On this countdown, we’ve already talked about teams like Houston and Cal State Fullerton that really go out of their way to play tough non-conference schedules.
Go ahead and add the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns to that list because their early-season schedule is going to really test their mettle.
They get things going with one of the best season-opening series on the docket, a home three-game set with the Texas Longhorns. Texas has some questions on offense, and for that matter, so do the Cajuns, but both boast what should be very good pitching staffs, so it’s easy to envision this being a really close, low-scoring series from beginning to end.
After traveling to Hammond, Louisiana, to play a midweek game against the always-tough Southeastern Louisiana Lions, UL welcomes Wright State to Russo Park. Not only is WSU an annual contender to win the Horizon League and get into a regional, but they’re also a team that typically punches above its weight in non-conference games. In 2015, the Raiders took a game off of Mississippi, Miami, and Missouri State in non-conference series. In 2016, they did the same to NC State and Georgia.
Last year, they won a season-opening series against Clemson and then took a game off of South Carolina the very next weekend. On their 2018 schedule, Wright State will take on Tulane before heading to Lafayette, and immediately after leaving Lafayette, they have a two-game midweek set with Sam Houston State.
After their tussle with the upstarts from the Horizon League, the Cajuns head west to Houston to take part in the Shriner’s Hospitals for Children College Classic, where they will play Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky, all teams ranked in the preseason. Of course, you don’t have to sell the program on how difficult that tournament can be, as they played in it two seasons ago and took losses to TCU and Texas Tech before defeating Rice on the final day to salvage a game.
That tournament brings an end to UL’s weekend non-conference slate, but it’s not as if things get easier as they enter conference play. Their first Sun Belt series pits them against South Alabama, perhaps the odds-on favorite to win the league in 2018. The Jags will feature a physical offense that could wear out any pitching staff, even one as talented as the Cajuns’ staff.
Last season, the Cajuns fell short of getting into the postseason, but with a tough schedule like this one, if they can steal enough wins over the first few weeks of the season, they’ll already be well on their way to getting back into a regional in 2018.