Yet another team that's changed it's mascot and logo significantly in my lifetime. ULM was put in a tough spot when the NCAA mandate about nicknames like Indians was put into place, but every time I end up scrolling through their media guides they seem to do a better job of modifying and embracing the Warhawks nickname. I mean, that video is freakin' awesome.
UL- Monroe (31-28, 15-15 in the Sun Belt) comes into Baton Rouge as a lowly 4 seed, here only thanks to a remarkable run in the Sun Belt tournament, including 2 extra inning wins, one of which was a walk off 13 inning shocker against Sun Belt leader FAU. ULM finished the season a full 5 1/2 games back of FAU, but came through when it matter in the post season, securing both the league's auto-bid and the NCAA required over .500 record in the same weekend. The Warhawks do have a road series win from early in the year at Tennessee to hang their hats on, as well as a season sweep of Tulane, but losses to TCU, Baylor, McNeese, Northwestern St., and a series loss to Nicholls St, combine with their .500 Sun Belt record to make a less than flattering resume to say the least. (ULM missed out on playing LSU this year, but today's game will make La Tech the only D-1 program in the state to miss the Tigers this season.)
Much has been made over the last few days about Randy Zeigler, ULM's starting pitcher this afternoon. Zeigler's college career started at LSU in the '09 championship season. After a few very brief outings, Zeigler was set to have a start against Grambling in early April, when he felt a pop in his arm during warmups. Zeigler needed Tommy John surgery, after which Zeigler and Mainieri had a disagreement about his future role on the team. Zeigler hit the road for Bossier Parish CC, then back to D1 at ULM, where he's become the ace of their staff and one of the leading pitchers in the Sun Belt. Zeigler (ERA 3.65, 5-6 106IP, BB/K 55/108, 3 CG, BA against .235) leads a ULM staff that has a collective ERA of 4.28, with no regular with an ERA under 3.18. Their best relief is Will Browning (ERA 3.36, 56.1 IP/29 App, 6 saves, BB/K 18/53). The Warhawks attack at the plate will be led by Sun Belt Player of the Year SS Jeremy Sy (BA .329, SLG .500, OBP .432, 35RBI 4HR) and Joey Rapp (BA .325, SLG .534, OBP .422, 51RBI, 9HR) while the team has an overall BA of .272 with 33 homers on the year.
On paper, ULM fits the mold of the plucky, "just happy to be here" 4 seed that's only here to fill out the bracket, but ULM's familiarity with LSU, their traveling fans, and the added element of Zeigler attempting to prove LSU wrong could make for a tough out