This is the first part of a four-part Louisiana Ragin' Cajun 2020 softball preview.

Today, the pitchers.

This will obviously be a major strength as Louisiana will enter the 2020 season with arguably the best pitching staff in the nation, headlined by senior right-handers Summer Ellyson and Megan Kleist, who were both named All-Americans in previous years.

Ellyson, who has compiled an impressive career record of 63-16, was named a Third-Team NFCA All-American, perceived by most as the most prestigious All-American selection in the sport, last season.

Ellyson became the 33rd different player to land NFCA All-American honors in Louisiana softball history, while her selection increased the total number of All-American selections in program history to 54.

A product of Teurlings Catholic High School, Ellyson led the nation in victories in 2019, with 39, the second-most in a single season in UL softball history.

62-30 with a 1.30 ERA. over the last two seasons, Ellyson put together an incredible overall season, going 39-6 with a 1.11 ERA., while striking out 354 hitters over 272.1 innings pitched.

The 2019 Sun Belt Conference Pitcher of the Year, Ellyson helped guide the Cajuns to a 52-6 record last season, including a perfect 25-0 record in league play.

Ellyson, who was voted the Sun Belt Conference Preseason Pitcher of the Year for 2020, was also named a First Team All-Central Region selection by the NFCA last season.

A great as Ellyson was all of last season, the addition of Kleist may make her even better in 2020.

Early last season, Ellyson's velocity was topping out in the lower 70's, but because of the number of innings pitched she understandably wore down, and by the end of the season her velocity was down to around 66 mph.

The two will keep each other fresh, give Louisiana a chance to win every game they pitch in and maybe most importantly, make them just as effective in the postseason as they are in February/March.

Kleist will be returning to the diamond for the first time since 2018, after sitting out the 2019 campaign, after transferring to UL from Oregon

A 2018 NFCA First Team All-American and the Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year, Kleist will have one year of eligibility remaining with the Cajuns.

During her three-year stay in Oregon, Kleist won at least 15 games each year on the way to accumulating a 59-18 mark, while posting a 1.60 ERA over 477 innings pitched.

The 2016  Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, Kleist was awarded All-American accolades in 2017, while also being tabbed an NFCA All-Pacific Region selection three times.

In 2018, Kleist hit the 20-win mark for the second-consecutive year, going 21-7 with a 1.32 ERA, including 221 strikeouts in 179.2 innings pitched.

In the final 2018 NCAA rankings, Kleist ranked inside the Top 25 for earned run average, fewest hits allowed, shutouts, strikeout-to-walk ratio, total strikeouts, strikeouts per seven innings, victories and fewest walks allowed.

A native of Appleton, Wisconsin, along with Ellyson, gives Louisiana arguably the best one-two pitching duo in the nation.

Junior right-hander Casey Dixon and freshman right-hander Madison Garay are expected to add depth to the staff.

A native of Willis, Texas, Dixon has compiled an overall record of 9-3 with a 2.74 ERA. , including a 1.50 ERA. over seven appearances last season.

A native of Bay City, Texas, Garay accumulated 54 career wins at Bay City High School.

Right-hander Kandra Lamb, who went 3-0 with a 1.77 ERA. over 14 outings as a freshman last season, is expected to redshirt this season.

Right-hander Carrie Boswell, who went a sparkling 9-0 over 23 appearances inside of the circle last year, is expected to concentrate exclusively on hitting this season.

There is certainly no shortage of quality pitching for Louisiana, who has a staff most can only dream of.

Lousiana opens its 2020 regular season schedule this Friday, taking on Ball St. and UTSA in the first day of play in the 34th Louisiana Classics.

Tomorrow: the catchers.

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