The University of Louisiana-Lafayette enters NCAA postseason play as the No. 2 seed in the College Station regional. The Ragin' Cajuns were Sun Belt conference champions and advanced to their tournament championship game.
It's hard to argue with the assertion that ULL was worthy of being a No. 1 seed and their own regional. They've amassed a 43-15 record, including a 23-7 mark in Sun Belt play, and finished 14th in the NCAA's RPI calculations. They were the highest RPI team to not host regional play or receive a No. 1 seed. Their schedule ranked as the 41st most difficult in the country overall and 17th most difficult in non-conference play.
While the Cajuns have an impressive resume, it's not without its' holes. The team has an impressive 20-10 record against Top 100 competition, but they've won just one game in six opportunities against Top 50 RPI competition. All six of those games came on the road, where they finished 18-12 on the season. Against Top 100 teams, ULL's regular season ended with a 13-10 road record.
Taking the Cajuns lightly, however, would be a big mistake that no team in this regional will make.
ULL features a very well rounded line-up, both on the hill and at the plate. The stat lines in both categories are impressive and filled with solid individual numbers.
Those close to the program point to their pitching as the biggest reason for their success this year, and that's a fair statement. The team has a 3.79 overall ERA and an impressive 3.62:1 strikeout to walk ratio (463 to 128). Just 26 percent of opponents' hits go for extra bases, including a very low 27 homeruns. In a statistical oddity, the Cajuns have plunked a large number of hitters (73) as compared to batters walked. About 20% of all runs scored against them are unearned.
Danny Farquhar will remind A&M fans of Kyle Nicholson's trek through 2007. Farquhar has thrown primarily in the bullpen, but early success led to his insertion into a starting rotation that needed some shoring up. His season numbers are outstanding—a 6-3 record with 112 strikeouts and just 21 walks in 83.2 innings pitched. Opposing hitters don't hit well against him (.225), and he's thrown in six saves for good measure.
If A&M and ULL meet in the second round, the Ags are likely to be reacquainted with Hunter Moody (8-3, 4.14 ERA, 66 K, 20 BB in 78.1 IP, .284 BAA). Moody threw a gem against the Aggies in the 2006 UTSA tournament, allowing just three hits in a 7-1 Cajun victory.
If there's an upside to A&M, it's that all three "above the line" pitchers, as well as nearly all of the bullpen, have allowed more hits than innings pitched. The team WHIP (Walks and Hits per Innings Pitched) of 1.32 isn't terrible (A&M's is 1.35), but it does serve as one potentially exploitable opportunity for the Aggie offense.
That same WHIP could get Aggie pitchers in trouble in a potential match up with ULL looming, as they're a very good offensive team. The team is hitting .312 overall, reaching base at a .393 rate and slugging an impressive .493. They don't move much on the base paths (62 stolen bases) nor rely on small-ball for success (49 sacrifice bunts).
The Cajuns game is built around getting guys on base and moving them around the old-fashioned way; by hitting the ball again. Their slugging percentage is outstanding, fueled by 115 doubles and 73 homers. As with most teams who slug well, they exhibit some impatience at the plate with a high strikeout (399 in 58 games, 6.88 per game) and low walk (233 in 58 games, 4.017 per game) totals.
Six everyday starters hit over .300, led in almost all categories by Jonathan Lucroy (.364 avg, 17 HR, 65 RBI, 19 2B, .668 slugging). Jefferies Tatford is almost as lethal (.362-10-46, 17 2B, .496 OBP), and Nolan Gisclair (.351-11-50, 11 2B) isn't far behind. Scott Hawkins (.349-16-46) leads the team with a .672 slugging percentage.
A look at Louisiana-Lafayette
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