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Sun Belt Conference report for April 24

As it rolls through the second half of the league’s 2023 schedule, the Sun Belt Conference has a bit of separation at the top, followed by a logjam.

Coastal Carolina remains atop the standings at 13-5, a spot it has held or shared most of the season, and alone in the second spot at 11-7, now two games back, is Southern Miss. Right behind that is a five-way tie for third, with 10-8 records all held by Troy, Old Dominion, Louisiana, Texas State, and Georgia Southern.

Only one other team has stayed above .500 in SBC play, App State at 9-8. They’ve not played the same number of games, but James Madison at 8-8 and South Alabama at 9-9 both come in at .500. They’re followed by Georgia State at 8-10, Arkansas State at 5-11, ULM at 5-12, and Marshall at 5-13.

Only one Sun Belt team is ranked in this week's College Baseball Central Top 25, Coastal Carolina at #10. No other SBC team is among the 37 teams receiving votes in the poll.

This past weekend, Coastal enhanced its leader spot by taking two out of three from Southern Miss at home, winning Friday and Saturday 15-7 and 20-7, before missing out on a sweep when USM won 15-7 score on Sunday. Troy followed the same pattern in winning two of three at home over Texas State, 10-8 and 22-5 on Friday and Saturday, before dropping the Sunday game to TSU 9-5.

Old Dominion fell another game behind the lead by dropping two of three on the road at App State, losing a one-run game Friday 7-6, winning Saturday 13-1 and dropping a run-rule shortened contest on Sunday, 18-8. Louisiana had a rough weekend on the road at James Madison, being swept 10-8, 13-2, and 9-4, just a week after James Madison was itself swept on the road at Southern Miss.

Georgia Southern found the road more forgiving, taking two of three at Marshall, 16-4 and 6-1 on Friday and Saturday, before the Herd won Sunday 8-1. South Alabama dropped its series opener against Georgia State, 15-5 on Friday, before rebounding to take the next two, 5-2 and 7-2.

Arkansas State won its second straight series, over ULM, dropping the Friday game 8-6 but coming back to win Saturday, 25-4, and Sunday, 10-7.

In statistical categories for conference games only through April 23, Coastal Carolina remains first with a team batting average of .331, with Georgia State’s .303 still the only other at or above .300. Despite being swept over the weekend, Louisiana is now tied with Old Dominion for best team ERA, both at 5.26. Coastal is next, at 5.39, and only two others are below 6.00 now, Southern Miss (5.56) and Georgia Southern (5.88)

Coastal Carolina is the first to hit (exactly) 40 home runs, with Georgia State (35), Troy (33), and Old Dominion (31) the only others at 30 or higher. Louisiana continues to lead in fielding percentage at .981, compared to .974 for Coastal and .972 for Georgia State.

Louisiana maintains a wide lead in base stealing, with 52-65 still more than 20 ahead of Coastal (31-36). James Madison continues to lead the SBC in striking out the fewest times, 116, with South Alabama still second at 121, App State with 133, and Troy with 138.

Individually, for players with a qualifying number of conference plate appearances, the leading hitter in the SBC is still Jesse Sherrill of Georgia Southern, who has surged to .494. Three others are batting .400 or better: Will Turner (.424) of South Alabama, Max Ryerson (.421) of Georgia State, and Zack Beach (.403) of Coastal Carolina.

In home run leaders, Slade Wilks of Southern Miss remains the only one in double digits, now with 11. Shane Lewis of Troy and Jarrett Brown of Georgia Southern both have 9, with Turner and Derek Bender of Coastal at 8 each. Payton Eeles (17-20) of Coastal maintains his lead in stolen bases, followed in double figures by Heath Hood of Louisiana (13-14) and Cameron Jones of Georgia State (12-13).

In pitching, Kyler Carmack (1.82) of Arkansas State has moved from third to first in ERA, followed by Mitchell Gross (2.20) of Georgia Southern, Tanner Hall (2.50) of Southern Miss, Todd Mozoki (2.93) of James Madison, and Arlon Butts of Arkansas State (3.00) as the only others at or below 3.00.

In wins, Hall remains tied with Xander Hamilton from App State, both still at 5, with Sam Armstrong of Old Dominion, Ryan Watson of Georgia State, and Jacob Morrison of Coastal, all right behind at 4. Hamilton also remains the strikeout king so far, his 55 comfortably leading Brady Fuller of Troy, Levi Wells of Texas State, and Ben Thompson of Troy, all recording 40 Ks each.

In three-game conference series coming up this weekend:

Coastal Carolina (26-12) travels to Louisiana (26-15) at Lafayette, LA

Southern Miss (23-15) hosts Arkansas State (15-21) in Hattiesburg, MS

Troy (28-13) travels to South Alabama (21-19) at Mobile, AL

Old Dominion (26-13) hosts Texas State (26-15) in Norfolk, VA

Georgia Southern (20-20) hosts ULM (15-25) in Statesboro, GA

App State (19-18) hosts James Madison (23-16) in Boone, NC

Georgia State (20-21) hosts Marshall (16-22) in Atlanta, GA


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