LAFAYETTE, La. – After opening the regular season with a 5-1 loss at home to Eastern Illinois Louisiana could have begun pressing and folded, but instead the Ragin’ Cajuns went on a 10-game winning streak before losing to Alabama. The Sun Belt Conference champions went on to winning streaks of 14 and 10 games en route to the highest win total in the nation with a 57-8 record. The SEC West regular season champion Ole Miss Rebels come to Lafayette for a Super Regional match-up and a shot at Omaha.
Louisiana dropped the opening game of the Lafayette Regional in a 1-0 decision to Jackson State the Cajuns again responded to the pressure by winning the next four games by a total of 39-14 taking the Regional Final with back-to-back wins over SEC foe and 2013 national runner-up Mississippi State. In spite of being shut out to open the Regional, the Cajuns still scored their season average of just under eight runs a game. Jace Conrad caught fire for the Cajuns with 10 RBI in their four contests while solid pitching performances held opposing offenses in check.
Ole Miss responded to a home series loss to LSU by winning four straight series against SEC teams to clinch the Western division before getting to the conference tournament and being unable to beat Arkansas, being eliminated at 1-2 with both losses coming at the hands of the Razorbacks. The Rebels won 44 games and only lost three conference series out of 10 and finished the season as one of the premier SEC teams and only one of two Super Regional qualifiers out of the conference’s record 10 Regional teams.
The Rebels didn’t miss a beat in the Oxford Regional as the offense rolled over Jacksonville State to open their Regional play with a 12-2 win. The Ole Miss pitching staff took charge in two, one-run victories over Pac 12 runner-up Washington with Sikes Orvis being the hero of the Regional Final with a game-winning triple in the 10th that scored Will Allen. Orvis had six RBI in the Regional to lead the Rebels offensive attack while the pitching staff allowed five earned runs in three games during the Regional.
NCAA Super Regional Preview – Lafayette
The Ragin’ Cajuns are known nationally for their dynamic, aggressive offensive style that has managed to score just shy of eight runs a game. Collegiate Baseball All-American, Gregg Olson Comeback Player of the Year Semifinalist, Dick Howser Award Semifinalist and Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year Jace Conrad is the offensive sparkplug hitting .370 on the year with 8 homers, 58 runs, 61 RBI, 21 steals with a .576 slugging percentage, .445 on base percentage and a 1.021 OPS on the season.
However, the Cajuns have a second Dick Howser Award Semifinalist in Caleb Adams who leads in average at .383, home runs with 11, runs with 64, slugging at .694, on base percentage at .504 and OPS at 1.198 who also has 41 RBI. Blake Trahan and Seth Harrison are each hitting over .300 with more than 40 runs and 40 RBI each while Ryan Leonards has chipped in 60 runs and Michael Strentz has 10 homers, 44 runs and 41 RBI. The Cajuns as a team have stolen 105 bases with 72 sac bunts on the season with Leonards leading with 10 and Conrad, Chase Compton and Dylan Butler each tied with 9.
Louisiana is also deep in pitching with Austin Robichaux (7-3, 2.83 ERA, 2 CG, 76 K, 21 BB, .206 OBA), who missed a few starts with soreness, back as the No. 1 starter and pitched well enough to win in the Regional opener. Collegiate Baseball All-American and Sun Belt Conference Pitcher of the Year Carson Baranick (11-1, 3.27 ERA, 2 CG, 70 K, 23 BB, .234 OBA) has been the solid No. 2 starter most of the season as a location thrower who seems to excel with the lead. Greg Olson Comeback Player of the Year Semifinalist Cody Boutte (8-0, 2.75 ERA, 50 K, 24 BB, .239 OBA) is a crafty southpaw who is probably one of the best No. 3 starters in the nation.
Matt Plitt (2-0, 3.83 ERA, 4 SV, 36 K, 25 BB, .206 OBA) had three appearances in the Regional throwing six scoreless innings and has been one of the most used relievers on the Cajuns’ staff. Matt Hicks (8-1, 1.43 ERA, 1 SV, 41 K, 11 BB, .209 OBA) threw five scoreless innings in the Regional and is tied with Hicks and Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American Reagan Bazar (4-0, 2.32 ERA, 6 SV, 19 K, 16 BB, .221 OBA) with 24 relief appearances for Louisiana. Ryan Wilson (5-0, 1.69 ERA, 7 SV, 42 K, 15 BB, .231 OBA) showed that he is not only a capable closer, but also a force to be contended with in a starting role in the Regional Final against Ole Miss.
The Rebels have an offense that when on track is a force to reckoned with averaging just over six runs a game coming out of the SEC. Ole Miss has a solid mix on offense with Auston Bousfield being a key cog that gets the offense rolling hitting .349 with 6 homers, 55 runs, 48 RBI and 17 steals. Johnny Bench Award Finalist and Greg Olson Comeback Player of the Year Semifinalist Will Allen brings power and consistency to the lineup leading the team in average at .351 average and RBI at 59 with a slugging percentage at .524, 7 homers and 40 runs scored.
Braxton Lee leads with 30 steals on a team that swiped 90 bags on the season. Collegiate Baseball All-American Austin Anderson holds down the hot corner while hitting .332. Yet, the power bat in the lineup belongs to Sikes Orvis who has an isolated slugging percentage of .253 with 13 homers and 50 RBI and a team-leading .548 slugging percentage.
Golden Spikes Award Semifinalist Chris Ellis (10-1, 2.16 ERA, 2 CG, 62 K, 32 BB, .262 OBA) is the No. 1 starter for the Rebels and has a knack for getting the opening game win as he did with a complete game in the Regional opener. Christian Trent (9-0, 2.37 ERA, 1 CG, 73 K, 17 BB, .239 OBA) is the No. 2 starter making for a formidable one-two punch on the bump. Sam Smith (5-4, 3.39 ERA, 47 K, 18 BB, .282 OBA) is a solid No. 3 starter but hasn’t been as successful as the top of the rotation.
Josh Laxer (2-2, 1.47 ERA, 5 SV, 37 K, 9 BB, .233 OBA) is the most used reliever in the Rebels’ pen that doesn’t really have a set closer. Scott Weathersby (2-1, 2.12 ERA, 2 SV, 48 K, 9 BB, .205 OBA) is also effective out of the pen while Aaron Greenwood (2-1, 1.83 ERA, 4 SV, 31 K, 10 BB, .194 OBA) and Preston Tarkington (0-1, 1.69 ERA, 17 K, 6 BB, .224 OBA) have also pitched solid shut down ball in their pen appearances. Jeremy Massie (4-3, 2.34 ERA, 1 SV, 43 K, 16 BB, .232 OBA) and Evan Anderson (2-0, 2.11 ERA, 20 K, 10 BB, .134 OBA) have been mid-week starters and work out of the pen as well while Wyatt Short (3-3, 2.92 ERA, 3 SV, 28 K, 11 BB, .195 OBA) rounds out the bullpen with 20 relief appearances.
The Ragin’ Cajuns just keep overcoming obstacles and have remained focused all year and I think they will take the series in what is possibly the most interesting series I’ll cover in the Super Regionals. I believe we’ll be watching the Louisiana fans in their T-Shirts that read, “Mission Omaha” celebrate Monday night as the Ragin’ Cajuns achieve another goal with the series win in three.
Game one will be played Saturday night at 7:00 PM central while game two is Sunday night at 8:00 and if necessary the teams will play game three on Monday at 6:00 PM.