Houston QUICK HITS: toughest opponent not located in Louisiana. Highest RPI to not receive a host bid. Has a much better overall SOS than LSU as well as the #1 non-conference RPI and the #7 overall non-conference SOS. Only other team in regional to have ever had a speaking role in Omaha. Won the conference tournament of the seventh best conference in the country.
Bryant QUICK HITS: toughest opponent from Rhode Island. 0-3 versus top 50 RPI opponents. Won the conference tournament of the 19th best conference in the country.
Southeastern Louisiana QUICK HITS: toughest opponent named SELU. Won the conference tournament of the 14th best conference in the country. 1-8 vs top 50 opponents. Already proven that they can lose effectively to host team (7-3 in mid-February).
LSU QUICK HITS: Has six more national titles than all other participants. Has 14 or more appearances in the CWS than all other participants. Won the conference tournament of the undisputed #1 best conference in the country. Has the best overall RPI within the regional (as it should, but not by a large margin!). Has been on an offensive and defensive tear within the last two weeks of the season.
Houston — Beat the snot out of regional host Louisville (though, they did get swept at home in season series with the Cardinals) this past weekend to win the conference tournament, 10-4. Also swept season series with regional host Rice. Finished third to Louisville and UCF (whose season is now complete–they were not selected for the tournament) in the American Athletic Conference. Average home attendance 1345. Average away attendance 1536. Shock factor=medium-high.
Houston bats .281 as a team and has a team ERA of 2.21. Both very respectful numbers. They have a trio of RHP starters that all have 13+ games started under their belts as well as minus-3 ERAs. Their apparent closer, Chase Wellbrock, has an ERA of 1.15 with 12 saves.
Bryant — 1-5 vs top 100 opponents (yikes!). Road record is 24-8 which includes currently winning 16 straight. Disappointing start to season with road series losses at Maryland and Radford. They found their stride mid-season reeling off a 28-4 record after the Radford series. Dropped a season series finale to Wagner then won three straight to win the Northeast Conference Tournament. Average home attendance 187. Average away attendance 190. Shock factor=high.
Bryant hits at a .304 clip (pretty amazing) and holds a team ERA of 2.93 (not bad at all, but they’re clearly an offensive team). As I say that, though, I see that their pitching staff has collected TWELVE complete games (LSU has 3 all season). Their starters are exclusively righties and all hold 3 and sub 3 ERAs. That’s pretty good, but even better is that the team has nearly a dozen qualified hitters hitting over .300 and collectively have hit 39 homers (LSU has 42). Like I said, it appears their strength is offense.
Southeastern Louisiana — Because losing five games to top 15 RPI teams (LSU, ULL and Ole Miss) cannot be considered a high note, their season highlight was beating Sam Houston State (RPI #39, and a team they’d been swept by earlier in the season) en route to winning the Southland Conference Tournament. Shock factor=negligible, they’ve played here plenty of times.
SELU has a team batting average of .291 and a team ERA of 2.95. Only one starter (Andrew Cutura) has a sub 3 ERA (1.72). They’ve only hit 14 homers as a team this year but 8 of those have come from Andrew (not kidding about this last name) GODBOLT, who also happens to hit, oh you know, .348 with 57 RBI. I’m imagining this next gentleman, though, could decide to hit either in front of or behind the GODBOLT; that is, Jameson Fisher who currently hits .394 while getting to the plate more often than any other Lion hitter at 226 ABs.
LSU — You might have heard of us. We’re ok. We’re batting .286 (meager) with a team ERA of 2.42 (notable, I guess). That all may not be of consequence however after I tell you that we’ve got this guy…name of Aaron Nola. He’s decent. He holds a 10-1 record with a 1.42 ERA, strikes out 10.7 batters per nine innings and holds an opponent batting average of .173. Probably #1 overall draft pick. Nothing spectacular. Probably the SEC pitcher of the year. Then, we have this other fellow, Alex Bregman. He’s probably the best fielding shortstop in the country and hits like Chris Brown (couldn’t help it), which is to say he’s a natural at it and can’t help himself. Bregman swallows up (not gonna do it) his position defensively and only hits .301 while hitting 6 homers (even though he’s not technically a power hitter) and driving in 44 on the year. This isn’t to mention that he’s been on fire in the last two weeks–one of the biggest reasons the Tigers’ offense has had it’s timely awakening. Throw in essentially three other pitchers with sub 2.5 ERAs and a closer who can be lights out at times (Joe Broussard w/ a .089 ERA and 8 saves) and our pitching staff is what you’d call “effective”. As for the offense as a whole, we can’t say a whole bunch positive for the season, but in the last eight games the Tigers have outscored opponents 85-8. 10-1 on average. That’s good. All the while beating teams like Vanderbilt, Florida and Arkansas (run ruling the first and third of those three).