Previewing the Showdown with the Cajuns

Coming off a series loss at Georgia State, the Arkansas State Red Wolves enter this weekend's home matchup with No. 3 Louisiana Lafayette clinging to hopes of an at-large bid to an NCAA Regional. All scenarios include the need for A-State to pull off the series win as the Red Wolves need to win at least four home games and three road games to keep their RPI in tournament contention.

The task will not be easy this weekend as the Cajuns are not only in talks to host a Regional, but also to host a Super Regional if they were to advance as a National Seed. ULL is 18-3 in the Sun Belt and 41-6 overall and just won a game Sunday in which they were one-hit by Texas State's Lucas Humpal. The Cajuns have also lost only one road game the entire season at UT Arlington.

Arkansas State is looking for an opportunity to win the Sun Belt and winning as many of this head-to-head series as they can will be key to pulling that off as the Cajuns' lead over the Red Wolves is four games with nine to play. The Red Wolves are 14-7 in the conference and 26-19 overall and are in the Regionals bubble, but on the outside looking in. A-State, with a series win, could take a major step toward both goals for the season.

A-State has an RPI of 55 and needs to get higher and every win they can get against the Cajuns who come in with a  10 RPI will make a world of difference with at-large consideration for the NCAA Regionals.

Comparisons

Louisiana Lafayette's pitching staff is allowing opponents a .243 average and 3.8 runs a game while A-State is hitting .274 and is scoring 6.0 runs a game. The Cajuns have given up 97 (2.1/G) extra-base hits on the year including 19 (0.4/G) home runs while the Red Wolves have hit 106 (2.4/G) extra-base hits with 11 (0.2/G) home runs.

A-State's pitching staff is allowing opponents a .258 average and 4.8 runs a game as Louisiana Lafayette is hitting .321 and scoring 8.0 runs a game. The Red Wolves have allowed 93 (2.1/G) extra-base hits, 19 (0.4/G) of which are long balls while the Cajuns have hit 187 (4.0/G) extra-base hits with 53 (1.1/G) home runs.

Cajuns Impressions

Louisiana Lafayette rolls into this series ranked at the top of the Sun Belt in almost every positive statistical category as one would expect out of a top five conference team. The Cajuns haven't lost a weekend series all season and has won more games than any other team in the nation.

Offensively, ULL is led by seven .300 hitters with four of the top 10 batting averages in the conference in its' starting lineup. Caleb Adams leads the Cajuns hitting .390 with 47 runs, 10 home runs, 111 total bases, a .760 slugging percentage and a .519 on base percentage. Adams is a front-runner for conference player of the year. Seth Harrison is a Golden Spikes candidate hitting .350 while leading the team with 49 RBI.

Every hitter in the lineup has multiple homers and at least a stolen base as ULL has stolen 70 bases on 100 attempts on the year. Jace Conrad leads with 16 steals and Ryan Leonards has 14 with Harrison at nine and Blake Trahan at eight.

ULL has a .517 team slugging percentage with three players at .600 or better and a .412 on base percentage with six players having a .400 or better OBA. The Cajuns also play small ball with 76 sacrifices on the season.

Pitching also has not been an issue for the Cajuns with a 3.29 team ERA and a 1.21 WHIP while averaging 7.0 strikeouts and 2.9 walks per nine innings.

ULL can throw about anyone out of the pen as seven different relievers have a save. Matt Hicks and Reagan Bazar each have 20 appearances on the season. Hicks has a 1.64 ERA and a 0.74 WHIP over 33 innings of work while averaging 7.6 strikeouts and 1.6 walks per nine innings and a .231 OBA. Bazar leads in saves with six and has a 1.80 ERA and 1.20 WHIP over 25.0 innings pitched while striking out 6.1 and walking 4.7 hitters per nine innings with a .189 OBA.

In 16 appearances, Matt Plitt has a .216 OBA in 37.1 innings with a 3.86 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. Ryan Wilson is second in saves with four in 15 appearances he as 44.1 innings pitches with a .236 OBA, 1.42 ERA, 1.13 WHIP with 6.9 strikeouts and 2.2 walks per nine innings.

Red Wolves Impressions

A-State had an off weekend against Georgia State hitting below season team numbers while pitching above season team numbers. The Red Wolves will look to get back on track offensively against the best staff in the conference this weekend.

The Red Wolves have one .300 hitter in the starting lineup, sophomore Matt Burgess who is hitting .320 and leads the team with 46 RBI and a .427 slugging percentage having a Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week award to his credit.

Austin Baker continues to lead the team with six home runs, 41 runs scored, 33 walks, 11 steals, a .494 slugging percentage and a .416 on base percentage while hitting .291. A-State has four everyday starters hitting near .300 with a team .365 slugging percentage and .378 on base percentage.

Eric Wilcoxson has been a solid contributor since moving into the starting lineup with a .485 slugging and .479 on base percentage with a pair of homers. He's walked 22 times and driven in 15 runs while scoring twelve over the last couple of weeks in the lineup. Zach Maggio has been hitting .321 in conference play.

A-State is normally a solid pitching team but the last couple of weeks have been brutal on the bullpen and hopefully the pen returns to form this weekend. Colton Kibler leads in appearances with 24 posting a 2.73 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, .222 OBA over 29.2 innings pitched. Tyler Zuber and Cody Woodhouse each have 18 appearances on the year. Zuber has a pair of saves with a 2.59 ERA and 1.18 WHIP over 31.1 innings pitched with a 2-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio and a .223 OBA. Woodhouse has had a couple of rough outings but still has a 3.95 ERA in 41.0 innings with a .266 OBA and a 1.41 WHIP.

Morgan Croft is the main closer with seven saves but has also had a rough couple of outings with a 4.22 ERA and a .233 OBA over 32 innings of work.

Game 1, Friday 6:00 PM

A-State – David Owen (So., RHP) 5-3, 3.88 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, .249 OBA

Owen left the game last Friday night one out away from a second consecutive quality start. He has four quality starts on the seasons. Owen averages 5.1 innings per start, 8.7 strikeouts and 2.9 walks per nine innings.

Louisiana Lafayette – Austin Robichaux (Jr., RHP) 5-2, 3.40 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, .227 OBA

Robichaux is making just his second start and third appearance since coming back from an injury. The Preseason Sun Belt Conference Pitcher of the Year has been solid for the Cajuns averaging 6.2 innings per start, 8.7 strikeouts and 2.4 walks per nine innings. Robichaux has five quality starts on the season, but his last two starts have been his roughest lasting a total of 7 innings between the two allowing 10 earned runs.

Game 2, Saturday 6:00 PM

A-State – Bradley Wallace (Sr., RHP) 3-3, 3.90 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, .273 OBA

Wallace stepped up with another solid outing against Georgia State, his fifth quality start on the season and fourth in his last five starts. Wallace averages 5.0 innings per start, 7.3 strikeouts and 2.9 walks per nine innings pitched.

Louisiana Lafayette – Carson Baranik (Jr., RHP) 8-1, 3.41 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, .237 OBA

Baranik has been the ace of the staff this season, taking his first loss in a tough outing against Texas State last Saturday allowing six earned runs in 3.1 innings pitched. Baranik has six quality starts on the season but his has struggled in his last two starts pitching 7.2 innings while allowing 10 earned runs. Baranik averages nearly 6.2 innings per start, 6.5 strikeouts per nine innings and 2.3 walks per nine innings pitched. Baranik had a streak of 30.2 straight scoreless innings earlier in the season.

Game 3, Sunday 1:00 PM

Arkansas State – TBA

 

Louisiana Lafayette – Cody Boutte (Sr., LHP) 6-0, 2.58 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, .243 OBA

Boutte is still undefeated on the season and has been the most effective starter of late with six quality starts. Boutte allowed no earned runs in a rubber match against Texas State in which ULL won in spite of being one hit on the day. Boutte averages 5.1 innings per start, 6.5 strikeouts and 2.9 walks per nine innings. Boutte also happens to be a southpaw which has been kryptonite for the A-State offense up to this point on the season.

Arkansas State will not get a better opportunity this season to cut into the Cajuns' lead in the Sun Belt Conference. The Red Wolves will probably also not get a better opportunity to boost their RPI and at large hopes for an NCAA Regional berth. Winning a game or two is going to be quite a task and one I hope Red Wolves fans are willing to show up and support them in the effort.

Those of us who follow baseball closely know that sometimes the numbers just don't play out.

I will be covering the Red Wolves action for College Baseball Central at http://collegebaseballcentral.com/sun-belt/arkansas-state/

Mark West

College Baseball Central

Twitter: @MarkWestCBC

Email: markwest@collegebaseballcentral.com