This Weekend in Sun Belt Baseball
The top two teams in the Sun Belt meet this weekend as Louisiana travels to Arkansas State.
But the tightest races are the ones who are fighting to get into the conference tournament in Mobile, AL.
The Cajuns and Red Wolves will be previewed separately. Here are the other series that are on tap:
TROY (8-12) AT TEXAS STATE (12-9)–Right now Troy stands in seventh place, with UL Monroe just a half game behind. The Trojans are 1 1/2 games ahead of Georgia State, which, along with UALR, are the teams that would be staying home if the tournament started today. Bobby Pierce’s club faces a tough test this weekend against an ever-improving Texas State club. Everyone knew the Bobcats could pitch, but now they are hitting better as well. The Trojans have been at their most consistent when Shane McCain is on the mound. But they need to find a way to generate enough offense against a good Texas State pitching staff. In conference play, Troy is hitting .293 and is averaging six runs per game. Texas State’s numbers are similar, hitting .284 and averaging just under six runs per league contest. The big statistical discrepancy is in the pitching department. Texas State is tops in the league with a 3.06 ERA. Troy is eighth at 5.47. Game times are 6:30pm, 3:00pm and 1:00pm
SOUTH ALABAMA (9-11) AT GEORGIA STATE (7-14)–If the Panthers are going to make a move to get into the conference tournament, now is the time. Georgia State is playing it’s final home conference series, entertaining the Jaguars. The Panthers are trying to build on a nice series win over Arkansas State last weekend. South Alabama got a badly needed series win as well and, right now at least, they’re in pretty good shape for qualifying for the conference tournament that they are hosting. South Alabama is only averaging 4.3 runs per game in league play, but Cole Gleason has proven to be a tough out, hitting .419 in the Sun Belt. The Jaguars rely mostly on their pitching and Locke St. John is making a push for all-conference honors. GSU got a solid pitching performance last Friday night and they needed it. The Panthers’ offense has really taken a step back. Nic Wilson, who was off to a torrid start, has slumped badly. He’s just 6-53 in league games since March 28. He needs to get well…and soon. Games are at 5pm, 1pm and 12noon (all times Central)
WKU (11-10) AT UL MONROE (8-13)–Justin Hageman is proving to be one of the league’s best pitchers. The WKU right hander was just named the SBC pitcher of the week for the second time. Ian Thompkins became the all-time WKU saves leader Tuesday night. Other than those two, the WKU pitching staff hasn’t been what Matt Myers was hoping for. The Hilltoppers’ bats have been pretty solid in league play, however, which has gotten the squad over the .500 mark. Right now ULM is eighth, one game ahead of Georgia State. The Warhawks host the Panthers next weekend. But with Louisiana looming on the road, ULM needs to get as many as they can during these next two home weekends. Bruce Peddie has done an admirable job with this team and the fact they’re more than in the hunt for a tournament berth is a surprise, considering their start. Now they have to close the deal. Friday and Saturday games are at 6pm. Sunday’s start is at 1:00
UT ARLINGTON (11-10) AT UALR (6-15)–The Mavericks’ bats have really come alive in the last month, hitting .301 in league play. Their 21 home runs in the Sun Belt are second to Louisiana. Right now the Mavs are tied for fourth with WKU but are just one game behind Texas State. All three of those teams want to be the #3 seed because that gets them out of the Cajuns’ bracket. UALR is just trying to survive. Their pitching has kept them in games. They average just under five runs per game, but their offense has been feast or famine. Scott Norwood’s squad isn’t out of it, but they need to get on a roll if they’re going to get to Mobile. And, with series looming against the #2 and #3 teams in the league, that roll needs to start this weekend. Game times are at 6:00, 4:00 and 1:00.