This is the first part of a four-part Louisiana Ragin' Cajun 2021 softball preview.

Today, the pitchers.

This will obviously be a major strength as Louisiana will enter the 2020 season with one of the best pitchers in the nation, in senior right-hander Summer Ellyson, along with a talented group of arms behind her.

Ellyson, who has compiled an impressive career record of 74-17, was named a Third-Team NFCA All-American, perceived by most as the most prestigious All-American selection in the sport, following the 2019 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.

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 finished the shortened 2020 season with an overall record of 11-1, to go along with a 1.83 ERA.

Louisiana will have to replace right-handed Megan Kleist, a 2018 NFCA First Team All-American and the Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year at Oregon, who went 7-5 with a 2.31 ERA. for UL last season.

Among the candidates to give the Cajuns meaningful innings includes sophomore right-hander Kandra Lamb, who went 3-0 with a 1.77 ERA. over 14 outings as a freshman in 2019, before redshirting last season.

Lamb reportedly was impressive in the fall and during the preseason, and it will be interesting to see how far along she's come.

Junior right-hander Casey Dixon, who has battled some injuries over her collegiate career, is another pitcher who was impressive in the fall and during the preseason.

A native of Willis, Texas, Dixon compiled an overall record of 9-3 with a 2.74 ERA. over her first two seasons (2018-2019), before not allowing a run over two innings of work in 2020.

Right-hander Carrie Boswell, who went a sparkling 9-0 over 23 appearances inside of the circle in 2019, before concentrating exclusively on hitting last season, has been tossing some bullpen sessions and is always an option, despite her still being mostly viewed as a hitter.

A couple of transfers also may figure into the mix, including left-hander Vanessa Foreman, an Arizona transfer, as well as right-hander Karly Heath, a transfer from South Carolina.

A sophomore from Lakewood, California, Foreman went 1-0 with a 3.75 ERA. over 9.1 innings pitched in 2019 at Arizona before sitting out last season.

A sophomore from North Augusta, California, Heath compiled a sparkling 13-0 record inside the circle over the previous two seasons at South Carolina, including a 5-0 mark in 2020.

Heath, who hit five home runs and drove in 16 runs for South Carolina in 2019, also may figure in as an outfielder.

Heath dealt with some injuries in the offseason however and is a few weeks behind the other pitchers. No decision has been made, but de to the fact that she is behind, and considering the depth the Cajuns have, she is a candidate to be redshirted, which would still give her three years of eligibility remaining.

If she doesn't get redshirted, Heath will be a valuable, versatile performer for Louisiana.

Taylor Snow, a talented right-handed from LaSalle High School in Columbia, Louisiana, is the lone freshman on the UL staff this year.

A first-team all-state performer in the prep ranks, Snow finished the 2019 season with an overall record of 25-4, to go along with a 0.71 ERA. and 215 strikeouts over 163 innings in the circle.

Like Heath, Snow may be a candidate to be redshirted, as the Cajuns are optimistic about her future. If she's not redshirted, she'll provide some valuable depth.

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

Lousiana opens its 2021 regular season schedule this Friday, taking on Missouri St. and Baylor in the first day of play in the 35th Louisiana Classics.

Last season, Louisiana was 18-6, ranked in everyone's top ten, and number one in the RPI poll when the season was shut down in mid-March due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

We'll never know how things would have played out, but it's almost certain UL would have hosted a regional for the first time since 2016, and very likely would have hosted a Super Regional for the first time since 2014.

Had this been the case, Louisiana would have headed to the NCAA Softball Tournament for the 22nd-consecutive year, while making an NCAA Regional appearance for the 30th time in the last 31 years.

The only year since 1990 in which UL failed to appear in a regional was 1998.

Louisiana is one of only 9 programs to appear in an NCAA Regional every year since 2000, joining Alabama, Arizona, Florida St., Michigan, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, UCLA, and Washington.

Tomorrow: the catchers.

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