Preview of the Sun Belt tournament

The eyes of Sun Belt softball are now on Lafayette, Louisiana for this year’s conference tournament, the final test to make it to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

The Sun Belt tournament is Wednesday through Saturday at Lamson Park at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Georgia State earned the No. 3 slot in the tournament putting themselves in a good situation to make a run in the postseason.

The top two seeds in the bracket, Louisiana-Lafayette and South Alabama, have earned a double-bye and will not play until Thursday. Three-seeded Georgia State and four-seeded Western Kentucky each have also earned one bye.

This year, five Sun Belt teams are ranked in the top 100 in RPI. The conference sent three teams to the NCAA tournament last year—Louisiana-Lafayette, Western Kentucky, and South Alabama.


No. 1 UL-Lafayette

Host school Louisiana Lafayette is entering the tournament as the top seed with an RPI of six.

The Ragin’ Cajuns are entering with a record of 41-7-1 and are riding a 12-game winning streak. The team is 19-1 in conference play with its sole loss occurring at home to South Alabama on March 12.

Louisiana-Lafayette is leading the conference in hitting with a .308 batting average. The team is also second in the Sun Belt in pitching with an ERA of 2.84. Sophomore catcher Lexie Elkins is leading the conference in home runs with 17. Junior right-handed pitcher Christina Hamilton is third in the conference in ERA with 1.46 and has pitched over 167 innings.


No. 2 South Alabama

The Jaguars’ are 38-11, 15-6 against Sun Belt opponents. South Alabama is the only team in the conference with a team ERA under 2 as it stands at 1.24 heading into the tournament.

Senior Hannah Campbell and Junior Farish Beard are one and two in the conference in ERA with marks of 0.94, and 1.04, respectively, and have combined for 355 strikeouts.

Sophomore catcher and outfielder Stephanie Pilkington and freshman catcher and infielder Chloe Rathburn are the two Jaguars hitters to bat above .300 on the year.

Alex Breeden is leading the team in home runs with seven and is tied for second on the team in RBIs with 24. Pilkington also has 24 runs batted in. Rathburn leads the team in that category with 30.


No. 3 Georgia State

The Georgia State Panthers are entering the Sun Belt Tournament as a top seed in its first year in the Sun Belt.

The team heads to Lafayette with a record of 30-25, 12-9 in the Sun Belt. Senior Kaitlyn Medlam leads the Georgia State pitching staff with a record of 20-11 and an ERA of 2.36, currently fourth in the conference.

The Panthers are also heading into the tournament with the No. 2 offense in the conference as the team is batting .291 this season. Sophomore infielder Taylor Anderson is tied for the second most home runs in the conference with 14. Junior first baseman Lauren Coleman is third in the Sun Belt in batting average hitting .399.


No. 4 Western Kentucky

Last season, the Lady Toppers lost in the Sun Belt Championship Game to Louisiana-Lafayette, but still earned an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament.

This season, Western Kentucky is 32-22-1 and are just over .500 in conference play going 11-10.

The Lady Toppers have a fielding percentage of .972 to lead the conference. They have only committed 43 errors this season for second in the Sun Belt only behind South Alabama.

Senior infielder Olivia Watkins leads the Sun Belt in hits with 83. Western Kentucky also has the two hitters who are leading the Sun Belt in doubles (Amanda Thomas with 15) and triples (India Steward with three).


No. 5 Texas State

Despite heading into Lamson Park with a three-game winning streak by sweeping UT-Arlington at home, the Bobcats have a record of 26-29, 9-12 in the conference.

As a team, Texas State is second in the conference in walks with 181 only behind Louisiana-Lafayette.

Senior pitcher Rayn House leads the Sun Belt in strikeouts with 214 in 237.2 innings. She is the only pitcher in the conference to strike out at least 200 batters. Her 237.2 innings also leads the conference in innings pitched.

Senior outfielder Coralee Ramirez is the only hitter with two triples against conference opponents and is batting .382 in Sun Belt play.


No. 6 UL-Monroe

The Warhawks enter the tournament with a record of 22-25, 6-14 in conference play.

As a team, Louisiana-Monroe is third in the Sun Belt in hitting with a batting average of .286. Redshirt junior infielder Miyuki Navarrete is fifth in the conference in runs scored with 45.

Infielder Alexis Cacioppo is tied for fourth in the Sun Belt in runs batted in. She also is fifth in the conference in home runs with 10.

The Warhawks lead the conference in stolen bases with a lofty 131 steals. Navarrete is 39-for-45 in stolen base attempts. Freshman outfielder Rochelle Roberts is 20-for-24 and sophomore infielder Faith Bohack is 16-for-18.


No. 7 Troy

Troy enters the Sun Belt tournament with a record of 22-29-2, with the two ties occurring against Auburn and Indiana prior to the start of conference play. The Trojans also struggled to win any conference series going 5-13 in Sun Belt games.

Three of the Trojans’ five conference wins have come in their last two series against Texas State and South Alabama.

The strength of the Trojans rests in their pitching staff, particularly Jaycee Affeldt, who has a 2.77 ERA despite an 8-18 record. The team has an ERA of 3.01, third in the conference. Their bullpen also is first in the conference in saves with five.


No. 8 UT-Arlington

For the Mavericks, they are heading to the tournament on a six game losing streak—the longest of any team going into the tournament. They have four wins and 16 losses in the Sun Belt, and went 20-32 overall.

Junior infielder Nina Villanueva leads the UT-Arlington offense with the highest batting percentage of any Sun Belt player who has had at least 50 at bats hitting .473 in conference play. She is also fifth in the conference in hits with 26.

In conference play, the Mavericks have thrown out more baserunners attempting to steal bases than any other team in the conference. They have thrown out 11 runners in Sun Belt play attempting to steal bases.



The latter two Friday games can be seen on the Comcast Sports Southeast (CSS) and Cox Sports Television (CST) via the Sun Belt Network. The Sun Belt Network along with ESPN3 will broadcast the championship game on Sunday.