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Sun Belt Tournament: Breaking down Bracket B

courtesy fiusports.com

As mentioned in the Bracket A preview, the Sun Belt Tournament features pool play this year.  After the round-robin, the team with the best record advances to the finals.  In case of a three way tie at 2-1, the higher seed gets preference.

Turtle Thomas courtesy fiusports.com

#2 seed:  FIU (20-9-1 SBC, 37-17-1 overall)  Coach:  Henry “Turtle”

Mike Martinez courtesy fiusports.com

Thomas (127-101, 4th season)

Overall stats:  BA .314 (1st), ERA 3.53 (1st) Defense .961 (10th)

SBC Stats:  BA .326 (1st), ERA 3.73 (1st), Defense .965 (9th)

STRENGTHS:  Very, very solid offensively, with everyone in the lineup capable of swinging a big bat.  Very good power throughout the lineup.  Outstanding team speed and they aren’t afraid to run.  Solid starting pitching with a deep bullpen that strikes batters out.  Did I say they were solid offensively?

WEAKNESSES:  Not a good defensive team.  Capable of playing well on defense one night and then God-awful the next.  Some of their hitters are feast or famine and you can get some of them if you pitch smart.  Bullpen can strike you out, but they’ll issue some walks, too.

OUTLOOK:  This team figured out the new bats around mid-season and they’ve been nearly unstoppable since.  They’ve lost one game since income tax day.  A solid #2 seed in an NCAA regional.  If you’re going to beat them in this bracket, you’d better wear your big boy pants.

Tony Robichaux courtesy ragincajuns.com

#3 seed LOUISIANA (18-12 SBC, 31-24 overall)  Coach:  Tony Robichaux

Taylor Hubbell courtesy ragincajuns.com

(608-406-1 17th season at UL, 871-583-1 25th season Division I.)

Overall Stats:  BA .279 (6th), ERA 3.75 (3rd), Defense .977 (2nd)

SBC stats:  BA .287 (5th), ERA 4.10 (4th) Defense .978 (1st)

STRENGTHS:  Quality pitching staff that goes nine deep.  Four capable starting pitchers and a solid bullpen, led by Joey Satriano and freshman Caleb Kellogg.  1-5 in the lineup can hurt you.  Very good defensive team that won’t beat itself.  Excellent team speed used to playing low-scoring games.

WEAKNESSES:  Only two guys with real power, although their ball park is responsible for some of that.  Team can disappear offensively at times.  Team will take chances on the basepaths and sometimes it costs them.  While pitching is solid, there’s no really dominant guy like they’ve had in the past.

OUTLOOK:  Their pitchers are going to keep them in the game.  And, they won’t make many mistakes defensively.  If they’re going to advance, they’ve got to have a good week hitting the ball, pure and simple.  This team has lost a lot of 3-1 and 4-2 type games this year.  If they can get runs, they can be dangerous.

Steve Kittrell courtesy usajaguars.com

#6 seed SOUTH ALABAMA (15-15 SBC, 29-26 overall)  Coach:  Steve

Brent Tanner courtesy usajaguars.com

Kittrell (1,051-642-1, 28th season at USA and Divison I).

Overall stats:  BA .299 (T-2), ERA 5.25 (7th) Defense .968 (6th)

SBC stats:  BA .292 (4th), ERA 5.04 (7th), Defense .972 (6th)

STRENGTHS:  Solid lineup featuring six .300 hitters, led by catcher Brent Tanner.  Good starting pitching, especially Garrett Harris and Dustin Crenshaw.  Aggressive offensively and will hit and run with anyone in the lineup.  Good defensive team, though not spectacular.

WEAKNESSES:  Bullpen, bullpen bullpen.  Steve Kittrell leaves his starters in the game longer than anyone in the league…because he has to.  They try to piece it together, pen wise, but there’s a big dropoff once the starter leaves the game.  While a good gap team, USA doesn’t have much in the way of power outside of Tanner and Brad Hook.

OUTLOOK:  South Alabama is going to give everyone fits because of their starting pitching.  As long as those guys can be effective into the seventh and eighth, they’ll be in the game.  But if the starters falter, the Jags are in trouble.  This is Kittrell’s swan song as head coach.  His team will play for him.

Tommy Raffo courtesy astateredwolves.com

#7 seed ARKANSAS STATE (13-16-1 SBC, 25-30-1 overall.)  Coach:  Tommy

Todd Baumgartner courtesy astateredwolves.com

Raffo (78-88, 3rd season)

Overall Stats:  BA:  .273 (9th), ERA 4.37 (5th), defense .963 (8th)

SBC Stats:  BA: .279 (7th), ERA 4.30 (5th), Defense .969 (8th)

STRENGTHS:  Starting Pitching.  Andy Ferguson and Jacob Lee are top notch.  Their bullpen has some depth.  They’ve got a couple of guys who can run and the middle of their lineup is pretty good.

WEAKNESSES:  Not much team speed at all.  Their lineup struggles to score runs and they have trouble manufacturing them unless Michael Faulkner and Zach Maggio are on base.  Todd Baumgartner is their lone power threat.  Their ballpark doesn’t give up a lot of homers and they don’t hit a lot of them.  Their slugging percentage is near the bottom of the league.  Just average defensively.

OUTLOOK:  Ferguson and Lee are going to give them a chance to win and their bullpen can get people out.  But can they score runs against good pitching?

This bracket is FIU’s to lose.  They’ll see some awfully good pitching in this bracket, however, and will need to match the opponent’s pitcher.  If they do that, they’ll play on Sunday.

Babes

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