Bobcats, Cajuns, Trojans and Mavericks All Victorious on Day 1


The first day of the Sun Belt Conference’s baseball tournament saw Texas State, Louisiana Lafayette, Troy and UT-Arlington all win to stay in the winners bracket, while WKU, ULM, Arkansas State and host South Alabama are now a loss away from being sent back home.

In the opening game, the Tops held a 3-0 lead heading into the 9th inning, until the biggest weakness of the Hilltoppers, their bullpen, allowed four runs to score on three hits and three walks in just two innings, and the Bobcats were able to not only break a 26 inning scoreless streak by scoring thrice in the bottom of the ninth, but were able to absolutely steal a victory and spoil a great performance by WKU’s Justin Hageman.

In the second game of the day, the top seeded Ragin Cajuns took care of instate rival and final seeded Louisiana Monroe Warhawks, but played from behind as ULM scored on a two RBI single from first baseman Ross Moore and held onto a lead until the fifth inning, when ULL tied the game on a Seth Harrison RBI groundout. The Cajuns wouldn’t have their first lead of the game until the next inning, when Michael Strentz flied out to bring home Jace ConradThe ‘Hawks made a game of it in the top of the eighth, when Moore would bring home another runner on a fielders choice (that runner being Anthony Herrera) to tie the game at three, but the Cajuns would retake the lead, this time for good, by scoring four runs in the bottom half of the inning, and put ULM on the brink of elimination. The ULM loss set the stage for the matchup against WKU, which is happening right now.

The mid-afternoon affair saw another lead lost late, which lead to another extra innings contest. Troy, a 30 loss club, pulled off a fairly spectacular upset over the third seeded Arkansas State Red Wolves in a game similar to WKU’s, but with a different result. In this one, it was Troy who held an early 3-0 lead after three innings, but the Red Wolves would come back and score three of their own late in regulation with one in the seventh and two in the bottom of the ninth to tie. Although he was charged with the game tying run, Sun Belt Freshman of the Year Marc Skinner would go on to throw the final five innings for the Trojans, and all but shut the Red Wolves down, allowing no hits in the final four innings (all extras), which set the stage wonderfully for Garrett Pitts to hit the go-ahead, and eventual game winning, home run in the top of the 13th to give the Trojans the final 4-3 edge.

The win sets Troy up to face UT-Arlington, after leading wire to wire and defeating the host school South Alabama by an 8-4 final. Mavs starter Daniel Milliman pitched well enough to keep the Jaguars off the scoreboard until the sixth inning, as Milliman himself went 5.2 innings pitched, giving up five hits and three unearned runs. The star of the game however was Maverick shortstop Travis Sibleywho went 2-for-3 with two runs scored and four RBI, including a bases clearing double in the fifth inning which would bump UTA’s lead to, at the time, 8-0.  The Jags would try to make a comeback, as they scored three in the top of the sixth, as well as a run in their ninth, but 13 men left on base became too much to overcome.

So, day two is set and got underway just moments ago with WKU facing ULM in a win or go home matchup. The next game is also a do-or-die affair, with Arkansas State and South Alabama set to tango. The two night games not only look to be good games, but interesting ones at that, as one of the top teams in the country in ULL will take on a very opportunistic Texas State squad, while the lone underdog to win in Troy will take on UT-Arlington.