Down the Stretch in the Sun Belt – From the Bird’s Nest
t's hard to believe there are only 13 games left on the Cajuns' baseball schedule.
Twelve of them are league games, and those will tell the story where the Cajuns' seeding will fall for the Sun Belt baseball tournament, scheduled for M. L. "Tigue" Moore Field.
The top six teams are separated by only two games in the standings. And, while the bottom four could still make some noise, today we'll look at the top six and what they have left.
SOUTH ALABAMA (12-6)--@ ULM, MTSU, @UL, TROY
South Alabama is in first place right now by a full game. They are 5-4 on the road, including a series win at Troy. They play two teams not in the top six but close with six tough ones. No one has won a series in Lafayette against the Cajuns and Troy is a better team now than they were in the beginning of the season. There's a reason why the Jaguars are in the top twenty in the nation in the RPI, but a one game lead isn't safe, especially if the Jags stumble in either of the next two weekends.
WESTERN KENTUCKY (11-7) @ UALR, ULM, FAU, @MT
The Hilltoppers are the only team in the top six that gets to play the three bottom teams in the standings. UALR is no pushover at home, however, and Middle Tennessee lies in wait after getting swept in Bowling Green earlier this season. FAU is a tough task, but the Owls haven't been nearly as good on the road (4-5) as they've been in Boca Raton (7-2). This is probably the most attractive schedule of all the teams trying to win a championship.
FLORIDA ATLANTIC (11-7) TROY, UALR, @WKU, @FIU
As mentioned above, the Owls have been much better in Boca Raton and that will do them well against Troy this weekend. But those last two weeks in Bowling Green and Miami could be a real challenge. FAU is the only team to close with six in a row on the road. It would do them well to take care of their home business. But the final weekend in Miami could be the series to keep an eye on in the final weekend. Those two don't like each other very much.
TROY (11-7): @FAU, FIU, ASU, @USA
I don't think there's any question who has the toughest schedule the rest of the way. And, maybe the key for them to have a shot is how they do in Boca this weekend. FIU is no pushover, even at Riddle-Pace and we know what that rivalry with the Jaguars is like. Add all that with having to face ASU's Daniel Wright, and you have a formidable task ahead of you. Troy hits well enough to win this league and their bullpen is pretty solid. Can their weekend starters hold the other team down enough? That's the question.
FIU (10-8): UL, @TROY, @UALR, FAU
The Panthers haven't been a bad road team, but frankly, the road matchups they have left aren't good ones. FIU's starting pitching has been inconsistent and those road games are in pretty small ballparks. The UALR series could be really intersting. Scott Norwood's club has a lot of work to do in order to make the conference tournament. But the Trojans have two good starters and a lineup that can do damage, especially at Gary Hogan Field. The series this weekend against Louisiana is really important.
LOUISIANA (10-8) @FIU, ASU, USA, @ULM
LIke Florida Atlantic, this team has been much better at home than on the road. That bodes well for the two home series where they'll face first place USA. The Cajuns have yet to lose a home series this season. The Friday night matchup between Austin Robichaux and ASU's Daniel Wright won't be for the faint of heart. The Cajuns have had good success hitting in ULM's ballpark and they've got the type of offense that can do some damange there. That leaves this weekend. A series win in Miami would go a long way to getting the Cajuns a top three seed. With this team, good starting pitching is essential.