Sun Belt Sends a League Record Tying Four Teams to NCAA Baseball RegionalsPublished 2:58pm Monday, May 27, 2013
INDIANAPOLIS – For the first time since the 2004 season the Sun Belt Conference will be sending four baseball teams to the postseason. Florida Atlantic, Louisiana-Lafayette, South Alabama and Troy each received bids to the 2013 NCAA Regionals scheduled to be hosted at 16 different sites from May 31 through June 3.
Florida Atlantic, the SBC Tournament Champion, finished the 2013 season with a 39-20 record defeating the Ragin’ Cajuns in the tournament finale to claim the program’s first-ever SBC tournament title and earn the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA postseason.
The Owls, winners of 11 consecutive, will be playing in the Chapel Hill Regional in Chapel Hill, N.C. hosted by UNC, the top national seed in the field. FAU will be the No. 2 seed and will face-off against the Towson Tigers (29-28) which won the CAA baseball tournament.
This season the Owls posted the lowest ERA in the SBC at 3.63 and were fourth in the league with a .288 team batting average. FAU is led by freshman utility-man and SBC Tournament Most Outstanding Player, Brendon Sanger, who leads the Owls with a .373 batting average and 45 runs scored.
Hugh Adams leads the Owl bullpen and is all-time SBC leader in saves with 29. Jeremy Strawn and Austin Gomber are one-two in the league in ERA at 2.94 and 2.97, respectively.
The Owls are making their 8th appearance in the postseason.
The Ragin’ Cajuns earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament and will be playing in the Baton Rouge Regional hosted by No. 4 national seed LSU. ULL (41-18) had one of the biggest turnarounds in the country as the Cajuns won 18 more games this season than last year thanks in part to a potent offense that features seven batters with averages over .300 and 72 home runs.
Dex Kjerstad, who leads the SBC in batting average (.398), also leads the Cajuns in several major offensive categories such as runs scored (58), hits (94) and total bases (149). He is second on the team in home runs with 12.
ULL, the No. 2 seed in the Baton Rouge Regional, will take on Sam Houston State which finished the season 37-20. This will be the Cajuns’ 13th appearance in the tournament.
USA (42-18) also had one of the biggest turnarounds in the country this year posting 19 more wins in the 2013 than they did in 2012. Mark Calvi’s squad will be playing in the Starkville Regional (hosted by Mississippi State) and will take on Mercer (43-16) after being named co-champions during the 2013 regular season.
The Jaguars finished second in the league in hitting with a .302 team batting average and was third in league ERA at 4.21. USA’s 42 wins are the most the team has posted since the 2002 season. The 2013 at-large selection marks the 25th appearance for the Jaguars.
The 2013 SBC Player of the Year, Jordan Patterson, leads the Jag attack. Patterson has posted a .360 batting average with 80 hits and 67 runs scored. He has knocked in 49 RBIs on the year and has 26 extra-base hits.
Troy, the other co-champion of the regular season, was awarded an at-large bid to the Tallahassee Regional and will take on Alabama as the No. 3 seed in the regional hosted by No. 7 overall seed Florida State. The Trojans (40-18) finished third in the league in hitting (.295) and second in team ERA (4.06).
The middle of the lineup for the Trojans, Logan Pierce, Danny Collins and Trae Santos, have combined for 195 RBIs of the teams 423 runs scored. Collins leads the SBC with Santos and Pierce ranking second and third, respectively, in the RBI category.
SBC Pitcher of the Year, Shane McCain, and Tanner Hicks lead the Trojan pitching staff. Hicks and McCain each have posted eight wins on the season to lead the league. McCain is third in the league with 99 strikeouts.
Troy will be making its 6th appearance in the NCAA tournament.
2013 saw one of the better seasons for Sun Belt baseball as three of the ten teams in the league have posted 40 or more wins for the first time since the 2001 season. A win by FAU in the regional will give the league four teams with 40 or more wins for the first time since 1990.
This year the SBC ranked fifth in the country in RPI behind only the ACC, SEC, Pac-12 and Big 12 and will be sending multiple teams to the NCAA tournament for the 24th time in the past 25 seasons.
Each of the 16 regionals features four teams, playing a double-elimination format. The regionals are scheduled to be conducted from Friday, May 31, to Monday, June 3 (if necessary). Selection of the eight super regional hosts will be announced on www.NCAA.com/cws, Monday, June 3 at approximately 11 p.m. (ET).
The 67th Men’s College World Series begins play Saturday, June 15, at the TD Ameritrade Park Omaha in Omaha, Nebraska.
Chapel Hill Regional hosted by North Carolina
#1 North Carolina (52-8) vs. #4 Canisius (42-15), 5 p.m., ESPN3
#2 Florida Atlantic (39-20) vs. #3 Towson (29-28), 12 p.m., ESPN3
Baton Rouge Regional hosted by LSU
#1 LSU (52-9) vs. #4 Jackson St. (34-20), 2 p.m., ESPN3
#2 Louisiana-Lafayette (41-18) vs. #3 Sam Houston St. (37-20), 7 p.m., ESPN3
Starkville Regional hosted by Mississippi State
#1 Mississippi St. (43-17) vs. #4 Central Ark. (39-20), 7 p.m., ESPN3
#2 South Alabama (42-18) vs. #3 Mercer (43-16), 2 p.m., ESPN3
Tallahassee Regional hosted by Florida St.
#1 Florida St. (44-15) vs. #4 Savannah St. (33-21), 4 p.m., ESPN3
#2 Alabama (34-26) vs. #3 Troy (40-18), 11 a.m., ESPNU/ ESPN3