LORANGER BASEBALL REPORTS
Growing from loss and excited to play again.
Baseball is back ... 2021 Season Preview
LORANGER—The Loranger Wolves managed a dozen games before the prep baseball season was shut down in 2020. They finished play with a double-headed win over Riverside and said goodbye to four seniors. The loss of the season was no doubt felt most by the seniors, however, for coaches and players that would return in 2021, a season of experience and growth for younger players was also lost.
“Our returning guys missed a big chunk of the season last year,” said Loranger head coach BJ Corr. “They did not get a whole season to go through that maturation process, but I still feel like we are in a good place because of our senior leaders last year setting the example of how to prepare and do things the right way. While I would never compare the loss of a baseball season to losing a love one, when you lose something you love there is a grieving process. Our younger players grieved with the seniors who would not get a do over and that process matures you and sharpens your perspective.”
“Last year’s senior group was awesome,” continued Corr. “Our younger players got to see a good example of how to go through fall work, focus and prepare and the discipline required. I have been very impressed with the way our guys this year—our juniors and seniors—have matured and followed the example set by our seniors in 2020.”
Like so many other baseball players around the state when the season ended their personal commitment to the game did not. “When everything was shut down there was a long period that we could not meet with the guys and do anything as group on campus, but most of our guys would on their own get together with a buddy and try to find a batting cage or workout and condition,” explained Corr. “I was impressed that the guys were still trying to stay in shape, but we also have some guys on the team that have to go to work if they are not playing baseball so they might be running cows and doing other labor on a farm or working at a job, and I respect that.”
Summer baseball did eventually return as travel ball and some rec programs resumed. For Loranger there was no summer league but several of his players did get to play travel ball. “We had a couple of our guys that played some travel ball at a very high level for part of the summer and that experience they gained is certainly going to help us this spring,” said Corr.
Life is full of things we all take for granted and for those involved in the sports world the expectation that the games will always be there was shattered in 2020. For Coach Corr, the pandemic has given him a reminder of what is truly important in life and in baseball.
“The pandemic put a lot of things in perspective for me and my family and I know our players as well,” said Corr. “Things that might normally stress you, you realize a lot of those things are just not that important. As for baseball, the team chemistry, the fundamentals and just the joy of being able to be around the guys is what matters most. I just appreciate the opportunity to coach and see our guys together playing a game they love. ”
“I will add that in sports you can appreciate the past and learn from it, but you cannot live there,” continued Corr. “You do not make excuses and you live and work in the present and that is how you make progress—letting go and moving forward.”
It all starts on the mound for the Wolves this season as pitching is expected to be a strength with a staff headed up by senior lefty Ethan Crayton and right-hander Troy Morel. Crayton is already committed to Southeastern Louisiana University.
“I am really proud of Ethan (Crayton),” said Corr. “His sophomore year he showed flashes, and he had a no hitter against Northlake. He struggled some toward the end of that year and going into his junior year I was not sure how he would do mentally. I think he took off travel ball that summer and went back to the basics and just worked his tail off. He is a kid that works with his dad at home and he always works hard at practice.”
Indeed, Crayton was on track for a big breakout year in 2020 fanning 30 batters in just 14 innings before the season was shut down. “Coming back his junior year before we got shut down, you could just see it was starting to happen for him,” explained Corr. “He was dominating on the mound. He got to play some summer ball and finally a lot of people saw, what coach (Brennan) Catalano and I have been seeing for a while that this kid is going to be something special.”
“I have been coaching for thirteen years now and I call some kids the one percent kids and Ethan is one of the one percent as his talent and mental approach as matured,” continued Corr. “He sets goals and writes them down and then goes to work and even better he is a humble kid and has a positive effect on our clubhouse as a leader. He is always deflecting any kind of praise you try to give him onto his teammates.”
Another senior who will join Crayton to lead the pitching staff is Troy Morel.
“Troy (Morel) is always very competitive,” said Corr. “It may not always look pretty when he does stuff, but he wins. He has got that competitive bone in his body. When he gets on the mound he might throw a few more balls than you would like. He might take eight pitches to get an out when you thought it should have taken less. Troy is a grinder and he is very tough. One of his first outings when I first got here as coach it was like a thirteen inning game and he came in to replace our starter and we were down and Troy just kept us in the game. His velocity has made one of the biggest jumps I have seen over the years. He just finds ways to win.”
Corr believes that given the chance Morel can play at the next level in the field or on the mound. The senior right-hander when not on the mound will play third and catch. The Wolves graduated their three-year starting catcher in Jake Messina.
“I think Troy can play at the next level and he has certainly been going to camps and putting himself out there,” added Corr. “His ideal position in the field is second base, but we will have to use him at third and at catcher and in the outfield.”
Underclassmen are expected to be a big part of the Wolves pitching staff, and while Coach Corr is not naming all the names, he is excited about one of his juniors in particular. “I do not want to put a lot of pressure on this young man but I think when people see him pitch they are going to ask if this is one of our aces. He has made a tremendous leap in velocity and just his physical development and if he can own it, he can really break out this season.”
“Overall, we do not have as much pitching depth as we had last season, but we are okay,” continued Corr. “Our two sophomore pitchers we will be able to bring them along slowly. Certainly one positive in starting some younger guys on the mound is our defense will be better behind them as then our older athletes can play in the field.”
Pitching coach Brennan “Cat” Catalano, who led the Wolves to the final four in 2012, returns for his third season and Corr could not be more pleased with the work he has done developing the pitching staff. “Cat has come in and done a tremendous job for us and just relates well with our players.”
The Wolves have just eighteen on their roster this year to include JV and varsity so they will be rotating some guys around on defense depending on who is pitching. Also the middle of the field took a big hit with the graduation of Messina, a three-year starter at catcher.
“The kids we keep are ones that we feel like are going to help us at some point in their four years. I am really excited about our sophomore group this year. Guys like Jayden Lee, Connor Morris, and Bryce Baham are going to help us and are working hard and competing at the varsity level,” said Corr. “I tell all our players that ninth through twelfth you are all varsity players. In a way, I have always liked smaller clubhouse.”
“We have some guys that may not be as good as Jake (Messina) was, but they are going to be serviceable catchers,” said Corr. “We do not have anyone this year that is a natural catcher like a kid that played the position their whole career. We did a lot of live work in the fall so those guys could catch with a hitter in front of them and get a better feel for the position. We are going to work Troy and Brandon (Graham) at catcher some. We also have a junior Tristan Ackerman that will give us some innings behind the plate.”
“In some ways having to develop a catcher is good because the guys have not had ten different people tell them how to catch and thus, there are not a lot of bad habits to try and correct,” added Corr. “Our guys just need game experience where you develop a feel for the position and your own style. We have a couple of sophomores that may become catchers and we have a freshman that does not know it yet, but we are thinking we can develop him as well.”
Corr will play Crayton at first expects to be able to rotate three guys at second and short. “We have three guys that can play both short and second for us. Cade Harper established himself some at short last season and Brock Kinchen gave us good innings at second and they can both play either position.”
“Another young man we are excited about is Bryce Baham who is competing for positions all over the field and we are just trying to determine where to put him,” continued Corr. “We have another senior John Newman who works hard and does everything we ask him to and he is going to compete and help us in the field. The short season probably hurt him some because he was just beginning to develop as a position player. He is a tough kid and you love him in the clubhouse because he will do whatever is best for the team.”
Loranger returns three of the best hitters from last year’s short season. Crayton and Morel were both over .400 and senior Dane Vining, who had been injured some in previous years broke out last year as was on stride for a big year. “Dane is are energy guy at the plate,” said Corr. “When he hits a double it is like he hit a home run and our guys respond. Everyone feeds off his energy and we call him Boom Captain. He just exudes energy and is real key when we have guys in scoring position and that makes him a real leader at the plate. He wants the pressure of having to hit guys in.”
Overall Coach Corr likes how is offense has progressed over the past two seasons. “We do not put a lot of balls over the fence, but have hit over three hundred as a team and we are not striking out as often and having more good at bats. If the wind is blowing out we will try to swing it and if blowing in we will bunt more and run the bases.”
With the pandemic still not yet over, leadership among the coaches and especially the players takes on some added responsibilities off the field. “We have talked often to our guys about not going off and doing something that was preventable and get exposed to the virus and then we have to quarantine as a team,” said Corr. “Everybody can be a leader to help us stay on the field, but I have also talked to our guys to prepare mentally for the situation that we are playing really well and then we get a phone call telling us we have to quarantine for ten days. After that time we will have to get it going again and not let that get us into a slump. Certainly it is not easy to flip a switch, but there will be interruptions hopefully not many as we move forward. I just tell them when you get to play, put everything into it.”
The Wolves were the District champs in 2019 and last season there was no league games played so a new champion has not yet been named. “Because we did not play district games last season, I really do not know a lot about all the teams like you might normally know,” explained Corr. “Looking at some notes I think Albany graduated a few guys, but they are well coached. I have also heard that Hannan is expected to be really good this year. You always get a good game when you play Sumner and Bogalusa. We lost to Bogalusa the year we won district.”
“I really beefed up our schedule this year,” continued Corr. “It is going to be tough, but there is one thing I have learned since being here at Loranger is that our kids are not scared of anyone. You have to play good teams before you get into the playoffs if you expect to have chance to advance. As bad as I hate to say this, our kids tend to play to the level of our competition. I wish they were robots and more consistent, but against the better teams that is a good thing.”
Certainly for the Loranger Wolves and all the high school teams in Louisiana a full season, even with some interruptions, will be much appreciated after so much was lost in 2020.
Wolves take away some positives from 2020 disappointment.
LORANGER—While 2020 brought a lot of disappointment especially to senior athletes playing spring sports, for the Loranger Wolves the shortened season showcased a promising future in 2021. Head coach BJ Corr and his staff saw the breakout of a leader on the mound in Ethan Crayton, who collected 30 strikeouts and 20 hits in the twelve games played by the Wolves. Joining Crayton this season to lead the pitching staff is Troy Morel who fanned 16 and collected 20 hits. The two, now seniors, combined for 17 RBIs. Rounding out the seniors this year are Dane Vining, John Newman, and Kaden Beyl. Vining, who has been slowed some with injuries in his high school career delivered 11 hits in a dozen game played and Newman established himself in the outfield with nine put outs. Beyl, who was impressive as a freshman, did not play last season but returns for his senior campaign.
The Wolves return a pair of infield starters in juniors Cade Harper, Brandon Graham, and Brock Kinchen, but will be looking to replace last season’s catcher, Jake Messina, who has continued his baseball career at the next level. Loranger added four freshman to this year’s squad which totals 20. With senior leadership on the mound and a mix of returning starters in the infield, the Wolves hope to make another run at the District title and another invite to the playoffs.
2021 Baseball Schedule
Great Comeback in a State Championship Game
Wolves on TWITTER
NCAA Clearing House
Ken Ramsey Sports
WOLVES 7-5, 0-0
Albany 5-5, 0-0
Sumner 5-6, 0-0
Hannan 4-8, 0-0
Bogalusa 1-4, 0-0
2019 District Records
WOLVES 21-14, 7-1
Albany 22-10, 6-2
Hannan 12-16, 3-4
Sumner 15-13, 2-6
Bogalusa 7-8, 1-6
WOLVES 20-14, 7-1
WOLVES 10-15, 0-5
Overall 24-6, 9-1
Overall 23-9, 10-0