Time will tell for Tors, offense will have to carry Sulphur for a spell
Published 10:01 am Saturday, February 10, 2024
The Sulphur Tors are one of the area’s perennial high school baseball powers and are coming off their second consecutive 30-win season and semifinal appearance.
Even with all the success, the Tors have a lot of unknowns going into a new season.
There will be a lot of new faces and head coach in Thomas Tillery, but he says the Tors have a lot of potential once they gain experience.
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“I really feel like they are talented,” Tillery said. “I think the biggest thing that we are going to have to deal with is the lack of experience. Graduating 15 seniors last year and 15 really talented seniors, these guys didn’t get a ton of opportunities. We may take some lumps early because of the lack of experience, not because we are not talented.
“I feel like we are going to hit our stride in the middle to late this season. We may win some games strictly on talent, but the big games — the tight ball games — you have to have that experience of knowing the game of baseball, where to go and what to do.”
The Tors return four starters and have a pitching staff that threw limited innings last season playing behind a large group of seniors that included LSU freshman Jake Brown.
“I think our best baseball is ahead of us,” Tillery said. “When it all comes together, I think it could be special.
“A lot of people are saying it could be a rebuilding year. I honestly feel like it is a reloading year. These guys that we have playing for us were chomping at the bit to play last year, but when you have 15 seniors that are really good, it is hard to get in a game. These guys are playing like they have a chip on their shoulder. They feel like they have something to prove, and they are on a mission.”
Of the arms Tillery said he is looking to use, sophomore Carter Wilson saw the most action last year. He went 3-0 in 152/3 innings. Senior Carson Cauvin and junior Slade Shove-Knox combined for 181/3 innings. But the Tors do get a boost with the return of senior lefty Braxton Landry who missed last season. Landry threw 281/3 innings in 2022 and went 3-0.
“We have a lot of guys that are right around the same velocity,” Tillery said. “We have two guys that are going to be 85-90 and then we have a lot of guys that are going to be that 80-85 range.
“We are going to have to piece games together. I really think we have enough arms on our roster that we don’t have to run one guy out there and hope he goes deep into a game so that we don’t have to use our arms. We have a lot of arms that can do a lot of different things. We may not have that guy right at the beginning who can go six or seven innings, so we are going to have to use a bullpen.
“There are some talented arms in there. There are some high-velocity guys that can really spin the breaking ball. We have a good mixture. It is just trying to figure out the pieces of the puzzle to win baseball games on the mound. If they are successful, our team will be successful.”
Senior third baseman Bryce Fontenot, who signed with McNeese State, and junior shortstop Jackson Beddoe, who moves over from second base, each hit over .400 last year, giving the Tors some solid bats to build the offense around.
“(Fontenot) carries himself like a professional,” Tillery said. “You wouldn’t know if he is 0-for-4 or 4-for-4.
“He brings the same work ethic and demeanor every single day. One thing we are trying to get through to him is to be more vocal. Whenever he does speak, everybody listens, including coaches. He just has a presence about him. We lean on him to lead this team, and we expect big things out of him.”
Espyn Trahan, who appeared in 15 games last year, mostly as a defensive player, will take over in center field and is projected to hit leadoff.
“He is one of our top leaders and can really go get it in the outfield,” Tillery said. “He can really run and will probably be our leadoff hitter.
“He can bunt. He has a lot of quality at-bats. He is another guy that we lean on heavily for leadership. I expect him to be in center field every single game.”
Tillery says the Tors will look to use their speed on the bases again after swiping 110 bags in 2023.
“The nine that I envision starting can do a lot of things,” he said. “I feel like we will be able to bunt when we want.
“We will be able to hit a double when we want. And I know we will really be able to run the bases. In just three scrimmages we have stolen 32 bases. We have the capability to beat teams in many ways. I don’t think the offense is going to be a question mark. We are going to be able to hit and score runs and play defense. We just have to be able to pitch and throw strikes.”
Tillery said senior Brody Harlow will start at catcher, while fellow senior Cohen Babineaux will start at second base.
Junior Brody Depriest will start in left field, while right field will be split between Cauvin and Shove-Knox. Cauvin could also see time at first along with seniors Ethan Baldridge and Alijah Coleman and junior Tajahi Smith.