Jeremy Kennedy has Loyola on the cusp of excellence
Interview: Jeremy Kennedy on 106.1 FM with Ken Trahan
While Xavier is experiencing a renaissance in its first baseball season since 1960, while Tulane entered the weekend on a hot streak, while LSU got a big win over Ole Miss Thursday night and while the University of New Orleans and Southeastern opened a big Southland Conference series at Maestri Field Friday afternoon, Loyola has itself a league-leading, nationally-ranked team.
The Wolf Pack are 30-11 overall and 13-2 and leading the Southern States Athletic Conference by a game over Faulkner. Loyola is ranked 15th in the nation in the most recent NAIA national rankings.
They were scheduled to play this weekend at the University of Mobile, but that series was canceled. The Wolf Pack closes out the regular season next week with a Tuesday game at Louisiana College followed by a three-game SSAC series at Segnette Field against Blue Mountain College next Thursday and Friday.
The Southern States Athletic Conference championship will be held at Hank Aaron Stadium in Mobile May 5-8.
Jeremy Kennedy arrived at Loyola in 2020 and made his mark quickly.
Loyola was off to an impressive 17-9 start with the pandemic hit, interrupting a very promising season.
Kennedy has ramped up recruiting and it shows.
“The guys are doing a great job,” Kennedy said. “The league is traditionally one of the better conferences in the NAIA. Every weekend, you’ve got your hands full. We are kind of the up-and-comer in the conference.
Kennedy has also ramped up the offense, as a whole, with noticeably higher batting averages, runs scored and power numbers.
Loyola is also playing an aggressive brand of baseball.
In the abbreviated 2020 season, the Wolf Pack led the NAIA in stolen bases, putting tons of pressure on opposing defenses.
Peyton Alexander of Catholic High in Baton Rouge is batting .400 with 14 stolen bases, eight home runs and 44 RBI.
“Peyton has had a tremendous year,” Kennedy said. “He can really run.”
Michael Calamari checks in at .373 with five home runs and 33 RBI.
“Calamari has some power in our three-hole,” Kennedy said. “He hits home runs, he hits doubles, he’s a tough out. He does not strike out very often.”
Other top offensive threats include Allen Dennis of Newman, who is hitting .336 with nine home runs and 46 RBI; Peyton Lacoste of St. Paul’s, batting .316 with three home runs and 26 RBI, and Kason Cullins of Catholic, at .314 with a homer and 26 RBI.
On the mound, Brenden Taravella of Holy Cross is 4-0 with a 2.89 ERA, John Blanchard of St. Thomas Aquinas is 3-1 with a 2.70 ERA, Alexander Acevedo is 3-0 with a 3.26 ERA, Stephen Still of Dunham is 3-2 with a 2.76 ERA and Brett Fisackerly of Thomas Jefferson is 3-1 with a 3.48 ERA.
“The pitching staff has done a tremendous job,” Kennedy said. “We have two freshmen in John Blanchard and Still going on the weekend and to have two freshmen going on the weekend and to be able to do what we’ve been doing is pretty special. Those guys have big-time competitive spirit. They’ve good stuff. They’re learning on the fly. Our bullpen has been a strength. They throw strikes. We don’t beat ourselves on the mound.”
Kennedy gave enormous credit to pitching coach Stephen Bruce for his pitching staff’s success.
The Wolf Pack hit .293 as a team and have a solid 3.76 ERA playing home games at Segnette , asthey have for years now.
Loyola has been a fast starting team, outscoring opponents 48-19 in the first inning.
“Our 2-5 hitters, arguably first six have just really done a good job,” Kennedy said. “Our two, three, four have been special this year. They don’t need to see a bunch of pitches in order to hit. Every time we turn the lineup over, we feel really good that we have a good chance to not only score a run but to throw up a big inning.”
The roster has a distinct local flavor, with 14 players from the Greater New Orleans area and 24 players from Louisiana.
Playing at Westwego has worked out for the Wolf Pack.
“Segnette Field is a great ballpark,” Kennedy said. “We know our park, we know our field. Early in the spring, it’s tough to hit when you’ve got the north wind blowing in. Now, with the wind changing from the south more consistently, the ball will fly a bit to left but it is still a tough place to hit. They are doing some improvements to it over the next two years.”
The ceiling is high for Loyola.
“Our goal is to win a conference championship and then to become a contender on the national level,” Kennedy said.
Based on results and appearances, those goals are attainable, sooner, rather than later.
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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…