There is no conference in college baseball that has made as big of a leap than the one the Sun Belt has taken this year.
In the conference RPI rankings, the Sun Belt is ranked No. 8, ahead of conferences such as the American Athletic, Big Ten and even other strong mid-major conferences like the Atlantic Sun.
The conference has three teams in the top 50 of the RPI: Texas State, Georgia Southern and Louisiana Lafayette.
Could the Sun Belt Conference be a multi-bid, and dare we say, three-bid league?
No. 13 Texas State
It’s no secret that Texas State has been one of the best teams in college baseball this season.
Everybody remembers their big midweek victory at Texas in early March, along with other series victories against Arizona in Tucson and sweeping Ohio State.
The Bobcats are ranked No. 13 in the College Baseball Nation Top 50 and have been hitting their stride as of late. The Bobcats have won nine in a row and have been peaking at the right time.
Dalton Shuffield has been one of the best hitters in all of college baseball this season, having a .392 average with seven home runs on the year. The Bobcats have a .301 team batting average.
Their pitching has been no slouch either. Tristan Stivors is one of the best relief pitchers in college baseball, posting a 1.89 ERA with nine saves in 33.1 innings this season.
In a home series at the beginning of April, Texas State lost back-to-back close games against Georgia Southern at home. Since that Saturday two-run loss, Texas State has rattled off nine consecutive victories.
The Bobcats still have many important games in conference play, including a big one in their final home weekend series of the season against Louisiana Lafayette.
No. 24 Georgia Southern
We mentioned Georgia Southern in last week’s mid-major roundup, but we’ve determined that wasn’t enough.
In the last week, Georgia Southern fell at Florida State in extra innings but then impressively swept a series at South Alabama.
The Eagles are No. 3 in the RPI. (No, that’s not a typo.)
Georgia Southern has the third strongest non-conference schedule, and they’ve made the most of it, winning six quadrant 1 games. They’ve dominated at home, winning 10 in a row on their home grass.
Their offense continues to be strong, with Jason Swan (.318 AVG) and Jesse Sherrill (.313 AVG) powering the lineup. Ty Fisher is pitching well, especially after a seven-inning, two run performance this past weekend at South Alabama.
If Georgia Southern continues to play strongly, there should be no reason they would not be an NCAA Tournament participant.
No. 42 Louisiana Lafayette
While Texas State and Georgia Southern are in the top 25 and leading the Sun Belt conference, Louisiana is not far behind.
Ranked No. 42 in the College Baseball Nation Top 50, Louisiana has sneakily had a very difficult non-conference schedule — fourth in the country.
Louisiana has four quadrant 1 victories, including one over No. 5 Southern Miss. This past weekend, the Ragin’ Cajuns swept Georgia State to improve to a 23-16 record. They’ve been playing better as of late, winning eight of their last 10 to position themselves onto the tournament bubble.
Louisiana’s next eight games are all against teams under .500. If they’re able to play well through that period, Louisiana will travel to Texas State for their biggest series of the year on May 13-15.
Their pitching has been fantastic, especially in conference play. Their staff has a 3.49 ERA in 18 games, striking out 147 batters through that time frame. Carson Roccaforte has been one of the best hitters in the Sun Belt, posting a .367 average and a 1.144 OPS during conference play. He has a .360 average on the year.
As the season has progressed, Louisiana has gotten onto the bubble quickly. They must continue to take care of business in the coming weeks before their big series against the conference leader, Texas State.