UL Lafayette just might have a challenger in this week’s Sun Belt Conference Tournanment.
After the Ragin’ Cajuns cruised to the regular season title, they face a strong field, which will attempt to knock them off. UT Arlington seems to be playing some of the best baseball in the conference with 14 wins in its past 16 games.
Just ask Texas State.
The Mavericks clubbed two homers in an 11-7 win last Thursday night — then they shut down the Bobcats with back-to-back 1-0 triumphs. That was the first time since 2000 that Texas State was shut out in consecutive games.
So, a hot lineup — UTA sits in the Top 25 nationally in seven different offensive categories — and a pitching staff that has turned the corner lately could be all the makings for an upset at Stanky Field in Mobile, Ala.
Look for the Mavericks to beat UL Lafayette and win the tournament title on Sunday afternoon.
UTA’s toughest tilt before it plays the Ragin’ Cajuns for the title on Championship Sunday could be against tournament host and No. 7 seed South Alabama. I expect the Jaguars will play well in front of their home crowd.
The Mavericks still win that game and will go a perfect 4-0 during tounament play.
Now to the Bobcats…
Despite what has been a lackluster finish to the season — Texas State lost five of its past six games — head coach Ty Harrington remained confident that his team could turn things around.
After all, the Bobcats were playing well before back-to-back series losses to UALR and UTA. They had just swept Troy and nearly took a road series from UL Lafayette. Texas State ended up with one win in Lafayette, La.
The Bobcats will make a deep run in the tournament, which starts Wednesday when Harrington’s team faces No. 5 seed Western Kentucky at 9 a.m. in the first round.
Look for Texas State to beat the Hilltoppers before falling to UL Lafayette. Even if that happens, the Bobcats would likely play both teams twice, because of the SBC Tournament’s double-elimination format.
I expect Texas State will keep its season alive with back-to-back wins over WKU and the Ragin’ Cajuns. The Bobcats have enough dominant starting pitching (Austen Williams, Taylor Black and Lucas Humpal) to steal one game from the tournament’s top seed. Even if Harrington is forced to use all three of those pitchers earlier in the tournament, Dylan Bein is plenty capable of being a solid spot starter versus UL Lafayette.
Faced with a third game against the tournament’s top seed, however, the Ragin’ Cajuns will eliminate Texas State and move onto the championship game against the Mavericks.