Previewing AState's Tournament Opponents

Arkansas State heads into the Sun Belt Conference Tournament with a bit of a chip on its' shoulder, having been snubbed from the Conference's end of season awards. However, the Red Wolves will have to be poised and focused to take on the pitching competition they will face in the tournament.

I'm going to break from the usual preview and just focus on the actual pitching match-ups for the Red Wolves. The tournament is a two-bracket, double-elimination format with a single-elimination championship game for the winner of each bracket.

A-State drew the bracket opposite No. 1 Louisiana Lafayette and will be facing teams that the Red Wolves have a combined 6-3 record against.

Unfortunately, one of A-State's losses to those teams occurred two weeks' ago as Troy's senior southpaw Shane McCain (4-4, 3.47 ERA, 39 BB, 95 K, 1.25 WHIP) held A-State to one run over eight innings pitched and made quick work of the Red Wolves in a 2-1 series opening loss. A-State would rebound to win the series, but such isn't a great option in the tournament.

A-State's David Owen (5-6, 3.96 ERA, 25 BB, 75 K, 1.32 WHIP) will face the Trojan ace in their opening game, Game 3 for the tourney, Wednesday afternoon. When Owen and McCain last squared off, the Trojans benefitted from one inning in which Owen seemed to lose the strike zone. Owen recovered, but the damage was done as Troy scored twice in that inning and McCain made it stick.

McCain hasn't had the season he expected and even last weekend gave up four earned runs so he can be hittable at times the Red Wolves just need to make Wednesday afternoon the time.

A-State will play either UT Arlington or South Alabama in their second game of the tournament.

If A-State wins they play the winner of the match-up between the Mavericks and Jaguars, if they lose they will play the loser of that match-up in the dreaded loser's bracket. Falling into the loser's bracket in game one means that the team must win five straight games to grab the tourney crown.

South Alabama isn't starting Locke St. John in their opening match-up and didn't start him last weekend. I'm not sure whether that is a sign of his availability for a potential second game match-up. If St. John isn't available the Jags may rely on a group of reliever/starters for the second game.

The Mavericks will have Brad Vachon (5-5, 5.40 ERA, 27 BB, 66 K, 1.57 WHIP) and Zach Thompson (4-4, 4.86 ERA, 31 BB, 54 K, 1.56 WHIP) available for game two. A-State will likely go to senior Bradley Wallace (3-5, 4.73 ERA, 23 BB, 63 K, 1.45 WHIP) for a game two start.

The way these type of tournaments go, once you get past the first two games it divulges into a dog fight in which pitching depth is key. Normally teams with depth will be more successful.

I plan to hit back by Friday morning if A-State survives the first two game, considering recent history the Red Wolves have the potential to go deep in the tournament.