Week 12 in Sun Belt Baseball

Three teams clinched their berths in the Sun Belt Conference tournament this week as the conference race saw movement and tightening as the season draws closer to its conclusion. No. 2 Louisiana Lafayette, Arkansas State and Texas State all punched their tickets to the conference tournament this weekend.

Don't forget to check out the Sun Belt standings at the bottom of the page along with updates to RPI and strength of schedule.

Sun Belt Weekly Awards

Player of the Week: Louisiana Lafayette's Chase Compton (Sr., 1B) .500 AVG, HR, 2 2B, 2 BB, 3 HBP, 3 SB, 7 R, 4 RBI, .619 OBA, .813 SLG

Pitcher of the Week: Louisiana Lafayette's Carson Baranik (Jr., RHP) W, 1-0, 9.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 0.22 WHIP

No. 2 Louisiana Lafayette Takes Two-of-Three from A-State, Both Clinch Tournament Berth

JONESBORO, Ark. – No. 2 Louisiana Lafayette continues their roll without having lost a weekend series as they take two of three from Arkansas State in Jonesboro at the Tom. The Cajuns, 43-7 on the year, remain secure atop the Sun Belt Conference at 20-4 while Arkansas State falls into a five game deficit at 15-9 but remains tied in second place with Texas State. The Red Wolves are 27-21 overall with seven games to play.

Game 1 – No. 2 Louisiana Lafayette 6, A-State 5

Louisiana Lafayette capitalized on three Arkansas State errors and three base-running miscues to pull out a one run victory on Friday night. Michael Strentz hit an RBI double of the wall for an early 1-0 lead for the Cajuns. ULL plated two more runs, one of which due to an error in the fourth to build a 3-0 lead.

Zach Maggio would get picked off first after drawing a walk in the fourth before Austin Baker doubled and Matt Burgess knocked him in with a two-run homer, could have been a three-run shot, to cut the lead to 3-2. In the fifth the Cajuns would get two more runs, one on an error and another on a wild pitch and then scored another run after an error in the sixth to build a 6-2 lead.

In the seventh, A-State had three straight RBI hits to cut the lead to 6-5 but would end the threat with a strikeout by Eric Wilcoxson. Ty Michelotti and Dustin Jones each hit RBI doubles with Joe Schrimpf's RBI single sandwiched in between for the offense in the inning.

In the eighth, Maggio drew another walk but would be doubled off for the second time on the night as Austin Baker pops up a bunt attempt that Cajuns' pitcher Ryan Wilson makes a diving catch on and then throws out Maggio as he retreated to first. Burgess would single but would be caught attempting to steal on a pitch in the dirt. A-State went three-up, three-down in the ninth as ULL gets the win.

Game 2 – No. 2 Louisiana Lafayette 7, A-State 0

Carson Baranik had a masterful outing for the Cajuns with a complete game two-hitter in which he faced only one over the minimum in a 7-0 victory over A-State. Baranik fanned seven Red Wolves and needed only 84 pitches in the game, never allowing a baserunner to reach second.

Bradley Wallace set a career high with 12 strike outs over seven innings of work as he combined with Cody Woodhouse to strike out ULL 17 times for a season high.

A-State committed two more errors that led to two more Cajuns scores but were unable to stop ULL's offense as timely hitting and small ball kept piling up the scores as A-State remained stymied offensively. The Cajuns took the series with the win.

Game 3 – A-State 6, No. 2 Louisiana Lafayette 4

Tyler Zuber and Stuart Levy provide A-State with all they would need to overcome two more errors and get a pivotal 6-4 win over the Cajuns to avoid the sweep.

Stuart Levy drove in the game winning run with a two-run double with the bases juiced in the seventh to go along with his RBI single earlier in the game to pace the offense while Zach Maggio and Tanner Ring scored twice each.

The freshman, Zuber, came on to pitch in the seventh and hurled three scoreless, but not uneventful innings to get the win. Zuber induced a pop up after a two-base wild pitch put a runner at third to end the seventh inning. Zuber got an inning-ending double play to end the eighth after surrendering a pair of one-out singles.

However, the ninth would prove to be high drama after Jace Conrad led the inning with a single. Zuber got Seth Harrison to pop out before facing clean-up hitter Tyler Girouard who hit a ball deep to right. Derek Birginske scrambled to the fence in right and eventually settled on the warning track making the catch, seemingly inches from the fence for the second out.

Zuber then walked Caleb Adams on a full count before facing Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week Chase Compton. Zuber got Compton to hit a comebacker, that he ran halfway to first before tossing to Burges to end the game and preserve the Red Wolves win.

Sunday's win was a character win for the team as three players who had miscues and errors in the series rebounded, kept focused on the game at hand, and provided for a team win.

Levy overcame a rough weekend behind the plate to be the hero at the plate Sunday going 2-for-4, with a double, a run scored and three RBI. Maggio came back from a couple of base-running miscues to go 2-for-4 and score two runs, one in the 7th as A-State took the lead and one in the eighth to extend the lead. Burgess put his base-running misstep behind him and drew a bases loaded walk to set up Levy's heroic double.

A-State Player of the Weekend: Matt Burgess (So., 1B) 3-for-9, HR, 2 BB, SH, 2 R, 3 RBI, .333 AVG, .455 OBA, .667 SLG, 1.122 OPS

Other notables:

·         Stuart Levy (Jr., C) 2-for-11, 2B, R, 3 RBI, .182 AVG, .182 OBA, .272 SLG, .454 OPS

·         Zach Maggio (Sr., 2B/DH) 4-for-9, 3 BB, 2 R, .444 AVG, .583 OBA, .444 SLG, 1.027 OPS

A-State Pitcher of the Weekend: Tyler Zuber (Fr., RHP) W, 1-0, 3.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2BB, 2 K, 1.67 WHIP

Other notables:

·         Bradley Wallace (Sr., RHP) L, 0-1, 7.0 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 12 K, 1.43 WHIP

·         David Owen (So., RHP) L, 0-1, 6.0 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 1.67 WHIP

Friday Roundup: Locke St. John Complete Game Highlight Sun Belt Baseball

Saturday Roundup: Louisiana Lafayette's Carson Baranik Two-Hitter Highlights Sun Belt Baseball

Sunday Roundup: Sun Belt: Tyler Zuber Keys Arkansas State Win Over Louisiana Lafayette

Texas State Sweeps Troy, Ties Arkansas State, Clinches Tournament Berth

San Marcos, Texas – Texas State had solid pitching all weekend, holding the Trojans to only seven runs in the series sweep that moves the Bobcats into a tie with Arkansas State for second in the Sun Belt with a  15-9 record. Texas State is 27-21 while Troy falls to 8-15 in the Sun Belt, one-half game out of the tournament, with a 21-27 overall mark.

Austen Williams threw 7.2 innings, allowing three earned runs and striking out seven while Garret Mattlage drives in two and Cody Pearson scores two more in Texas State's 7-3 game one win. Taylor Black throws seven, allowing only two runs as Mattlage scores twice in the Bobcats' 5-2 game two win over the Trojans. In game three, Lucas Humpal allowed two earned runs over over six while fanning eight. Granger Studdard lead a balanced offense with two RBI leading Texas State to a sweep with a 6-2 win in the finale.

Western Kentucky Wins Series with Louisiana Monroe, Loses Ground in Sun Belt

MONROE, La. – Western Kentucky takes two of three from Louisiana Monroe but falls a game further behind Texas State in the Sun Belt Conference race. The Hilltoppers improve to 13-11 but now sit a full two games behind Texas State in the Sun Belt Conference race. WKU is 27-22 on the year while ULM is 19-30 and sits in the last tournament spot at 9-15 in the Belt.

In game one, Ian Tompkins notched save number 13 after a Ryan Church sac fly gave WKU the lead in the 11th as the Hilltoppers win 4-3. WKU pounded ULM in game two lead by Cody Wofford's three-run homer and Scott Wilcox's two-run double giving Josh Bartley all the run support he would need in an 11-2 win. The Warhawks would take game three on a walk-off homer by Chet Simoneaux after erasing a 4-0 lead to win 5-4 and avoid a sweep.

UT Arlington Takes Series, Remains Tied with Western Kentucky

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – UT Arlington takes two of three from UALR to keep pace with the WKU Hilltoppers in the Sun Belt race. At 24-25 on the season, the Mavericks are tied with WKU at 13-11 in the Sun Belt while UALR remains in the cellar at 7-17 with a 21-26 overall mark.

Eric Tate scores the game winning run in the 10th for UT Arlington after they blew a 5-0 lead to beat UALR 6-5 in game one. UALR scores seven runs in the first three innings behind Austin Pfieffer's homer and Ben Crumpton's two runs scored and an RBI for an 8-6 win in game two. Maverick's hurler Zach Thompson didn't allow a run until giving up three in the ninth as Levi Scott, John Michael Twichell and Darien McLemore all homer to build an 8-2 lead for a game three win to take the series.

Georgia State Wins Second Straight Series with Win over South Alabama, Moves into Tourney Race

Mobile, Ala. – Georgia State overcomes a 1-0 deficit to take the series from South Alabama and moves into eighth place in the Sun Belt at 9-15, a half-game ahead of Troy, and holding the final spot in the tournament with a 23-25 overall record. The Jaguars fall to 10-13 and sit sixth in the conference with a 21-26 mark on the year.

Locke St. John opened the series with another brilliant home outing, throwing a complete game striking out six and allowing only a run on four hits and a walk as South Alabama wins 8-1 behind Cole Gleason's 2-for-4 day with a two-run homer. In game two, Ryan Blanton's two-run homer in the fifth made the difference as Georgia State wins 7-4. Nic Wilson smacked three homers to lead the Panthers to a 15-10 win over the Jaguars in a game three slugfest in which Chase Raffield homered for the second time in the series.

Sun Belt Conference Standings* (Top 8 Teams Qualify for Conference Tournament)

Team

Record

GB

RPI

SOS

xNo. 2 Louisiana Lafayette

20-4

--

8

108

xArkansas State

15-9

5

49

42

xTexas State

15-9

5

68

62

Western Kentucky

13-11

7

79

74

UT Arlington

13-11

7

128

73

South Alabama

10-13

9.5

142

94

Georgia State

9-15

11

158

85

Louisiana Monroe

9-15

11

171

55

Troy

8-15

11.5

193

128

UALR

7-17

13

174

101

 

*Rankings are from College Baseball Central rankings for the week of play

*RPI and SOS are from Warren Nolan.

xClinched berth in Sun Belt Tournament

Mark West covers the Sun Belt for College Baseball Central and you can read more of his college baseball coverage here.