2021 UL Softball Preview: The Outfielders
This is the final part of a four-part series previewing the 2021 Louisiana Ragin' Cajun Softball Team.
Today; the outfield.
The outfield looks to be strong against this season, with the ability to provide power, speed, and defense.
Ciara Bryan, a transfer from Georgia, who was tabbed a first-team Preseason All-American by D1Softball, will be a fixture in the UL outfield this season.
A left-handed hitter, Bryan hit .330 in three seasons with Georgia, to go along with 14 home runs and 78 runs batted in, while also accumulating 33 stolen bases.
Bryan, who has one season of eligibility remaining, started 22 games in centerfield for Georgia last season, while starting in right-field in another six games.
As a freshman in 2018, Bryan appeared in 56 games, including 46 as a starter, hitting .351, while driving in 14 runs and stealing 12 bases.
As a sophomore in 2019, Bryan appeared in 61 games, all of them as a starter, hitting .328, with three homers, 28 RBI's, and ten stolen bases.
Last season, Bryan hit .317, to go along with 11 homers, 36 RBI's, and 11 stolen bases, good enough to be named a second-team All-SEC pick.
Of the 33 hits that Bryan collected in the shortened 2020 campaign, 17 of those went for extra bases, including four doubles and two triples, to go along with her 11 home runs.
Bryan led the Bulldogs in numerous statistical categories while being the primary leadoff hitter, leading the SEC in runs scored (48) and ranking sixth nationally in runs batted in.
A native of Covington, Georgia, Bryan attended Newton High School, where she was named a Region Player of the Year honoree, after hitting .545 with 54 hits in 2015.
Junior Raina O'Neal returns for a third year as a starter after transferring from Texas Tech.
In her first season with UL in 2019, after playing with Texas Tech back in 2017 and sitting out the 2018 campaign, O'Neal was named a second-team All-Sun Belt Conference performer, after hitting .326, to go along with 10 homers, 36 RBI's, and 18 stolen bases.
Last season, in the shortened year, O'Neal hit .338, second on the team, to go along with four home runs, 12 runs batted in, and ten stolen bases.
Kendall Talley, who sat out 2019, after transferring from Lamar, helped provide the Cajuns with depth and versatility, due to her bat and speed, finishing third on the squad with a .333 average over 2 games last season.
A first-team All-Southland Conference performer at Lamar in 2018, Talley hit .343, to go along with one home run, 19 runs batted in, 37 runs scored, and 7 stolen.bases.
A four-time, all-district outfielder at San Antonio's East Central High School, Talley still has three seasons of eligibility remaining.
Speedster Jenna Kean will likely see a lot of time in the outfield for the Cajuns this season, after transferring from Arizona.
As a freshman with Arizona, Kean appeared in 50 games, including 37 as a starter, hitting hitting .271, to go along with 8 runs batted in and 7 stolen bases.
As a sophomore in 2019, Kean appeared in 48 games, including 37 as a starter, hitting .313 with with 10 RBI's and 7 stolen bases.
In 2020, Kean appeared in 12 games, including 8 as a starter, hitting a career-best .353.
Due to the NCAA’s extended eligibility waiver, Kean has two seasons of eligibility remaining at Louisiana.
Justice "Juice" Milz, a transfer from Georgia is also capable of playing the outfield, although she's likely to see most of her time in the infield.
A versatile player, Milz started games at first base, second base, and left-field during her four seasons at Georgia.
Last season, Milz appeared in 17 games for Georgia, including 12 as a starter at both first and second base, hitting .231 with one home run, nine runs batted in, and two stolen bases.
As a junior in 2019, Milz made 58 starts for the Bulldogs, making 20 at first base, 26 at second, seven in left field, and five as the designated player, while hitting .307, to go along with seven homers, 36 RBI's, and three stolen bases.
In 2018, as a sophomore, Milz put together her best season at Georgia, hitting .372 with 15 homers and 62 RBI's, while starting all 61 games at second base, good enough to be selected a second-team All-SEC performer.
As a freshman in 2017, Milz hit .333 over 33 games, all at second base, before suffering a season-ending injury.
South Carolina transfer Karly Heath, who can also pitch, may also figure into the outfield rotation, provided she doesn't redshirt.
Heath, who hit five home runs and drove in 16 runs for South Carolina in 2019, dealt with some injuries in the offseason, putting her a few weeks behind, and considering the depth the Cajuns have, both at pitcher and in the outfield, she is a candidate to be redshirted, which would still give her three years of eligibility remaining.
If she doesn't get redshirted, Heath, who has a spotless 13-0 career record as a pitcher, will be a valuable, versatile performer for Louisiana.
Freshman Taylor Roman, the daughter of former New Iberia Senior High, LSU, and NFL star Mark Roman, started a number of games in right-field last season.
Roman is more likely to see time at first base this year, especially to begin the season, but she is an outfield option, as the Cajuns have talent, depth, as versatility almost everywhere on their roster.
A native of Missouri City, Texas, Roman, who is expected to supply Louisiana power, not only this year but in years to come, could always be out back into the outfield if need be.
Roman hit .255 with two homers and nine RBI's as a true freshman last season.
Senior Morgan Gray will see action in a lot of games, just as she did last season, as a pinch-runner or defensive sub, or both.
A native of Houston, Texas, Gray saw time in 37 contests in 2019, and 18 more last season, mostly as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement.
Like Gray, junior college transfer Frankie Izard could help the Cajuns, due to her speed and defensive ability.
Izard played junior college softball at Lake Land College, located in Matton, Illinois, where she hit an impressive .468, to go along with a .558 on-base percentage, 23 runs batted in, and eight stolen bases last season.
A 2019 NJCAA Division I NFCA All-American, Izard hit .514, while stealing 42 bases.
Starting catcher Julie Rawls, who played the outfield at Northwestern St. from 2017-2018, will likely see some limited time in the outfield this season, as she did in 2020, when getting some rest from the rigors of catching.
Like the other positions, some of these players may agree to be redshirted, as the Cajuns are blessed with such a deep and talented roster.
Louisiana opens its 2021 regular season schedule this Saturday, taking on Missouri St. and Baylor in the first day of play in the 35th Louisiana Classics.
Last season, Louisiana was 18-6, ranked in everyone's top ten, and number one in the RPI poll when the season was shut down in mid-March due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
We'll never know how things would have played out, but it's almost certain UL would have hosted a regional for the first time since 2016, and very likely would have hosted a Super Regional for the first time since 2014.
Had this been the case, Louisiana would have headed to the NCAA Softball Tournament for the 22nd-consecutive year, while making an NCAA Regional appearance for the 30th time in the last 31 years.
The only year since 1990 in which UL failed to appear in a regional was 1998.
Louisiana is one of only 9 programs to appear in an NCAA Regional every year since 2000, joining Alabama, Arizona, Florida St., Michigan, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, UCLA, and Washington.