SBC Softball Conference Play Begins This Weekend
The 2018 Sun Belt Conference softball schedule kicks into high gear this weekend, with league play beginning.
All ten teams will begin conference play, with five big series' schedule.
So far, it's been a little beginning for all of the league schools, with nobody under .500.
Let's take a look at the games on tap this weekend, with quick previews:
Louisiana at Coastal Carolina---Louisiana, who is 12-5 on the season. has played 14 of their 17 games at home, while Coastal Carolina, who is 13-8, has played 16 of their 21 games at home.
The Chanticleers have had a nice pre-conference start, but they haven't exactly played a tough schedule, playing the likes of UNC Greensboro, St. Francis (PA), Presbyterian, Lafayette, Kent St., Rider, Robert Morris, Georgetown, St. Joseph's, and New Mexico St.
Coastal Carolina leads the conference in home runs, with 27, but has an overall combined team ERA. of over 3.00, against questionable competition.
Louisiana, who will be playing their first true road games, has the best non-conference winning percentage, using versatility to accomplish that, ranking third in the league in hitting (.298), and fourth in pitching (2.39).
For Coastal Carolina, this is an opportunity to show everybody they're for real.
For Louisiana, this is an opportunity to show everybody else in the league that they are still the team to beat.
Georgia Southern at Troy---This series actually begins on Friday, and it's a really interesting one, with both teams off to good start.
Troy, with a much-improved pitching staff, is off to a surprising 13-6 start, after being picked to finish 9th in the league in the preseason poll.
Georgia Southern, who is also pitching well, is 12-6, and many feel that their offense hasn't really gotten going, yet.
Troy ranks second in the league in pitching (2.17 ERA.), while Georgia Southern ranks third (2.32), so runs may be hard to come by.
Neither team has played a really good schedule, so it's a chance for both to kind of legitimize themselves with a series win.
Texas St. at Georgia St.---This series will feature the pitching of Texas St. against the hitting of Georgia St.
Texas St., who was picked to win the league in the preseason poll, is 14-7, thanks in large part to senior right-hander Randi Rupp, who is 9-5 with a 1.71 ERA.
As a staff, the Bobcats lead the league in ERA. at a 2.16, but offensively, they also feature Ariel Ortiz, the Preseason Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, and Hailey MacKay, who has 6 homers, which tops the league.
Georgia St. has a number of bats, including Ivie Drake, who leads the league in hitting (.448) and runs batted in (25), and Megan Litumbe, who has been one of the better hitters in the league over the last few years.
The Panthers, who rank second in the league in hitting (.317), feature four of the top 20 hitters in the Sun Belt.
This series is extremely intriguing, because it features arguably the team with the best pitching in the conference, going up against maybe the best offensive team in the league.
This series may be more important to Georgia St., as they will be playing at home, and have a chance to make a statement, but regardless, on paper, it looks like the best series of the weekend.
ULM at Appalachian St.---ULM is 10-7, and Appalachian St. is 10-10, but both schools have played poor schedules.
The Warhawks lead the league in hitting (.320), while the Mountaineers are 6th (.274), but both have been less than stellar in the circle, with team ERA's over 3.00.
These teams rank second and third in the league in stolen bases, so we may see a track meet in beautiful Boone, North Carolina.
Neither of theses two should be considered legitimate title contenders, but a series win would be huge, especially for ULM, who is on the road.
UTA at South Alabama---This is a very big series for South Alabama.
The Jaguars are only 11-10, but have played a very tough schedule, suffering losses to the likes of Alabama, Tennessee, Minnesota, Tennessee, and Mississippi St., while securing a big win over Florida St.
South Alabama, who features Devin Brown, has really good pitching, but little power, with only four homers, the fewest in the league.
The Jaguars could be title contenders this year, but after a subpar start, they absolutely have to win their opening conference series at home.
UTA is 10-8, but hasn't played a really good schedule, and ranks only 8th in the league in both hitting (.262) and pitching 3.54.
The Mavericks are capable of going to Mobile and stealing the series, but don't count on it.