Sports Reporter

The Bobcats’ non-conference schedule is as tough as ever, as they are set to play Baylor, Rice and Texas.

Four teams on the Bobcats’ schedule are ranked in the top 25, and three are ranked in the top 20.

The team has equally tough conference matchups, facing Louisiana and reigning Sun Belt Conference champion South Alabama. The Ragin’ Cajuns are coming off an appearance in the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional tournament and their highest preseason ranking since 2008.

Junior Caleb Adams, Louisiana’s star outfielder, hit .339 with 16 home runs and 55 RBI last year. Adams was selected third team Louisville Slugger Preseason All-America  and Preseason Sun Belt Player of the Year.

Eight starters return for Louisiana who ranked in the top six in batting and slugging percentage in the nation. The Ragin’ Cajuns can hit the long ball, but with that comes the strike out woes where they ranked fourth in the Sun Belt last year.

Louisiana is not the only team to fear in the conference. Defending Sun Belt champion and 22nd-ranked South Alabama is a squad to look out for. The Jaguars only have three returning starters including, all-time saves leader Kyle Bartsch.

South Alabama made it to the NCAA Starkville Regional tournament but fell to College World Series runner-up Mississippi State. The team is going to have to fill the lineup card with names that have never made appearances, as the First-Year Player Draft took a toll on its lineup.  

One pitcher who made an impact was Jordan Patterson. The two-way player made 14 appearances out of the bullpen and never lost a game while batting .352 and driving in 49 runs.

The team was second in the conference in earned run average, second in batter strikeouts and tied for first in wins with Louisiana.

Coach Ty Harrington knows how tough the schedule is but is focused on the first game of the season against Michigan.  

“I am looking at the very first game,” Harrington said. “Then the one after that and the next one after that. They’re all vital and critical to our team and not one sticks out more than the others. There are some that are more exciting because of the name, but in this business, you look at every game equally.”  

The non-conference schedule gets to a quick start as the Bobcats head to Houston Feb. 18 to take on Rice. The Owls have balance in their hitting and pitching. Rice is bringing back six offensive starters and 10 pitchers from last year’s tournament team.

All-Tournament third baseman Shane Hoelscher returns from a team best .320 batting average.

Zech Lemond, the ace for Rice and Pre-season Pitcher of the Year, is back and ready to keep the middle of the bullpen steady with a 95 mph fastball.

For the second time in school history, the Texas Longhorns are coming to San Marcos to take on the Bobcats.

“It’s going to be fun when they come play at our place this year,” said junior outfielder Ben McElroy. “I’m really looking forward to that.”

Texas is the preseason favorite to win the Big 12 according to Baseball America this year after failing to reach the NCAA Tournament last year. With the number two recruiting class last year, the Longhorns are looking to right the ship  year after ranking 275th in the nation for scoring in 2013.

“There’s always an added incentive to do well against them,” McElroy said. “A lot of my buddies go there and that’s where I was set up to go originally, so I try to play beyond my best.”  

Harrington grew up watching the Baylor Bears in Waco, and now he is coaching against the team. The Bears have six starting position players and nine pitchers from last season, and are ranked second in team batting.

As the season nears, Texas State has high aspirations for the season and is looking to show it through a tough schedule.