Lake Charles' Barbe High School has been one of the Louisiana's premier producers of baseball talent, but LSU has not always been able to tap into the best Barbe's had to offer.
Perhaps that's changing.
LSU recently landed a commitment from fast-improving Bucs senior right-hander Taylor Butler, who followed a solid summer with a fast start for a 17-2 Barbe team. Butler committed to LSU March 11 after a couple of recent starts where he's thrown 90 mph fastballs, touched 92 mph on some pitches and displayed an element that he said was his biggest improvement.
"My breaking ball is so much sharper now," he said. "I think that's what has put me over the top, what made the deal."
It also helped that Butler, who was an ESPN High School all-state pick earlier this spring, has had good games in front of the right audiences. He struck out 11 in six innings in a February tournament start against Catholic High of Baton Rouge, a team LSU coach Paul Mainieri's son plays for. Butler followed the Catholic start with a five-hit shutout of Shreveport's Evangel Christian in front of LSU coaches.
After that, the offer came and was accepted.
"I visited Arkansas last year, but their biggest competition was Ole Miss," Butler said. "On the Sunday I committed, they were coming to see me the next Thursday."
That's typically been bad news for other schools recruiting Barbe players. Ole Miss has signed three Barbe players in recent years, including Bucs star shortstop Gavin Cecchini, the son of head coach Glenn Cecchini.
Barbe, in general, has not typically been a guaranteed lock for LSU in recruiting. Bucs like Wade LeBlanc (Alabama) have starred at rival SEC schools while others like Josh Prince, Gavin Cecchini's cousin, have helped make Tulane a notable program.
And when LSU has signed Barbe players in recent years, it hasn't been able to hold on to then. Gavin's older brother, Garin, signed with LSU, but wound up with the Chicago White Sox organization after getting a $1.3 million signing bonus as a fourth-round draft pick in the 2010 June draft.
But LSU's luck may finally be turning with Barbe players. Last year, former Buc Jared Foster took an offer to walk-on in both football (quarterback) and baseball at LSU and has emerged as a key reserve for the Tigers baseball team as a freshman (he's already given up on football to concentrate on the diamond).
Now, with Butler on the way, LSU appears to finally have a Barbe-heavy future.