Privateers look to replace key bats, return solid core

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Going into Blake Dean’s eighth season on the Lakefront, the New Orleans Privateers baseball team has to replace a couple of key parts of their lineup. Still, New Orleans has found a way regardless of personnel to rank at or near the top of the Southland Conference in hitting.

After losing Amani Larry (transfer to Mississippi State) and Pearce Howard (graduation), the Privateers were left with two all-conference players to replace.

However, New Orleans also has a strong core of returners to the program. Kasten Furr, who has earned All-Southland honors twice, also eclipsed 100 runs scored for his career. Furr is a career .306 hitter and has been a spark plug at the top of the lineup.

Miguel Useche ended the season on a tear for the Privateers. The junior backstop was named to the Southland All-Tournament Team after collecting eight hits and seven RBI in four games for the Privateers in the tournament. For the season, Useche hit .288 with 16 doubles.

Issac Williams patrolled centerfield all of last season and made a huge leap in his sophomore year to earn All-Southland honors. In conference games, Williams slugged .702. For the season in total, he had nine homers and 35 RBI.

New Orleans also returns several hitters in Anthony Herron Jr., Andrew Guidry, Jeissy De la Cruz and Tyler Bischke. Herron drove in 46 runs last season. Guidry started 18 games and hit .261. De la Cruz had 29 RBI and five home runs. Bischke hit over .300 for most of the season and wound up batting at a .294 clip.

On the mound, it starts with the experience of Tyler LeBlanc returning to the rotation. The third year southpaw was an All-Southland performer as he struck out 74 batters and recorded seven wins. Brandon Mitchell and Collin Horton also bring back 106 innings on the mound between them.

Beau Blanchard has shown he can lengthen his outings on the mound as his longest appearance came in relief against LSU where he threw 7.2 innings and limited the Tigers to two runs in that stretch.

Also out of the pen, Jack Williams was one of the most looked to pitchers in situations with runners on base. Williams picked up seven wins out of the pen and only walked five batters in 37.1 innings.

Caleb Seroski brings the late inning experience as he’s posted 13 saves in his Privateer career. Seroski struck out 36 batters in 36.1 innings.

A bevy of newcomers have been brought on to give the Privateers depth. Among them is Myles Austin who was a top-five ranked prospect in Georgia coming out of high school. He hit .374 and was part of the JUCO World Series All-Tournament Team.

There are several transfers who come from Division I programs: Mitchell Sanford (UT-Arlington), Noah Bailey (South Alabama), Jose Cabrera (Indiana State), Dylan Mach (Dallas Baptist), Zeph Hoffpauir (Louisiana), Nathan Blasick (West Virginia), Matthew Maldonado (Lipscomb) and Nolan Daniel (Purdue) all joined the squad this season.

The regular season begins in Kennesaw on Feb. 17 when the Privateers begin a three-game series against the Kennesaw State Owls. The home opener is on Feb. 24 when New Orleans faces Jackson State in the Andre Dawson Classic.

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