(Sun Belt Conference image)
By Doug Kyle
The Sun Belt Conference, like so many others, has now played just three of ten scheduled conference series. But, some separation is already beginning to emerge.
SBC standings through games of April 2:
Old Dominion and Coastal Carolina lead the way in conference records so far, both at 7-2 after 9 SBC games. Just a game behind at 6-3 are Louisiana and App State, and a trio of teams with winning conference marks of 5-4 follow in the form of Texas State, Southern Miss, and Georgia Southern.
The lower half of the league comes in with Troy, Marshall, and Georgia State at 4-5, James Madison at 3-4 (a March 25 DH canceled due to rain at Arkansas State), South Alabama at 3-6, Arkansas State at 1-6 (the canceled DH), and ULM at 1-8.
Currently, no Sun Belt teams are ranked in the College Baseball Central Top 25 released today. Coastal Carolina is receiving votes equivalent to 28th place, and Old Dominion would be 35th of the 41 total teams receiving votes. Southern Miss has fallen out of the CBC poll after being ranked earlier in the season.
The latest results:
This past weekend, Old Dominion took two out of three on the road at Georgia Southern in Statesboro, winning both the Friday and Saturday games 7-5 and 12-7, but being run-ruled in the series finale, 16-0 in 7 innings. Co-leader Coastal Carolina swept all three games on the road at Georgia State in Atlanta, by scores of 16-7, 10-8, and 8-6.
Louisiana dropped a home series in Lafayette, LA, to App State, losing the first two on Friday and Saturday 3-2 and 8-5 before coming back to salvage the Sunday game 6-0. Texas State hosted Arkansas State in San Marcos, TX, winning one-run games both Friday and Sunday 8-7 (10 innings) and 7-6, with Arkansas State picking up its lone SBC win so far in the Saturday game, also by one run, 5-4.
After seeing their midweek game canceled due to unplayable infield turf, Southern Miss went to Troy, AL, and took two from the Trojans, likewise winning Friday and Sunday 4-1 and 13-3, with Troy winning on Saturday 5-4. Marshall, playing on the road in Monroe, LA, took two out of three from ULM, winning 13-6 and 4-3, of course on Friday and Sunday, with ULM taking the Saturday game (its only SBC win to date), 4-3 in 11 innings.
The pattern continued even further when James Madison hosted South Alabama in Harrisonburg, VA, South Alabama taking Friday and the rubber game Sunday 19-3 and 14-3, James Madison winning Saturday 13-8.
Selected statistical categories for conference games only through April 2:
The two win-loss leaders also share the top spots in team hitting and pitching. Coastal Carolina is first with a team batting average of .342 (Georgia State the only other above .300, at .338), while Old Dominion leads in team ERA with a 3.23, the only school below 4.00. Georgia State (23) and Coastal Carolina (20) are the only two teams to have 20 or more home runs, and Coastal Carolina leads in fielding percentage at .984, followed by three others between .976 and .979. Louisiana is tops in base stealing, 33-39 on the year, with App State at 20-27 the only other team remotely close. James Madison has struck out the fewest times, 52, with South Alabama second at 65.
Individually, for players with more than 10 conference plate appearances, the leading hitter in the SBC is Jesse Sherrill of Georgia Southern at .488. The home run leader is actually a trio of players with six each: Will Turner of South Alabama (also hitting .412), Golston Gillespie of App State, and Slade Wilks of Southern Miss. Heath Hood of Louisiana leads in stolen bases, 9-10, followed by Payton Eeles of Coastal Carolina with 8-10.
In pitching, Tanner Hall of Southern Miss leads with the only ERA below 1.00, at 0.45. His 3 wins are also second only to the 4 of Xander Hamilton from App State. Only two others have an ERA below 2.00, Mitchell Gross of Georgia Southern at 1.32, and Rawls Cooper of Louisiana at 1.54. Hamilton is also the strikeout king so far, his 37 more than 10 in front of Patrick Copen of Marshall (26) and Ty Fisher of Georgia Southern (25).
Three-game conference series coming up this weekend:
Old Dominion (22-6) hosts Southern Miss (16-10) in Norfolk, VA
Georgia Southern (14-14) visits Coastal Carolina (18-7) in Conway, SC
Marshall (13-12) hosts Louisiana (19-9) in Charleston, WV
App State (15-11) hosts ULM (10-19) in Boone, NC
Texas State (19-9) faces South Alabama (12-16) in Mobile, AL
Troy (20-9) goes to Jonesboro, AR, to play Arkansas State (10-15)
James Madison (16-11) hosts Georgia State (14-14)