Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week
Drew Merton, (Jr., C) UALR Trojans
Drew Merton hit .714 scoring four runs and driving in five to pick up Player of the Week honors. Merton also walked twice and was hit by a pitch twice en route to a .833 on base percentage. Two late-inning rallies by the Trojans saw him score and drive in a run in each of them. He came to the plate with two-outs in the eighth inning against the IUPU Fort Wayne Mastadons and struck a two-run single to win the game.
Austin Robichaux, (Jr., RHP) No. 13 Louisiana Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns
Austin Robichaux had the outing of the week in the Sun Belt as he threw a Friday night complete game shutout against the Alabama Crimson Tide who, at the time, were on the cusp of the Top 25. Robichaux scattered seven hits and a walk while striking out 11 batters. The Tide were only able to place four runners in scoring position the entire game, two of which occurred when they loaded the bases in the first inning with one out. Robichaux would retire the next two hitters, one by strike out, to end the inning.
Sun Belt Conference Team Recaps
No. 13 Louisiana Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns (10-2, 0-0 Sun Belt, 44 RPI)
The Cajuns had the most impressive week among Sun Belt Conference teams. Dominant pitching carried the Cajuns as Greg Milhorn opened the week with a mid-week win on the road against No. 3 LSU 4-1 in a rain shortened game. Then Sun Belt Conference Pitcher of the Week Austin Robichaux pitched a complete game shutout and teammate Carson Baranik combined to pitch 18 dominant scoreless innings against Alabama as ULL won the weekend series with the Tide 2-1 (2-0, 6-0, 6-12). The Cajuns got production from their entire line-up this week lea by Seth Harrison who had a six RBI and Jace Conrad who scored six runs. Conrad homered as well.
Considering the action among the teams ahead of them in the college baseball polls it is likely that ULL will be a Top 10 ranked team going into games this week. The Cajuns are set to host Southeastern Louisiana Wednesday and Texas Southern for a three game set this weekend.
Texas State Bobcats (9-2, 0-0 Sun Belt, 110 RPI)
Bobcat baseball went un-beaten this week winning a midweek match-up against the Texas A&M Corpus Christi Islanders 6-4 and then sweeping the Wagner Seahawks (3-1, 8-5, 9-7). The Bobcats have had a surprisingly strong start in their inaugural Sun Belt season. Pitching was strong for the Bobcats this week led by staff ace Lucas Humpal who was last week's Sun Belt Pitcher of the Week. Humpal was solid again this week combining with starters Dylan Bein and Taylor Black to allow three earned runs this week. Colby Targun paced the offense scoring five runs this week and Mattlage led the team with six RBI. Garrett Mattlage contributed a grand slam and Tyler Pearson hit a home run. Texas State hosts Valparaiso Wednesday before traveling to play at Pac 12 foe Washington State for a three game set.
UALR Trojans (8-2, 0-0 Sun Belt, 21 RPI)
UALR had an un-beaten week winning at Louisiana Tech 11-2 and then winning both round robin games against Illinois Chicago 9-5 and IUPU Fort Wayne 3-1 with their Sunday game with Missouri being cancelled due to Winter Storm Titan. The Trojans got to solid starts from Chad Bradford in the midweek and Ethan Schlechte on Saturday. Drew Merten earned Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week honors for his offensive performance with two multi-hit games a two run game and two multi-RBI games this week. Merton led the team with four runs scored and five RBI. Bryson Thionnet added a home run. UALR's midweek game with Stephen F Austin has been postponed again so they will play three at No. 19 Ole Miss this weekend. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (7-4, 0-0 Sun Belt, 70 RPI)
WKU had a week of highs and heart-break. The Hilltoppers started with the high a midweek win at No. 4 Vanderbilt 3-2, then travelled to play in the Keith LeClair Classic in Greenville, N.C. in which they experienced the heartbreak of losing the opener on a walk-off extra-inning hit to host East Carolina 2-1 in 10 innings. Then more heartbreak losing to Ohio State after a four-run eighth inning by the Buckeyes 5-4. Finally another high as Ty Downing had a walk-off single in the 11th inning to defeat Pittsburgh. Starting pitching was excellent for WKU as Josh Bartley, Justin Hagemen, Austin Clay and Jake Thompson combined to allow three earned runs in 24 inning pitched. Anderson Miller led in runs scored with three while Scott Wilcox and Ryan Church each had two RBI. The Hilltoppers midweek game for Tuesday hosting Lipscomb has been moved to Wednesday before they host Illiinois out of the Big 10 for a set of three this weekend.
Troy Trojans (7-5, 0-0 Sun Belt, 243 RPI)
The Trojans continued their struggles this week going 2-2 with a win at Florida A&M 7-6 before dropping 2 of 3 at Southern Miss (1-3, 5-0, 6-7). Troy had good starting pitching with solid performances from Jesse Nelson and Tanner Hicks with Shane McCain topping the staff pitching seven scoreless. Garrett Pitts led the Trojans with five runs scored and Trevin Hall lead the team with five RBI. Hall also hit a three run homer while Nick Masonia hit two home runs with a two-run and a solo shot. Troy will host Samford Tuesday before hosting New Orleans for a three game set this weekend.
Georgia State Panthers (6-5, 0-0 Sun Belt, 62 RPI)
The Panthers had a .500 week that started with a win at SEC foe Georgia 3-2 but suffered a home series loss to Northern Kentucky 2-1 (5-6, 3-4, 13-2). Andrew Fessler provided a great start and Jerry Stuckey had a solid appearance out of the pen. Nic Wilson led the Panthers with eight runs scored while Chase Raffield had nine RBI. Chase Raffield hit two home runs, a two-run and a three-run shot. Nic Wilson hit two solo home runs and Zach Moon added another solo shot. Georgia State travels to play Kennesaw State Tuesday before hosting Xavier in a three game set this weekend. South Alabama Jaguars (5-5, 0-0 Sun Belt, 26 RPI) The Jags had an impressive week going 3-1 beating Jacksonville State at home 4-2 before heading to Fayetteville to take 2 of 3 from the No. 22 Arkansas Razorbacks (1-12, 2-1, 5-3). Solid pitching led to the three wins this week, most notably Locke St. John and Kevin Hill pitching a combined 16.1 innings while allowing only four earned runs to the Hogs. Erick Hindmon scored three runs to lead the team while Cameron Cummings, Matt Bolger and Erik Hindmon each had a team high two RBI. South Alabama looks to build upon their solid week travelling to Mississippi to play at Jackson State and at No. 21 Mississippi State in the midweek before hosting Southern Illinois in a three game set this weekend.
Arkansas State Red Wolves (6-6, 0-0 Sun Belt, 84 RPI)
Arkansas State struggled through the week winning at home against Southeast Missouri State 8-3 before losing 2 of 3 at UAB (0-5, 1-3, 5-3). The Red Wolves best pitching performance came from David Owen on Sunday with 10 strike outs after 5.2 innings. The offense went 17 consecutive scoreless innings in a weekend of struggle. Austin Baker, Derek Birginske, Matt Burgess and Dustin Jones tied for the team lead in runs scored with two. Lucas Fedderson led the way with four RBI. Arkansas State hopes to get back on track this week with a midweek game Wednesday at Missouri State, the Tuesday matchup between the two has been cancelled. The Red Wolves host Creighton for a three game set this weekend.
Louisiana Monroe Warhawks (6-6, 0-0 Sun Belt, 136 RPI)
The Warhawks had a losing week at 2-3 dropping two midweek games at No. 19 Ole Miss (4-5, 3-4) and then winning their home series with Southeastern Louisiana 2-1 (4-13, 6-5, 3-2). Alex Hermiling had two starts this weekend totaling 12 innings pitched with five earned runs and nine strike outs. Chad Miller pitched 5.1 innings in relief allowing zero earned runs. Justin Stawychny led the Warhawks with five runs scored and tied with Dalton Herrington for the team lead with five RBI. Chet Simoneaux hit two solo home runs in Sunday's game. The Warhawks host Michigan State in the midweek then travel to play a three game set at Samford.
UT Arlington Mavericks (3-7, 0-0 Sun Belt, 235 RPI)
UT Arlington went 2-2 on the week, which was disappointing considering the week began with a win at No. 18 TCU 10-2 only to follow it up with a series loss at home to Texas A&M Corpus Christi 2-1 (3-6, 11-2, 3-7). Brad Vachon had the performance of the week pitching 6.2 innings allowing two earned runs while striking out seven against No. 18 TCU. Jess Amedee had a solid outing on the weekend. Derek Miller led the Mavs with five runs scored while tying Greg McCall for the team lead with six RBI. Greg McCall hit two home runs, a three run and a solo, on the week. The Mavericks host No. 20 Texas A&M in the midweek before hosting the Hilton Invitational with Missouri State, Abilene Christian and Utah.
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Mark West writes for College Baseball Central as the Sun Belt Conference and Arkansas State Red Wolves Contributor. You can keep up with Mark on twitter @MarkWestCBC .