Louisiana-Lafayette head coach Tony Robichaux said at the end of last season he thought this year’s club would do something special. Well, they’ve already earned a national seed and now hope to reach an NCA Super Regional. The Cajuns have one of the nation’s most explosive offensive lineups with electric Caleb Adams (.386/11/39) and do-it-all slugger Jace Conrad (.367/7/55/21 SB) leading the charge. The Cajuns also really like sure-handed shortstop Blake Trahan, who’s hitting .339 with four homers and 42 RBIs, while Seth Harrison (.317) and Michael Strentz (.236) both are big-time power producers. The list just goes on when it comes to the Cajuns and key hitters … On the mound, the Cajuns have gotten contributions from several quality arms this season. It was thought the Cajuns might be in trouble when righthanded pitcher Austin Robichaux went down with an injury earlier this season. However, some guys stepped up in his absence, making the staff significantly better with his return a few weeks ago. Carson Baranik, who can get up to 90-92 with his fastball, has been as good as advertised with a 3.30 ERA in 92 2/3 innings, while Cody Boutte is one of those guys who has really improved, tallying a 2.75 ERA in 75 1/3 innings. Matt Hicks (1.62) and Ryan Wilson (1.69) are quality bullpen arms, while the headliner is righthanded pitcher Reagan Bazar, who can get up to the upper 90s with his fastball.
Mississippi State really has a chance to make things interesting this weekend, especially with its pitching staff. The Bulldogs have some impressive pieces on the mound. For instance, righthanded pitcher Trevor Fitts consistently flashes good command, while lefthanded pitcher Ross Mitchell will only sit low-80s to mid-80s with his fastball, but has a nice slider and good overall stuff. Meanwhile, righthanded pitcher Jonathan Holder and lefthander Jacob Lindgren and two stalwarts to watch out of the bullpen. Holder will sit 90-92 with his fastball and has a good curveball, while Lindgren flashed big-time stuff last week in the SEC tournament, sitting 93-95 with his fastball, while also showcasing a devastating mid-80s slider … The big key for this MSU club this weekend is the offensive side of things. The Bulldogs don’t have an overly productive offense, and the lineup tends to go into serious lulls at times. It’ll be big for veterans such as Brett Pirtle (.341/2/27), C.T. Bradford (.311/1/29) and Wes Rea (.247/4/37) to have big weekends, while catcher Gavin Collins is one of the nation’s elite first-year players. Also watch out for Derrick Armstrong. Armstrong primarily is a singles hitter, but was hitting around .340 just a month ago.
Say what you want about San Diego State’s past, but this program has now made back-to-back postseason appearances. The Aztecs have a very solid club this season with some real balance. For instance, third baseman Ty France leads an offense that enters the weekend hitting .291. France is a terrific hitter, batting .358 with five homers and 45 RBIs, while speedy Greg Allen is a dual threat with a .310 batting average and a whopping 25 stolen bases. Catcher Brad Haynal is another powerful hitter to watch with a .313 batting average, 12 homers and 49 RBIs … On the mound, the Aztecs have done a terrific job with hard-throwing righthanded pitcher Michael Cederoth moving to the back end of the bullpen. Cederoth, who can get up to the upper-90s with his fastball, has appeared in 32 games and has a 2.28 ERA, while starting pitchers Bubba Derby (2.69, 103.2 IP) and Mark Seyler (3.99, 94.2 IP) are quality arms the Aztecs are confident in entering the weekend. I’m intrigued to see how the Aztecs fare in Louisiana.
Jackson State gave LSU all it could handle last season in the Baton Rouge Regional opener, and the Tigers hope to emulate that Friday night against top-seeded Louisiana Lafayette. JSU starting pitchers Desmond Russell and Alexander Juday earned SWAC all-tournament honors for their performances last week. Russell has a 3.50 ERA in 100 1/3 innings and Juday has a 4.17 ERA in 90 2/3 innings of work … Offensively, Tilur Smith (.344/3/27) and Melvin Rodriguez (.310/3/45) are quality hitters to watch this weekend.