As the Cajuns prepare to open the 2009 season Friday against Ole Miss, the pitching staff will be the center of attention. The Cajuns will return the 2008 Sun Belt Pitcher of the Year, Ashley Brignac, and Second Team All Sun Belt Conference Pitcher Donna Bourgeois. The Cajuns will also return a healthy Brittany Cuevas that posted a 31-11 record in 2007.
The Cajuns' trio of pitchers, dubbed the Killer B's by UL public address announcer Robert Harris, stung opponents throughout the season. The trio of Donna Bourgeois, Ashley Brignac and Brittany Cuevas stung 585 batters in 436.2 innings of work. Brignac and Bourgeois ranked in the Top-100 in the NCAA in strikeouts per seven innings. Brignac was 11th with 10.0 strikeouts per seven innings, while Bourgeois (38th) boasted an 8.2 average. The Killer B's amassed 52 wins ranking the Cajuns' 12th in the nation in win-loss percentage. Brignac's 31 victories ranked 11th among the NCAA stat leaders.
The Infield will have a different look in the middle with the departure of Vanessa Soto and Brooke Brodhead . Speedy sophomore Katy Smith (.370, 60 hits, 39 runs and 20 SB) will move to second base from left field. 2007 starter Codi Runyan (.280, 12 HR, 45 RBI) will return to short stop after sitting out the 2008 season injured. Sophomore Gabriele Bridges (.236, 46 hits, 11 HR, 41 RBI) will return at first base, after a solid freshman season. A healthy Melissa Verde (.294, 42 hits, 7 HR, 42 RBI) will return at the hot corner and provide solid defense. The infield should be solid with the return of Runyan at shortstop and a healthy Verde at third base.
The 2009 outfield will have more speed with the departure of All-American Holly Tankersley. All Sun Belt Conference Outfielder Karli Hubbard (.389, 74 hits, 48 runs, 15 SB) returns to center field. She will be flanked in right by Vallie Gaspard (.404, 51 hits, 49 runs, 13 SB) that had a break out year in 2008. Two highly touted freshmen, Erikka Murphy and Ashley Ray will play major roles in the outfield this season. While Tankersley's bat will be missed, the 2009 outfield will be better defensively.
Returning behind the plate will be 2008 All-Sun Belt Catcher Lana Bowers (.261, 55 hits, 49 runs, 9 HR, 49 RBI). Bowers is one of the best in the country behind the plate, she had just one error in 577 chances for a .998 fielding percentage. Lana gives the Cajun pitchers one of the best battery mates in the country and sets the defense from behind the plate.
The 2009 edition of the Cajuns have the look of a regional team, but this year the name of the game will be pitching and defense. While the Cajuns will continue to have some power in the lineup with Bridges, Verde, Bowers and Runyan, timely hitting will be the key to the offense this season.
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