Biggest Surprise/Disappointment In SBC Softball So Far?
Who has been the biggest surprise, and the most disappointing Sun Belt Conference softball teams, four weeks into the 2018 season?
Granted, it's still vey early, but they may be legitimate questions to ask, as the conference schedule begins this week.
I think the biggest surprise so far has been the Troy Trojans.
Troy, who went 20-34 last season, including an 8-19 conference mark, was picked to finish 9th out of ten teams in the preseason coaches' poll.
So far, the Trojans have exceeded expectations, going 13-6, just 7 wins shy of matching last year's win total, with still three months remaining.
Granted, Troy hasn't played a great schedule, but they struggled against similar competition last season, and they do have wins over credible programs such as FIU, UCSB, and Tennessee Tech.
Logan Calhoun and Katie Webb have been solid, offensively, but the Trojans have succeeded because of much-improved pitching.
Last season, Troy accumulated a very poor overall team ERA. of 3.97, with no pitchers finishing with a sub 3.00 ERA., and only one arm ending with an ERA. under 4.00.
This season, junior right-handers Claire Graves and Peyton Glover have been much-improved. Glover presently has a 2.06 ERA. and Graves is currently at a 2.65.
Meanwhile, freshman Annie Willis has been impressive, with a sparkling 0.66 ERA.
As a staff, Troy has compiled an overall ERA. of 2.17, almost two full runs better than last year.
Do I think the Trojans are legitimate contenders for the conference title? No. But they sure look better than the 9th-best team in the league through the first month.
It will be interesting to see how Troy fares in their conference-opening series against Georgia Southern this weekend.
I still have high hopes for my disappointing selection.
It's South Alabama.
The Jaguars are only 10-11, which surprises me, but the have played a good schedule.
In the first month, South Alabama suffered losses to nationally-ranked squads such as Alabama, Florida St., Minnesota, and Tennessee (twice), while also suffering setbacks to SEC members Mississippi St. and South Carolina, along with ACC member Louisville.
That means that 8 of their 11 losses have come at the hands of teams from major conferences.
In addition, the Jaguars have scored a win over Florida St.
As expected, South Alabama is not scoring a ton of runs, with only 4 home runs, the fewest in the league, but they do feature Devin Brown in the circle.
If the Jaguars get some consistency from their #2 starter Alexis Reid, they could be a factor in the league race.
I still think they best is yet to come for South Alabama, and their tough schedule gives them somewhat an excuse for their mediocre beginning, but due to their 10-11 start, I'd have to pick them as the most disappointing.