Sun Belt Conference Weekend Review – Week 8
The 8th weekend of Sun Belt Conference softball is in the books, and the race is still on for the final qualifying spot in the conference postseason tournament.
Only 8 of the 10 league teams qualify for the event, which is scheduled for May 10-13 in Troy, Alabama, and only one team has been eliminated, with only one weekend remaining.
Let’s take a look at what happened around the conference over the weekend:
The Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns concluded their 2017 regular season home schedule on a high note, sweeping a three-game series from the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers at Lamson Park.
The Cajuns won the opening game of the series, 9-0, and took the second game, 13-4, prior to completing the sweep with a 8-0 triumph in the final game, all in 5-inning mercy-rule fashion.
Louisiana, who has now won 36-consecutive Sun Belt Conference series’, hasn’t lost two games in a weekend in conference play since 2013, against South Alabama.
The Cajuns were impressive at the plate, scoring 30 runs, while Alex Stewart recorded three wins in the circle, improving her career record to a sparkling 34-1 in Sun Belt Conference play.
Louisiana, who clinched their 4th-consectutive regular season title over the weekend, including their 15th in the 17-year history of softball in the league, has put themselves in a position to possibly host an NCAA Regional.
UL has won 7-straight, including 22 of their last 23, and 29 of their last 31.
The Cajuns are playing as well as anybody in the country right now.
As for Coastal Carolina, it's really kind of puzzling what has happened to the Chanticleers.
At one point, Coastal Carolina was 27-12, both they've lost 8-straight, including 12 of their last 14, dropping them to 29-22, overall, and 7-16 in league play, and putting them in a position where they may not even qualify for the conference postseason tournament.
The good news for the Chanticleers is that despite currently standing in 9th place, they still have a realistic chance of finishing in the top 8.
Texas St. swept a three-game set from Troy, winning by scores of 12-0, 4-3, and 3-0, to move to 38-11, overall, and 17-6 in league play.
The Bobcats, who host UTA on the final weekend, will likely finish the regular season in second place, which would be big for them, as they're playing for an NCAA Regional at-large bid, provided they don’t win the tournament, which is always possible with a pitcher like Randi Rupp.
Troy, who still leads Coastal Carolina by one game for the 8th and final spot in the race for a spot in the conference tournament, likely needs to win one of their final two league games against South Alabama next week, and probably two, to finish in that slot.
The Trojans have indeed had some tough luck this season, losing 8 league games by only one run.
Georgia St. who, still has an outside shot of finishing in 2nd place, nailed down the third spot with two wins in three games against ULM, winning the first two games, 3-2, and 5-2, before dropping the final game, 6-5.
The Panthers are now 30-21, overall, and 15-9 in league play, while ULM is 29-23, and 11-13, respectively.
The Warhawks are struggling down the stretch, dropping 6 of their last 7 conference games.
South Alabama stayed hot, sweeping a three-game series from Georgia Southern, winning by scores of 7-0, 6-2, and 7-2..
The Jaguars, who have now won 7-consectuive league games, are playing their best softball at the right time of the year.
South Alabama is now 31-18, overall, and 13-12 in league play, while Georgia Southern fell to 24-25, and 12-12, respectively.
Appalachian St. recorded their first conference wins of the season on Saturday, sweeping UTA in a doubleheader, by scores of 2-0 and 3-2, before the Mavericks salvaged the final game on Sunday, 14-3.
The Mountaineers, who are 2-19 in league play, don't have a shot at qualifying for the postseason tournament, but they showed some pride with the two wins.
UTA, who is now 12-12 in conference play, closes out next weekend against Texas St.
So, with only one weekend of conference play remaining, Louisiana, who has clinched the regular season crown, leads the way, at 20-1, followed by Texas St. (17-6), Georgia St. (15-9), South Alabama (13-12), Georgia Southern (12-12), UTA (12-12), ULM (11-13), Troy (8-17), Coastal Carolina (7-16), and Appalachian St. (2-18).
A lot could still happen, in terms of seeding, but Troy and Coastal Carolina are battling for that 8th and final spot in the postseason tournament.
The Chanticleers may have a slight advantage, hosting Appalachian St. in Conway, South Carolina next weekend, Troy hosts a hot South Alabama squad in a doubleheader.
It’s been a fun season so far, but there’s still a lot on the line over the last weekend, with the conference postseason tournament right around the corner!