Breakout Southeastern rotation returns in 2021 to finish what it started
HAMMOND, La. – Southeastern Louisiana’s weekend rotation of Trey Shaffer, Grant Upton and Will Warren will all return in 2021, head coach Matt Riser announced Friday.
“Anytime you can return three guys that are as proven as Shaffer, Warren, and Upton are you start to get really excited about the next season,” Riser said. “All three guys were off to great starts and I can’t wait to see their next step forward.”
The trio enjoyed breakout success during the abbreviated 2020 season, each compiling a sub-2.00 ERA while effectively limiting runners and combining for a 3.6 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Posting dominant numbers on the mound, Shaffer and Warren both had the opportunity to sign professional contracts earlier this month. The competitive fire to wrap up unfinished business, however, fuels their return to campus.
“It started out to be a big year for both these young men,” Riser said. “Both of them are getting an extra year of eligibility and value their worth at both the collegiate and professional level. To get both of these young men back speaks volumes about their confidence and competitiveness. They are both betting on themselves to continue progressing in their development. They have ambitions of pitching in the big leagues one day and not just playing professional baseball. When we brought their class in as freshmen, we wanted these guys to help take the program to the next level. I know they feel there is some unfinished business here.”
The 2017 Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year at Biloxi High School, Shaffer confounded batters in his four starts this past season. He never allowed more than three hits or one run, and averaged at least one strikeout per inning, in each appearance.
“It was all about discipline and understanding what work really is,” Shaffer said. “Preparation is key. Once I was able to grasp that, I was ready to go out on a Friday night.”
Shaffer’s early-season success garnered national media attention as D1Baseball named the junior southpaw their Southland Conference Breakout Pitcher.
Kendall Rogers wrote, “[Shaffer] took a giant leap this past spring, making four starts and tallying a 1.23 ERA in 22 innings, along with 32 strikeouts and 12 walks. He also limited teams to a .113 OBA. Shaffer’s teammate, pitcher Grant Upton, also was off to a terrific start and in the midst of a breakout season — tallying a 1.46 ERA in 24.2 innings, along with 17 strikeouts and six walks.”
In his first college trip through as a starting pitcher, Upton compiled a 1-1 record and 1.12 WHIP in four starts. The sophomore right-hander from Baton Rouge, Louisiana logged 6.2 solid innings against conference foe Central Arkansas in his final start of the season, striking out a career-high five batters.
Warren’s 2019 was not what he hoped it would be, but he turned the corner late in the season with a 2-hit, 7-inning performance against Stephen F. Austin in the Southland Conference Tournament. This past season he displayed an innate ability to adapt his role, performing as a swingman on an otherwise inexperienced staff.
“Last year I struggled mentally,” Warren said. “I talked with Coach Riser and Coach [Andrew] Gipson about it. For some reason, I couldn’t get through the fifth inning. It was a mental block. Noah Hughes and I discussed it a lot. I found this book, ‘The Mental Game of Baseball,’ and it really hit home. I knew I was better than that and spent the entire summer working on it.”
The junior right-hander from Brandon, Mississippi broke out with a pair of early relief outings in which combined with Shaffer to form a dominating duo in the first couple of series openers. Warren allowed one unearned run in 7.1 innings of relief, striking out 13 batters on his way to earning a pair of saves.
“When Coach Riser brought us in as a class, he told us we’re going to take the program to another level,” Warren said. “We have that opportunity. This last season, we didn’t gel early but were heading in that direction when it got cut short. I thought we had the potential to be our best team yet.”
In his final two appearances, both starts, Warren allowed one run in 16 innings pitched and earned a pair of wins. He also struck out a career-high 10 batters at Central Arkansas.
“I’m looking forward to being in that winning culture again,” Warren said. “When I came here, Southeastern was known for making the Regionals. I want to see that through and be dogpiling in June.”
Shaffer echoed Warren’s sentiments about a return to Southeastern.
“It’s this team,” Shaffer said. “We had a lot of freshmen this past year and that made a difference early. They got their feet wet for four weeks. Now they understand what this program is about and how competitive it is. I want to play for another championship. It’s been a couple of years. This gives us a chance at redemption.”
The trio-led pitching staff, and their Lion teammates, are slated to finally return to action in the spring with the opening weekend of the college season scheduled for Feb. 19-21, 2021.
“There were a lot of talented new faces that were just starting to figure it out,” Riser said. “We added a couple more pieces to the class and can’t wait to get started with them. It’s got a chance to be a big year if the team can gel well. This will be the most competitive year of college baseball that we’ve ever seen due to the influx of players. Competition will be at an all-time high and our guys love to compete. What else could you ask for?”
DIAMOND CLUB / S CLUB
Fans interested in becoming active supporters of the baseball program are encouraged to join the Diamond Club. Lion baseball alums are encouraged to join the exclusive S Club, which is restricted to Southeastern athletic letter winners.
All membership fees and donations to both the Diamond Club and S Club (baseball) are available for the exclusive use of the Southeastern baseball program. Membership information is available by contacting the Lion Athletics Association at firstname.lastname@example.org or (985) 549-5091 or visiting www.LionUp.com.
For more information on Lions Baseball, follow @LionUpBaseball or @MattRiser17 on Twitter, @LionUpBaseball on Instagram and Facebook, and subscribe to the SLUathletics YouTube channel.
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