Scoreboard Watching Begins in the Sun Belt
Early in the conference season, fans, coaches and players don't pay much attention to the standings in the Sun Belt. But now, with everyone at the halfway point of the conference season and some six weeks in, you can bet they're all starting to pay attention to what the other teams in the league are doing.
Seedings at the top (and can anyone catch South Alabama) and the jockeying for position (only eight teams make it to the conference tournament) make for fun, and sometimes, nail-biting times.
Here's a look at what's going on this weekend.
UT ARLINGTON (20-18, 6-9) at TROY (22-16, 8-7)--The Mavericks got a boost last week when ace right hander Josh Kuhnel (3-2, 1.70) returned after missing a couple of weeks with some arm soreness. That gives the Mavs a solid 1-2 punch on the weekend, with SBC Pitcher of the Week Kadon Simmons coming off a three hit complete game shutout over Georgia Southern. But the third starter has been an issue all season and, with exception of Jacob Moreland, the bullpen has been anything but dominant. UTA has also given up a staggering 50 unearned runs this year. UTA has hit the ball well, but those bats will be tested by Troy's solid weekend rotation of Grant Bennett, Houston Mabray and Lucas Brown. The Trojans have had problems scoring runs at times, but their solid record and top 75 RPI is due to their deep pitching staff, where four relievers carry an ERA of 3.00 or better.
UTA REMAINING SERIES: Louisiana, at Little Rock, at Appalachian St., Texas State
TROY REMAINING SERIES: at Texas St., ULM, at Georgia State, South Alabama
LITTLE ROCK (18-17, 11-7) at GEORGIA SOUTHERN (23-15, 9-9)--The solid weekend rotation of Evan Challenger, Chase Cohen and Brian Eichorn will be challenged by the best hitting team in the league. LIttle Rock's road sweep of Texas State last weekend showed they can play with anyone in this league...and they're only getting better. Their shaky pitching staff is balanced by that lineup and a solid defense. Georgia Southern had better score this weekend....because Little Rock will get their share of runs, especially against a suspect Eagles' bullpen.
LITTLE ROCK REMAINING SERIES: Bye, UT Arlington, at ULM, Arkansas State
GA. SOUTHERN REMAINING SERIES: at ULM, at South Alabama, Bye, Georgia State
TEXAS STATE (21-17, 9-6) at LOUISIANA (25-12, 10-5)--The Bobcats have been hard to figure out. They swept a pretty good Georgia Southern team on the road, but have been swept twice at home. They've played a lot of close games in league play. Their biggest issue has been scoring runs. Tanner Hill leads the league in homers with 13, but too many of them have been with no one on. Their starting pitchers, Lucas Humpel, Jeremy Hallonquist and Cory Geisler all have ERA under 3.00...and they can pitch deep into games. However, they've scored four runs or less in nine of 15 league games and they'll have some issues against the Cajuns' pitching staff. Bullpen depth could be the difference in this series, which promises to be low scoring. Teams have been headed in opposite directions: Cajuns have won 13 of 16. Bobcats have lost 7 of 8.
TEXAS STATE REMAINING SERIES: Troy, Georgia State, at Arkansas State, at UTA
LOUISIANA REMAINING SERIES: at UTA, Appalachian St., at South Alabama, ULM
ULM (15-22, 6-9) at ARKANSAS STATE (15-21, 5-13)--Warhawks had the early misfortune of having to move a home conference series to Texas State because of weather. But ULM is bouncing back. They've won their last two series and are in position to make the tournament. They're still struggling to score, but they're pitching better. Brayden Bouchey has been very good the last month. Pitching has been the issue at Arkansas State, Two of their weekend starters were pulled from the rotation for their inability to throw strikes, and the team ERA in league games is 5.58. And, on top of that they're struggling to score as well. State is 1-7 in their last eight league games.
ULM REMAINING SERIES: Georgia Southern, at Troy, Little Rock, at Louisiana
ARK. ST. REMAINING SERIES: at Appalachian State, Bye, Texas State, at Little Rock
APPALACHIAN STATE (10-27, 5-13) at GEORGIA STATE (16-20, 5-10)--The freshman-laden Mountaineers raised eyebrows around the league by taking two of three from previously unbeaten South Alabama last week. The Mountaineers don't have good numbers, especially on offense. But the boys from Boone are pitching better and Colin Schmid is turning into a reliable starter. Georgia State's pitching, meanwhile, has headed in the opposite direction. The Panthers can score runs, but they are only 5-17 if they score fewer than seven runs. They need to make some hay this weekend, because right now they're on the outside looking in for a berth in the tournament.
APPALACHIAN STATE REMAINING SCHEDULE: Arkansas State, at Louisiana, UTA, Bye
GEORGIA STATE REMAINING SCHEDULE: USA, at Texas State, Troy, at Ga. Southern
SOUTH ALABAMA (28-10, 16-2) has the bye this weekend and are hosting Southern. REMAINING SCHEDULE: At Georgia St., Ga. Southern, Louisiana, at Troy