Can UL Softball Triple Their Home Run Output Next Season?
How many home runs can the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns hit in the 2019 college softball season?
It's a legitimate question, because Louisiana wasn't really adept at hitting the long ball in 2018.
The Cajuns hit only 23 homers as a team, ranking only 9th among Sun Belt Conference teams.
Despite the lack of power, Louisiana still put together a memorable year, winning 41 games, capturing every conference series, staying in the top 25 rankings all season, and finishing just one win shy of an NCAA Super Regional.
Now, home runs aren't everything; after all, Coastal Carolina led the league in home runs in 2018, with 75; which is close to three times as many as UL, and yet the Chanticleers barely qualified for the conference tournament.
Still, based on the tremendous year they had in 2018, along with the talent they have returning in 2019, one would think that if Louisiana improves their power numbers that they can be pretty special next season.
I think they will certainly hit more homers; but how many more?
Will they double their home run output?
Could they even triple their home run output?
I say the number will fall between the two.
First off, you can expect the Cajuns to hit more homers next season just because they have at least an idea of who will be hitting in the middle of the order, and it will be the second year of the hitting system.
Keep in mind; Louisiana lost two All-Americans, both major power hitters, who both transferred to other schools, just two months before the season began last season, and they had to adjust to another coach, along with another hitting system, with no fall practice.
Heading into the fall, the returning players will have more defined roles, and they will be more comfortable in the system, which I can't overstate.
When a new coaching staff comes in, it takes some time to put in their system. Gerry Glasco, who can teach hitting, didn't have that luxury last season.
It's almost impossible to put in a new hitting system in just two months, with no fall practice.
Look for returning players like Lexie Comeaux, Casidy Chaumont, Kourtney Gremillion, and Alissa Dalton to improve their home run numbers simply because they'll be more comfortable with their mechanics, and because they'll all be a year older.
As for as the newcomers, they will certainly add a major power boost.
Raina O'Neal, who should see regular time in the outfield next season, belted 12 home runs for Texas Tech in 2017.
That number led the Red Raiders, and ranked second in the entire Big XII.
O'Neal, who is a tremendous athlete, sat out last season, but practiced all year with the Cajuns.
There is not reason not to expect 10-15 homers from her next season.
Brittany Holland, an infielder, is not officially a newcomer, but she played in only three games last season, prior to a knee injury.
Holland, who played one season at Central Arizona College, was named an NJCAA first team All-American following the 2017 season, after hitting a .471, to go along with 15 home runs and 81 runs batted in.
I thought Holland would lead the team in homers last season, so losing her put a big dent in the power numbers.
That's another thing; UL wasn't expected to have this big power team in 2018, and then lost a middle of the order hitter just three games into the season.
Had Holland played last season, she would have hit a few homers, and she would have protected a few more hitters, allowing them to hit more long balls.
Having her back will be big, and I expect 10-15 long balls from her.
The latest addition for the Cajuns, Ashlee Snyder of Salt Lake Community College, one of the premier hitters in the junior college ranks, is very exciting.
A native of Lakewood, California, Snyder hit a .531, to go along with with 34 home runs and 121 runs batted in.
For her efforts, Snyder was named the NJCAA Region 18 Player of the Year and the Scenic West Athletic Conference Player of the Year, is expected to add All-American honors to her list of 2018 accolades.
In two seasons at SLCC, Snyder hit 52 homers, to go along with 189 RBI's while striking out only three times.
I understand; those numbers were in junior college, but she's a major power threat, so projecting 15-20 homers from her is very conservative.
I think O'Neal, Holland, and Snyder should combine for 30-40 homers, and could combine for 45-50.
They could double the home run output from last season between the three of them.
Comeaux, who led the team with 6 homers in 2018, should approach double-digits next season, and Chaumont, who has enormous power potential, may do the same.
Expect Dalton and Kourtney Gremillion to pull the ball more next season, resulting in more homers.
And I'm not even factoring in the homers of players like Kara Gremillion and Carrie Boswell.
If you add up the projected numbers, it's possible Louisiana could hit 70 homers next season, which would triple their output from this season.
And while that's possible, that's still a significant jump, so I'm going to play it safe, and say they'll hit 60.
As the Cajuns proved in 2018, you don't need a lot of power to win.
It certainly helps however; and with the pitching, defense, speed, hitting, and experience returning, the added power potential should get UL softball fans excited about next season.
They recorded a lot of wins without power in 2018. Imagine what they could do with increased power in 2019.