UL Softball Sitting Pretty For Conference Title & Regional Host Team
The seventh-ranked Louisiana Ragin' Cajun softball team defeated the FIU Panthers, 6-0, in the rubber game of a three-game, mid-week, Sun Belt Conference series on Wednesday.
Considering that Louisiana was 33-1 going into the series, there may be a few fans that would consider winning two-of-three in Miami a disappointment.
Don't count me as one of those!
I mentioned earlier in the week that if UL had a 5-1 week this week, that I'd be ecstatic.
Well, the opportunity is there.
FIU is traditionally a tough place to play. Some of that comes from the fact that the Panthers are a solid team, year-in and year-out. Some of it come from the fact that most teams, like the Cajuns, have to fly into Miami, which makes it more difficult to play, especially when you're flying in from another time zone. And some if it comes from the fact that FIU was treating that series like the Women's College World Series, like they should've been.
Louisiana was going to have to play solid softball to win the series, and they did, despite having to overcome some calls that went against them in the second game.
Sure, they left too many runners on base in the second game, but they came away with the series win, and now they're in great shape, not only to win another Sun Belt Conference regular season championship, but to also host an NCAA Regional.
In terms of the conference race, UL now has at least a three-game lead in the loss column over FIU, South Alabama, North Texas, and Troy.
What makes that a good thing is that those are considered, after the Cajuns, to be four of the next five best teams in the league. Louisiana has played all of them, and defeated all of them, meaning that not only do they hold the tie-breaker advantage over those teams, but they will now move onto the weaker part of their conference schedule.
UL travels to Murfreesboro, Tennessee this weekend, to take on the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders. Now, I'm not ready to chalk-up three "w's" for the Cajuns, because we've all seen some crazy stuff happen in conference, and those dates on Saturday and Sunday will mark the final two days of a week-long road trip, but I'm just pointing out that the Blue Raiders are under .500 (12-20, 2-7), and fighting to make the conference tournament.
From there, Louisiana has only one road trip left in the regular season, an April 28-29 dates with the WKU Hilltoppers, in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
WKU is pretty solid (23-15, 6-5), but they're the only conference team left on UL"S schedule that currently has a winning record.
The two home series' that the Cajuns have left, with FAU (12-27, 2-8) and ULM (16-16, 3-9), are against teams that currently have non-winning records.
All of those teams can beat Louisiana, in any given game. All I'm saying is that the Cajuns are REALLY good, and now the schedule is in their favor for them to close with a fury.
With that in mind, I think it's safe to say that Louisiana is in great shape to go and win another Sun Belt Conference regular season title.
Just as important however, is that the Cajuns have an opportunity to pick-up a lot more wins and keep their rpi in the top ten.
With the schedule they have left, which includes a non-conference game against McNeese St., I think it's realistic to see UL losing only three games, maximum, the rest of the regular season, and more likely only one or two.
I think there's also a possibility they can run the table, although that's going to be difficult, because conference play is just tough.
So, let's say they only lose one or two more game the rest of the way, that would give them a 47-3, or 46-4 record, with the Sun Belt Conference Tournament still to play.
With that record, along with a tournament championship, I feel safe in saying that they would finish the season with an rpi in the top ten. And if that would be the case, then they'd be in great shape to host an NCAA Regional at Lamson Park.
Let me put it to you this way; if they finish 47-3, with a tournament title, and a top-ten rpi, and don't get to host a regional, then they need to stop bidding in the future, because they would have done everything you could possible do (other than go unbeaten, which is silly) to host.
So, that was a big series win over FIU!
I know when a team has only one loss going into a series, and comes out with another, that it may be be hard to really get excited about the two wins, but I am.
They're 35-2! That's awesome!
We all get spoiled by winning, and tend to take it for granted, but this team has set itself up to make a special season even that much more special.
UL returns to the diamond on Saturday, when they take on Middle Tennessee in a 1 o'clock doubleheader.