Cajuns Open Crucial Series With Georgia Southern
If the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns are going to get back in the conference race and solidify their chances for their fifth straight NCAA Regional appearance, it all has to start this weekend.
But their opponent has won more games than any other in the Sun Belt this season.
When Georgia Southern (30-15, 13-8) Sun Belt comes to M. L. "Tigue" Moore Field at Russo Park, they'll show the fans a team that looks a lot like...well...the Cajuns.
Both teams have left-handed Friday night starters who were named pre-season All-Sun Belt. Evan Challenger (2-4, 4-38) got off to a slow start and even moved into the bullpen for a couple of weeks. But the fifth year senior has hit his stride and is coming off a complete game three hit shutout last Saturday against Little Rock. Gunner Leger (8-2, 1.63) suffered his first conference loss last Sunday against the same team.
Both coaches are making changes to their starting rotation. Tony Robichaux has replaced Nick Lee in the rotation with left-hander Colten Schmidt (1-0, 1.00) who will be making his first start of the season. After Friday starter Jacob Condra-Bogan was hit hard his last two starts, Rodney Hennon has tabbed freshman Seth Shuman (4-0, 3.90) to start on Sunday. It will be the first league start for Shuman, who started at quarterback for the Eagles when they hosted the Cajuns last November.
Both teams have five pitchers that have been conference weekend starters at some point. Lee will join Evan Guillory in the bullpen this weekend, while Brian Eichorn will be available along with Condra-Bogan.
Both staffs have a couple of guys in the back of the bullpen who are awfully good. The Eagles will counter the Cajuns' duo of Dylan Moore (1-1, 2.93, 8 saves) and Wyatt Marks (2-1, 1.29, 5 saves) with RHP Landon Hughes (6-1, 2.36, 6 saves) and LHP Connor Simmons (4-0, 1.91, 1 save.)
Both teams have a slugger in the middle of the lineup. Ryan Cleveland (.270-11-38) has hit 40 career homers for the Eagles, while Steven Sensley (.329-8-33) has homered six times in his last eleven games.
Both teams average between five and six runs per game. Georgia Southern has a .slight edge in batting average (.280/.276) and on-base percentage (.376/.354), while the Cajuns have more extra base hits (119/100) and a better slugging percentage (.398/.385). Neither team walks a lot (GS 186/160) and both teams strike out a lot (GS 391/366). Both teams will use the short game (UL 39/29 in sacrifices) and neither team runs a ton (Cajuns 49-69 in steals, GS 30-46).
The pitching staffs have a similar BB/K ratio (Cajuns 174/447, GS 162/422). Both teams have a solid fielding percentage (Cajuns .976/.973) and have given up a similar number of unearned runs (Cajuns 36/33).
And, both teams have veteran coaches: Rodney Hennon is in his 18th season with the Eagles, while Tony Robichaux is in his 23rd with Louisiana.
The Cajuns are 14-5 at home. Georgia Southern has won ten straight conference road series, including their only previous trip to Lafayette in 2015.