Both Ole Miss and Louisiana-Lafayette enter the weekend with very solid weekend rotations, with the Rebels getting the overall edge.
Ole Miss has a very good weekend rotation with righthanders Chris Ellis and Sam Smith and lefty Christian Trent leading the way. Ellis has blossomed as a junior this season, sitting 91-94, touching 95 at times, with his fastball, along with good secondary offerings, while Christian Trent just pounds the strike zone with his arsenal, which includes a fastball anywhere from 88-92. Then there's Smith. Smith is a hard-nosed, come-at-you type of pitcher, who doesn't possess particularly overpowering stuff, but has the ability to go out there and put up a lot of zeroes.
As for the Ragin' Cajuns, they will go with righthanded pitcher Austin Robichaux in the series opener. Robichaux has a very good arm and 2.83 ERA in 82 2/3 innings, overcoming an injury that sidelined him a little earlier this season. Meanwhile, Carson Baranik has been a welcomed, consistent, addition to the staff with a 3.27 ERA in 99 innings, while the Cajuns have some options for the No. 3 spot in the weekend rotation with Ryan Wilson (1.95) and Cody Boutte (3.09) as options.
Once again, as seems to be the case with the last couple of NCAA Super Regional previews, the Cajuns and Rebels are comparable from a bullpen standpoint.
Ole Miss has more depth in the bullpen, while the Ragin' Cajuns have some serious start power on the frontline of the bullpen. For the Rebels, this group is led by a very solid duo of Scott Weathersby and Aaron Greenwood. Both Greenwood and Weathersby were just terrific in last weekend's NCAA Regional in Oxford, with Weathersby going 5 1/3 shutout innings in the title game against Washington. Meanwhile, Josh Laxer has a big-time arm with a fastball up to 94-95, while Wyatt Short and Jeremy Massie are a pair of talented arms who can come in and put an end to rallies.
For the Ragin' Cajuns, the story line of the season in the bullpen is the emergence of freshman righthanded pitcher Reagan Bazar, who has a 2.32 ERA and a big-time fastball up to 98. However, he did not pitch last weekend in the Lafayette Regional, so it'll be interesting to see what his status is this weekend against the Rebels. Meanwhile, Matt Hicks (1.43) and Ryan Wilson (1.95) are premium arms, with Matt Plitt (3.67) being another solid option for the Cajuns.
It will be a load of fun to see how these two offenses perform this weekend against good overall pitching. Both the Cajuns and Rebels have big-time offensive lineups, with the Cajuns getting the edge -- especially at home.
What's there not to say about this ULL lineup? It's fun, it's wild and it's consistent. The Cajuns enter the weekend hitting .319 and have two of the nation's elite hitters in outfielder Caleb Adams (.387/11/42) and second baseman Jace Conrad (.377/9/65), while shortstop Blake Trahan is hitting .357 and Seth Harrison and Michael Strentz are both power producers, with Harrison being the more consistent overall hitter. Contrary to popular belief, the Cajuns don't rely heavily on the long ball. This team is aggressive, will do anything in any situation and has some legitimate speed with Ryan Leonards and Conrad able to create on the bases.
For the Rebels, outfielder Auston Bousfield is having a season to remember with an advanced approach, while Will Allen (.351), Austin Anderson (.332/4/39) are veteran, consistent, bats. Meanwhile, first baseman Sikes Orvis is a huge power threat with 13 homers on the season, while freshman J.B. Woodman is an advanced hitter for his age, and Will Jamison and Preston Overbey are guys more than capable of putting together a string of good performances. Also, watch for Colby Bortles. Bortles tends to come into the game in pinch-hitting roles, but has some power potential.
The Cajuns and Rebels both have the ability to be pretty electric from a defensive standpoint. The Rebels are solid up the middle with shortstop Errol Robinson leading the way. Yes, Robinson has had some bad errors this season, but he has good instincts and the ability to make some spectacular plays. The Rebels are athletic in the outfield, and have a group of guys who take terrific angles and have a veteran-like approach in the outfield.
ULL has an athletic, veteran, outfield, but the defensive aspect of this team I like most is the middle infield, specifically the up the middle duo of shortstop Blake Trahan and second baseman Jace Conrad. Those two have good chemistry and are smooth out there. Much like every other aspect of this team, ULL has a good defensive approach.
"Ole Miss is just a really, really good baseball team. Top to bottom, the Rebels just have very few deficiencies. They throw strikes on the mound, they play defense, and are so much improved offensively over last season. They have a lot of veteran older guys who don't get themselves out. They take advantage of big opportunities. They might lack the prospects some other teams have from an offensive standpoint, but they're one of the top two teams we saw the entire season. When you have guys like they have offensively who aren't elite prospects and aren't chasing numbers the entire season, they buy into the team concept and you can see that with this group. They began the season as an underdog in the league, and they've thrived on that all-year long."
"Remember how Bruce Pearl had controlled chaos at Tennessee for basketball? That's kind of how the Cajuns are for college baseball. You never really know what they're going to do, and that makes this an incredibly fun team to watch. When we played them, everyone up and down the batting order did something a little different, and a big thing with this club is the improvements they've made on the mound. I know people have something against these guys because they're not a true power program, at least in the sense of the word, but this is an elite team."