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The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

2024 Sun Belt Conference softball tournament preview

The+Texas+State+softball+team+huddles+up+before+the+game+against%2C+Texas%2C+Wednesday%2C+April+10%2C+2024%2C+at+Red+and+Charline+McCombs+Field+in+Austin.
Mandalyn Lewallen
The Texas State softball team huddles up before the game against, Texas, Wednesday, April 10, 2024, at Red and Charline McCombs Field in Austin.

With the regular season finished, it’s conference tournament time across the country for NCAA softball. For the first time since 2019, Texas State host the tournament as the top 10 teams in the Sun Belt Conference will descend upon San Marcos beginning on Wednesday, May 8.

Here’s everything to know regarding this year’s Sun Belt Conference (SBC) tournament.

 

The favorites​​

 

Louisiana-Lafayette (40-16, 22-2 Sun Belt Conference)

Few teams in the nation have had as dominant of an in-conference run as Louisiana-Lafayette has in recent memory. Since 2019, the Ragin’ Cajuns have been regular season conference champions and won every SBC tournament.

Since 2000, they have won 18 of 23 Sun Belt tournament titles.

Led by an offense that scores nearly six runs a game and a pitching staff that only gives up two, the Ragin’ Cajuns will again be the favorites to win the Sun Belt tournament title for the fifth straight time.

 

Texas State (42-13, 18-6 Sun Belt Conference)

The host team and the conference leader in overall wins, the Bobcats will be the best bet at dethroning Louisiana-Lafayette from the top of the Sun Belt mountain just as they did in 2018. Led by a core group of seniors, such as senior pitcher Jessica Mullins, graduate student infielder Sara Vanderford and senior outfielder Piper Randolph, Texas State has the tools necessary to finish the job and win a conference title.

With a 22-8 record at Bobcat Softball Stadium this season, Texas State will have a true home-field advantage, which could ultimately determine who is crowned tournament champions.

“We’ve got the group to pull this thing off, so it’s nice to be home,” Texas State Head Coach Ricci Woodard said. “Bobcat Nation shows well, so we’re excited to be at home.”

 

Teams who could make some noise

 

South Alabama (31-17-1, 16-8 Sun Belt Conference)

A model of consistency in the Sun Belt the last few years, South Alabama has finished in the top three in the conference standings every season since 2021. Aside from Louisiana-Lafayette, the Jaguars have won the most Sun Belt tournaments this century, winning three between 2012 and 2015.

 

Coastal Carolina (34-20, 14-10 Sun Belt Conference)

Unlike their ever-successful baseball counterparts, the Chanticleers softball program hasn’t found much success on the diamond in recent memory up until this year. After dropping the first two conference series of the year, Coastal Carolina has won their final six, setting them up as the No. 4 seed in the Sun Belt and proving they’re not a team to be overlooked this year.

 

Troy (33-21, 13-11 Sun Belt Conference)

Although the numbers may not jump off the page, Troy isn’t a team to take lightly. The Trojans lost three conference series this year to the top three teams in the Sun Belt. Compared to the rest of the field, Troy is 10-5.

Coming off a series in which they nearly ended Louisiana-Lafayette’s 89-straight conference series win streak, the Trojans proved they are more than capable of winning a few games come tournament time.

 

Georgia Southern (30-20, 12-12 Sun Belt Conference)

Normally, a .500 team in conference play wouldn’t be considered much of a threat, but Georgia Southern has rattled off seven wins in a row, outscoring its opponents 49-19 in that span.

Coming off of back-to-back conference series sweeps, the Eagles are a true dark horse in the upcoming tournament.

 

Rest of the field

 

Rounding out the remaining teams in the field are James Madison (30-21, 12-12 Sun Belt Conference), Louisiana–Monroe (31-23, 12-12 Sun Belt Conference ), Marshall (24-27, 10-14 Sun Belt Conference) and Southern Mississippi (22-28, 10-14 Sun Belt Conference).

The odds are stacked against this group of teams, but all it takes is one good game to advance in the single-elimination style tournament, so don’t count any of these programs out just yet.

 

Tournament Implications

 

Louisiana-Lafayette and Texas State are all but guaranteed a spot in an NCAA Regional, regardless of the conference tournament results. However, these two squads still have much to play for.

Both the Bobcats and the Ragin’ Cajuns are in talks to host a regional. If either team can run the table in the conference tournament, their odds of hosting will increase.

Along with Texas State and Louisiana-Lafayette, South Alabama has made its case to earn an NCAA Tournament bid.

Unlike the two Sun Belt leaders, however, South Alabama’s bid hinges on how they perform this coming week. The Jaguars need to win at least one game this week, but in all likelihood, will need a championship game appearance to feel good about their NCAA tournament chances.

The Sun Belt softball tournament will begin Wednesday, May 8, at 4 p.m., when James Madison takes on Southern Miss at Bobcat Softball Stadium.

The tournament schedule is up and available at Sun Belt Softball Championship Central.

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