TEAM: University of New Orleans Privateers
CONFERENCE: Sun Belt (2nd
RECORD: 42-19 (18-11)
Expected W-L: 40-21
You think the 3-seed is afraid of LSU? They have played LSU three times this year and won twice. Their one loss to LSU was the biggest threat to the 20-game win streak, a 15-inning marathon. Now, we can rationalize it and say LSU has never thrown their best pitchers against UNO so it’s not an accurate picture of the two teams’ relative quality. Then again, UNO has never thrown their top three either. So go rationalize it another way.
They have even played Sothern Miss twice and split that series. UNO is nowhere near a pushover. They have proven that they can play with the top two seeds here in Baton Rouge.
Early reports is that the team will save their ace Bryan Cryer (3.00 ERA, 12-1, 96 K, 23 BB, 96 IP) for the second game. I’ve already said I don’t like that strategy, but UNO seems to be banking on the fact that Justin Garcia (5.59 ERA, 6-1, 71 K, 12 BB, 77.1 IP) beat USM once so he can do it again. He’s got nice peripherals, and he might be better than his ERA.
The old saw is that a pitcher has the advantage the first time they face a hitter, and the hitter has the advantage the second time. So, as much as I hate the strategy of saving your pitcher in USM’s case (which it seems they will not do, pitching Bowden on Friday), I absolutely detest it in UNO’s case. USM is throwing their ace, and UNO is expecting Garcia, their #3 starter, to dominate USM in his second try? And if they lose, they will likely face TSU. Even if they win, they will then finally pitch their ace against the USM/LSU loser. So it’s not only possible, but likely that UNO isn’t even saving Cryer for a matchup with LSU. I don’t get it.
It’s not like they only have two pitchers. Stephen Whalen (4.64 ERA, 6-5, 58 K, 36 BB, 83.1 IP) is an effective #2 guy. Ryan O’Shea save 13 games and Jake Henderson won 7 coming out of the pen. The staff ERA of 5.38 is good by the standards of college baseball. They do lack a shutdown left-hander, the kind of pitcher you want to throw against LSU. But that’s a minor quibble.
However, the team really wins because it can hit. They hit a 325/411/535 clip as a team. They average 9.1 runs a game. LSU, by contrast, hits 304/377/496 and scores 7.6 runs per game. There’s the standard quality of competition caveat, but it’s not a stretch to say UNO’s got the superior offense.
UNO doesn’t use its bench a whole lot, so it pretty much trots out the same nine hitters for every game. Seven of them hit at least .300, with six hitting at least 348. Seven of them have an OBP of at least 400, with three getting on base at a 450 clip. Seven have a SLG of at least 498 (arbitrary goalpost I know, I’m just giving you an idea of how good they are), with four slugging 595 or better. Four players stole at least 10 bases. Six hit at least 10 home runs. OK, Ryan Eden is not a great hitter, but everyone else is. There’s hardly an easy out in the order, and they all hit for power.
I’ll be honest, I’m hoping Southern Miss beats them. I’m not afraid of them, but this team is more than capable of beating LSU and worse yet, they think they can win this regional. This is a team that absolutely pounded Alabama in a two game set. They’ve beat LSU twice this year. When their offense gets going, they can beat anyone in the country.