, we previewed the infielders for the Cajuns.
Louisiana will open up their 2014 regular season softball schedule this Friday, February 7, when they take on Northern Iowa and Texas in the first day of the 2014 Louisiana Classics at Lamson Park