A midweek series starts tonight between two peer conference rivals who both have traditionally been at the top of their respective leagues. Though this is the case, both teams are coming in at different positions.
Southern Miss is coming in at 19-7 and 6-2 in Conference USA. Despite coming off a tough loss, the Golden Eagles are currently ranked in the top 15 of most college baseball rankings. Southern Miss has always had a successful baseball program so this position is pretty familiar.
The position that the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns find themselves in is less so. This is a program that is also traditionally successful, but the Cajuns have found themselves in a bit of a rut. ULL comes to Hattiesburg tonight with a 12-15 record and 3-6 in the Sun Belt.
Though both teams are coming into this series in different positions, the importance of these games is still high. Southern Miss, though having a decent season, is coming off a 2-2 week and needs to bounce back as every game from now on will have postseason implications for the Golden Eagles.
Baseball America has Southern Miss as an NCAA Regional Host in their first NCAA Tournament projections but has acknowledged that there is little room for error if this is to be the case. Southern Miss also would like to have some momentum going into another home conference series this weekend.
The Ragin’ Cajuns are just trying to find some consistency and turn their season around. They have proved that they can beat good teams.
ULL has beaten in-state foes LSU (twice) and Tulane, as well as Vanderbilt. They have also lost every weekend series they have played, including this past weekend against Arkansas State. This midweek series against Southern Miss is important as it is a chance for the Cajuns to turn things around and make a run as the season progresses.
In order for ULL to win in this series, they will have to pitch well and also get to the Southern Miss bullpen. Pitching has not been as much of an issue as they have had the top ERA in the Sun Belt up until this past weekend. It has been the offense that has sputtered.
If the Cajuns can continue to pitch well and if the offense can get the Golden Eagle starting pitchers out of the game early, they’ll have a chance to win.
Southern Miss has the opposite issue; it has not been the offense that has hindered the Golden Eagles this season, but rather pitching.
Starters have fared pretty well, but it is the bullpen that has been shaky. If they are to win in this series against Lafayette, the starting pitchers will need to pitch as long as they can and the relievers will need to step up. If the pitching staff can hold on their end, the Southern Miss hitters will provide enough run support to win.
Location: Pete Taylor Park, Hattiesburg, MS
Time: 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 3rd and Wednesday, April 4th