The Sun Belt tournament will start on Wednesday and the Texas State baseball team is looking to make a deep conference run.
Texas State, the sixth seed, will play third-seeded Louisiana-Lafayette in a rematch from last year’s tournament.
The two teams met in the second round last year, which Louisiana-Lafayette won 11-4. They met again after Texas State survived an elimination game, and the Ragin’ Cajuns beat the Bobcats 4-3. The loss ended Texas State’s season. Louisiana-Lafayette went on to win the Sun Belt championship against UT-Arlington 6-5.
“They were really good last season, but there’s been a lot of turnover on their roster,” said Jeremy Fikac, assistant coach. “We don’t feel like revenge is on our minds and we’re just going to go out there and try to win the ballgame.”
Texas State hosted the Ragin’ Cajuns on April 18 and 19, with Louisiana-Lafayette winning two of three games. The first two games of the series were played in a doubleheader, which both teams split.
Lucas Humpal, junior pitcher, did not have his best outing in the first game. Humpal allowed six runs in 6.1 innings, recording his fifth loss of the season.
Humpal will get another shot at Louisiana-Lafayette in the first game of the tournament.
“Humpal has been our guy all year long,” Fikac said. “I feel like he gives us the best chance to win.”
Humpal pitched in the first game against the Ragin’ Cajuns in the tournament last season. The junior pitcher allowed seven runs in 4.2 innings pitched.
The Ragin’ Cajuns lead the Sun Belt Conference in runs scored and home runs so Humpal will need his best stuff on Wednesday.
The Bobcat offense has been inconsistent this season. However, they are fresh off one of the best offensive performances in the history of the program.
The team scored 22 runs against UT-Arlington in their final game of the season, setting season-highs in runs scored (22), hits (20) and home runs (4). This was the first time Texas State scored 20 or more runs in a game since they scored 20 against Penn State on March 12, 2010.
The Bobcats offense hit in six innings because the game was concluded in the seventh due to a run rule.
The team will feature the same lineup that they put out in their last game.
The lineup is more offensive due to the presence of Zach Sullivan, freshman third baseman. Coach Fikac said Sullivan has played well at third base. Sullivan hit 6-for-9 in the last three games, including five runs scored and two runs batted in.
The team will sacrifice a bit on defense by having Tanner Hill, junior catcher, behind the plate. Hill leads the Sun Belt in stolen bases against with 51 on 57 attempts.
Hill is a big part of the lineup for the team, leading the Bobcats in batting average (.320).
The catcher tied the team record for runs batted in a game with nine in the Bobcats’ previous matchup. Hill was awarded the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week because of his performance.
Hill will need to stay hot in order for the team to get past the Ragin’ Cajuns and go deep into the tournament. He went 3-for-4 with a home run in the 10-4 win against the Ragin’ Cajuns back in April.
“In the last 15 games he has been fantastic,” Fikac said. “We slid him into the four-hole when there wasn’t a lot of offensive production, and he’s been really steady.”
Even if Texas State doesn’t get the win against Louisiana-Lafayette on Wednesday, its season will not be over as the tournament is double elimination.
If the team wins, they face the winner of the Troy and UT-Arlington matchup. If the Bobcats lose, they face the loser of the Troy and UT-Arlington matchup in an elimination game.
Troy is hosting the tournament, and the Trojans swept the Bobcats earlier this season. Texas State beat UT-Arlington in two out of the three games this season at home.