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Sun Belt Conference report for May 1

The top of the Sun Belt Conference standings now resembles a staircase, with four teams just a step apart from each other. And, one game over the weekend finished with a final score that might’ve more closely resembled a spring football exhibition.

Coastal Carolina and Southern Miss remain 1-2 atop the standings, Coastal now at 15-6, with Southern right behind at 14-7. Georgia Southern sits one step back at 13-8, and Texas State is likewise the same increment behind at 12-9. Last week’s middle-of-the-pack logjam is still there, with six 11-win teams, led by App State’s percentage-best 11-9, and 11-10 marks for Troy, Old Dominion, Louisiana, Georgia State, and South Alabama. James Madison is just below .500 at 9-10, followed by a trio of 5-win teams in Arkansas State (5-14), ULM (5-15), and Marshall (5-16).

Only one Sun Belt team is ranked in this week's College Baseball Central Top 25, Coastal Carolina at #8. No other SBC team is among the 39 total teams receiving votes in the poll.

Just like the previous weekend, Coastal retained its leader spot by taking two out of three, this time on the road at Louisiana, dropping the series opener on Friday 11-9 but rebounding to win the next two, 13-5 and 3-2 in 11 innings. To gain ground on 2-1, you have to go 3-0, and that’s just what Southern Miss did, running their win streak to six straight by sweeping Arkansas State at home, 12-1, 4-1, and 17-7 in a run-rule 8-inning series finale.

Georgia Southern made a move up with a sweep of its own, beating ULM 8-6 on Friday, by a 35-8 football-like score on Saturday, and continuing to flex offensively in a 15-3 run-rule 7-inning contest on Sunday. Texas State offset its 1-2 road showing last weekend by going 2-1 on the road at Old Dominion, an 11-1 win on Friday followed by a 2-1 loss to the home team on Saturday, and another win on Sunday, 12-11 in 10 innings.

App State kept pace by taking two of three at home over James Madison, winning 10-6 Friday, losing to the visitors 18-9 on Saturday, and taking the Sunday game 9-7 in another 10-inning affair. Troy fell into its standings tie with South Alabama by dropping two of three to the Jaguars in Mobile, USA sandwiching its pair of wins on Friday and Sunday, 5-2 and 9-4, around the Troy win on Saturday, 8-1.

The remaining 11-10 team, Georgia State, got there with a sweep of their own, winning all three at home over Marshall, 17-9, 7-6, and 5-1.

In statistical categories for conference games only through April 30, Coastal Carolina remains first with a team batting average of .319, Georgia Southern is at .307, and Georgia State at .304 joins them as the only other team at or above .300.

Old Dominion remains in first place for team ERA at 5.24, with five others below 6.00 in Coastal Carolina (5.26), Southern Miss (5.34), Louisiana (5.49), Troy (5.62), and Georgia Southern (5.72).

Coastal Carolina has 46 home runs to lead that stat, with Georgia State now eclipsing 40 with 42 total. Five others have reached 30 or more round trippers, in Southern Miss (39), Troy (37), Georgia Southern and Old Dominion ( both 34), and Louisiana (30).

Louisiana continues to lead in fielding percentage at .981, compared to .974 for Coastal and .972 for Georgia State. And, Louisiana has widened its lead in base stealing even more, with 61-80 now nearly 30 ahead of Coastal (33-38). There is a race for second, though, with App State (32-40) and Georgia State (31-37) close behind.

James Madison continues to lead the SBC in striking out the fewest times, 132, with South Alabama still second at 139, App State with 153, and Troy with 157.

Individually, for players with a qualifying number of conference plate appearances, the leading hitter in the SBC remains Jesse Sherrill of Georgia Southern, whose recent surge now has him at .522. Two others are batting .400 or better: Will Turner (.427) of South Alabama and Max Ryerson (.420) of Georgia State.

In home run leaders, Slade Wilks of Southern Miss still leads with 13 and is joined in double figures now by Shane Lewis of Troy (11) and Jarrett Brown of Georgia Southern (10). Payton Eeles (19-22) of Coastal maintains his lead in stolen bases, followed in double figures by Cameron Jones of Georgia State (16-18) and Heath Hood of Louisiana (14-16).

Tanner Hall of Southern Miss has regained the pitching lead in ERA at 2.30, followed by last week’s leader, Kyler Carmack of Arkansas State at 2.43. Mitchell Gross (2.76) of Georgia Southern is the only other at or below 3.00.

In wins, Hall remains tied with Xander Hamilton from App State, both now at 6, with Sam Armstrong of Old Dominion, Ryan Watson of Georgia State, and Jacob Morrison of Coastal, all right behind at 5. Hamilton also remains the strikeout king so far, but his 59 Ks are now more closely followed by Levi Wells of Texas State at 50 and Hall at 49.

In three-game conference series coming up this weekend:

Coastal Carolina (28-14) hosts App State (21-19) in Conway, SC

Southern Miss (28-15) hosts South Alabama (23-21) in Hattiesburg, MS

Georgia Southern (23-21) travels to Troy (30-15) at Troy, AL

Texas State (29-16) hosts Georgia State (24-21) in San Marcos, TX

Old Dominion (28-15) travels to Arkansas State (15-25) at Jonesboro, AR

Louisiana (29-17) travels to ULM (15-29) at Monroe, LA

James Madison (24-19) travels to Marshall (16-25) at Charleston, WV


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