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Sun Belt Conference Weekend Baseball Preview

courtesy fiusports.com

Tomorrow on our website, espn1420.com, I’ll have the weekend preview for Louisiana’s series with Florida Atlantic.  But, every week in the league is interesting.  Here are the other series we’ll be keeping an eye on.

ULM (1-5) at FIU (2-4)

Here are two teams that have been hard to figure out.  FIU was picked to win the league (along with Troy) and opened league play by getting swept by FAU….in Miami.  The Panthers rebounded on the road last week against Western Kentucky, taking two of three.  ULM, meanwhile, has really been a head scratcher.  They started the season with some nice wins, including Southern Mississippi , Tulane (twice), Memphis (twice) and Tennessee  (twice.)  They then start league play 1-5, with all the games being played at Warhawk Field.  FIU’s pitching has been okay.  It’s actually been the offense that’s been struggling.  The Panthers are averaging less than four runs per game since league play began.  And, their defense has been just terrible.  ULM isn’t a great hitting team, and their pitchers got absolutely pounded by South Alabama last weekend.  They’ve got to pitch a lot better this week, or they’re going to be in some trouble.

ARKANSAS STATE (5-1) at TROY (2-4)

The Red Wolves are off to a great start, holding down UALR’s offense in a three game sweep and scoring just enough to get two wins at Louisiana last week.  This will be the home conference opener for Troy, who dropped two of three to surprising South Alabama and UALR, who’s always going to be tough at home.  The big eyebrow raiser for the Trojans is the fact Tyler Ray is 0-2 in league play, having given up a  bunch of runs late against USA and being outpitched by Chance Cleveland last Friday night.  We’ll see if Troy’s offense will enjoy being at home this weekend or if ASU’s pitching, which has been solid so far, continues to make other teams miserable.

UALR (2-4) at WESTERN KENTUCKY  (2-4)

Each team has had a series at home and one on the road.  WKU has a good one-two pitching punch with Justin Hagemann and Tanner Perkins.  But this is not a deep pitching staff and the Hilltoppers have struggled with their offense at times.  UALR put up some gaudy numbers against bad teams early in the season.  After two weeks of league play, they’re hitting under .250 as a team.  UALR is going to be tough to beat at their place.  It will be interesting to see how they do this weekend against two good pitchers on the road.   Speaking of pitchers, UALR isn’t deep.  But the three starters on the weekend are pretty durned good.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE (3-3) AT SOUTH ALABAMA (5-1)

MT is just 3-3 in league play but it hasn’t been because of their pitching.  Steve Peterson’s club leads the Sun Belt in ERA.  But they’re struggling to score runs.  After beating FAU on Friday in Murfreesboro behind Hunter Adkins, the Raiders lost on Saturday when they carried a no-no late into the game and again on Sunday when they were shut out.  They scored just one run over the final two games last weekend.   Their arms will try to slow down South Alabama, who has suddenly found its offense.  After struggling mightily with the bats early in the season, USA is suddenly on fire, hitting .368 over their first six league games.  They averaged 13 runs per game in their series at ULM last weekend.  Coach Mark Calvi’s team has caught fire, mostly because of their ability to score.  That will get a firm test this weekend against the arms of the Blue Raiders, but MT needs to find its offense at a good hitters’ park at Stanky Field.

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