Expectations high as Loyola opens baseball season Friday
The expectations are high as the Loyola Wolf Pack are set to open its 2023 baseball season with a three-game series against Freed-Hardeman of Tennessee beginning Friday at 1 p.m. at Segnette Field.
Jeremy Kennedy has done a superb job at Loyola in three years on the job.
Last season, the Wolf Pack won 36 games for the second straight season and came up just one game short of the NAIA World Series.
The 36 wins tied the record for the most in program history, set the previous season when the Wolf Pack hosted an NAIA regional.
Loyola was 17-9 in the pandemic shortened 2020 season.
Kennedy has raised the bar at the uptown school.
Loyola is picked to finished second in the Southern States Athletic Conference and the Wolf Pack are ranked 23rd in the NAIA preseason poll.
The schedule features 23 home games at Segnette Field, along with three games at Turchin Stadium.
Aside from SSAC games, the Wolf Pack will face in-state opponents Dillard, with its first-year program, along with Louisiana Christian on multiple occasions.
Junior Stephen Still returns to anchor the pitching staff off a season where he was 7-2 with a 2.75 ERA, earning first team All-Conference honors. Still struck out 95 in 85 innings pitched in 2022.
Sophomore Joshua Orr (3-1, 6.91) was a second team All-Conference performer and made the all-freshman team last season.
Sophomore Matthew Weil (1-1, 2.96) also made the all-freshman team last season.
Sophomore Brady Bowen is back as well to provide experience to the pitching staff.
Senior designated hitter Luke Clement returns to lead the offensive attack after batting .398 with 11 home runs and 44 RBI and earning first team All-Conference honors last season. Sophomore Garrett Beadle hit .318 with 21 RBI a year ago and is back as is sophomore Tucker Ganley, who batted .310 with 15 RBI. Gold-glove winning sophomore shortstop Jake Mills returns after hitting .291 with a home run and 21 RBI and earning All-Freshman conference honors. Junior Kason Cullins, who batted .285 with three homers and 27 RBI, returns as well.
“We’re excited about the year,” Kennedy said. “We’ve got a veteran group coming back, led by Clement and Still, our top hitter and pitcher from a year ago. Stephen started for us as a freshman and he’s now a junior so we feel good having him lead the staff. All the guys in our lineup are older guys, including a couple of junior college transfers from LSU-Eunice.”
Cole Romero and Brandon Mooney arrive from Eunice with national championship experience.
“Meshing those guys with the guys we have coming back that made a run last year in the regional and felt the sting of being just one inning away from the World Series makes us a formidable team,” Kennedy said. “We want to get back and make another run.”
Kennedy feels he has the most important ingredient needed to contend on a national basis.
“Depth on the mound is a big piece of that,” Kennedy said. “Last year, we just ran out of ammo against a team that was ranked fourth in the country (LSU-Shreveport). We beat them earlier in the tournament when we were able to have our No. 1 pitcher on the mound. They came all the way back through and double-dipped us. What you see at the end of a tournament is you get to the bottom of the barrel with your pitching and it is all about what your depth is like. We worked to develop that and have and now we have an understanding of what it takes to win in the postseason due to our experience.”
Kennedy feels his team is prepared for the challenge at hand.
Loyola athletics gained national attention when its men’s basketball team won the NAIA national championship last season and the Loyola women are currently 17-1 and ranked ninth in the nation. Has Kennedy drawn any inspiration from those squads?
“The women are playing great and inspiring us,” Kennedy said. “The men had a special group of guys that had been together since their freshmen year and they were good players as freshmen but they were great players as seniors. That’s kind of where we’re at. Guys like Still got to play as a freshman and he is as good as it gets. When you have a core group of guys who played early, took lumps, matured and improved, you grow with them. We’re capable of bringing a national championship to Loyola. “I think they know exactly what the expectations, are, what we have to do in order to compete against the best in the country. We’ll see if we can do it.”
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…