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PREMIUM SCOOP: More on Southeastern Louisiana’s top prospects
Getting snubbed from the NCAA postseason can cause coaches and players to take matters into their own hands.
That’s precisely what’s happening in Hammond, La., where Southeastern Louisiana is off to an incredibly hot start this season, sitting at 6-1 entering an important midweek bout against LSU.
The Lions have captured the nation’s attention so far this season. Though just two weeks into the campaign, the Lions have recorded a road series win over Sun Belt favorite Florida International, dominated Tulane in a midweek affair, and most recently, went 3-0 this past weekend with impressive wins over Central Florida, South Alabama and Alabama.
Now, after a hot start, the Lions hope to establish consistency and set their own path to the postseason. They don’t want the NCAA to have a reason to exclude them from the field of 64.
“I really don’t know what the committee looks for, but I do think they need to do a little better job at looking at the Southland Conference,” SELU coach Jay Artigues said. “I know they don’t give this league much credit, but we’ve got some big wins over some big-time schools.”
Frustration has become a familiar feeling for the Lions the past two seasons. The Lions were snubbed from the postseason two years ago when they compiled a 37-22 record. They also were left in the dark last season despite compiling a 40-19 record.
For mid-majors such as the Lions, every game against a big-time opponent could mean everything in the eyes of the committee. That makes the LSU game important well beyond the local implications.
“This is an experienced club that does a good job of keeping things in perspective,” Artigues said. “They know how valuable every win is after experiencing what they did last season from a postseason standpoint. They do a good job of leading themselves.”
Overall, the Lions haven’t had too many surprises this season. They’re an experienced club that is meeting expectations both at the plate and on the mound.
The Lions are hitting an impressive .319 and have a 2.61 team earned run average.
At the plate, Brock Hebert is hitting .444 and leads a lineup with four hitters batting over .400. And Artigues added that Jacob Fisher, who hasn’t come full circle at the plate just yet, has added some needed stability at the catcher position.
On the mound, junior right-hander Joseph Koon has taken some pressure off other Lions starters Tyler Watkins and Brandon Efferson are off to fantastic starts. Watkins, a crafty pitcher, has a 2.40 ERA in 15 innings, while Efferson, who tops out at 90-91 mph, has a 2.57 ERA in 14 innings.
Reliever Stefan Lopez also has impressed with coaching staff with a power fastball and solid overall arsenal.
“Our guys have been in this system and are familiar with it and each other. They trust each other,” he said. “We’re hoping that continues to pay off.”
Perhaps this time the NCAA will take notice.
No. 1 Florida vs. No. 7 Florida State: The top-ranked Gators have been exceptional on the mound so far this season and will send Tommy Toledo to the mound for his first start of the season. FSU, meanwhile, will counter with Scott Sitz, who has been solid so far this season. The result wasn’t kind to the Gators the last time these two teams met, but the Gators hope to turn the tide.
Southeastern Louisiana at No. 21 LSU: Both of these clubs have surprised so far this season, setting up a fantastic midweek matchup. The Lions entered the year with high expectations, but not many expected them to be 6-1 at this point with several good wins on their resume. LSU, meanwhile, has more power arms than many expected and are off to a fantastic start. It doesn’t get much better than this in the midweek.
Loyola Marymount at No. 9 Cal State Fullerton: One of the best success stories so far this season, the Lions have earned a series win over UC Riverside and also have a nice midweek win over Long Beach State. They hope to continue their hot ways this week with a midweek win over Cal State Fullerton, who hit the road last weekend and took a series from TCU. As with SELU and LSU, both of these clubs are playing great brands of baseball, setting the stage for what should be a great game.
No. 15 Rice at No. 16 Arizona (two-game series): The names of the two programs says it all when it comes to the importance of the two-game midweek set. The Wildcats are coming off a fantastic showing on the mound against Long Beach State last weekend, while Rice responded from a series loss to Stanford with a series win over USC last weekend. Arizona puts its midweek pitching on display for the first time this spring.
Charlotte at No. 20 North Carolina: There’s no question the 49ers are off to a hot start this spring, but they lack a marquee win with Missouri in rebuilding mode. The 49ers could change that on Tuesday with a midweek win over North Carolina, who is coming off a series win over Seton Hall. The 49ers will end the season with another great record, but marquee wins over teams such as UNC are needed.
No. 18 Miami vs. South Florida: The Bulls desperately need an impressive midweek win over Miami to get back on track. They’re 1-5 following a series sweep at Florida and dropping two of three at home to Elon. Miami, meanwhile, didn’t put on a good show in its first midweek game against Florida Atlantic, but hopes to layout a different script against the Bulls. This is a huge game for USF.
College of Charleston at Jacksonville: The Cougars are off to a fantastic start this season, having recorded wins over Kentucky and UNC Wilmington. Offensively, they’re doing a great job so far this season, but the biggest improvement has been on the mound, where the Cougars have established some consistency. They get a difficult test in the midweek with a road trip to face a Jacksonville club looking to earn a marquee win.
Texas State at Baylor: The Bobcats and Bears are off to solid starts this season. The Bobcats did a clean sweep of Akron last weekend, while the Bears hit the road and took two of three from Georgia. It’s an interesting contest because both teams have starters making their debuts. Texas State will send Travis Ballew (0-0, 9.95) to the mound while the Bears are countering with Tyler Bremer (0-0, 9.00). The Bobcats have a chance to earn another marquee win.
UNLV at Texas Tech (two-game series): Two of the more surprising teams so far this season meet for a two-game midweek set. UNLV coach Tim Chambers, who previously had a wealth of success at Southern Nevada, has guided his team to a 7-1 start, while Dan Spencer’s Red Raiders also are 7-1. Texas Tech could use a solid midweek series win over the Rebels to lead into their huge home series against TCU. It’s a potential statement week for the Red Raiders.
San Diego at UC Riverside: This will be one of the better midweek games. The Toreros got off to a slow start before responding last weekend with a pair of wins over rival San Diego State. UCR, meanwhile, is back on track after a tough start to the season against Loyola Marymount and USC. Both teams could use a midweek win to elevate their momentum moving forward to the weekend.
Coastal Carolina at College of Charleston: Is there a team that needs a big win more than the Chanticleers? We think not. The Chants are coming off a dismal weekend that included blowout losses to California and N.C. State. Unfortunately, they get to play a Charleston squad that will be motivated more than ever against them after losing the Myrtle Beach Regional title game last season on a bad call. The Chants must find a way to change their fortune.
Southern Mississippi at Alabama: Speaking of important midweek games, the Golden Eagles and Crimson Tide hope to return to their winning ways. USM suffered a hard-fought series loss to Troy last weekend, while Alabama had a dismal weekend in Mobile, Ala., that ended with a 0-3 record with losses to Southeastern Louisiana, South Alabama and UCF. Alabama needs to establish consistency.
Kendall Rogers is the managing editor of college baseball for Perfect Game USA and has covered the sport for over 10 seasons. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org