With an impressive run to win the Sun Belt Conference Tournament championship, Louisiana clinched its first NCAA Regional berth in six seasons.
The Ragin ‘Cajuns (36-21) landed in the College Station Regional as a 3-seed with host 1-seed Texas A&M (37-18), 2-seed TCU (36-20) and 4-seed Oral Roberts (38 -18) in the bracket reveal on Selection Monday.
UL will open play Friday night at Blue Bell Park against the Horned Frogs at 7 pm CT.
Can the Cajuns pull off the upset in College Station and advance to Super Regionals? Here are five players who must play key roles:
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The sophomore reliever was the most clutch player for UL in the Sun Belt title game. With his team trailing early, Bonds relieved Jeff Wilson and pitched 4.2 innings, his second longest appearance on the season. He limited the damage with just two runs on five hits with six strikeouts and kept Georgia Southern at bay while the offense mounted its comeback.
Just a freshman, UL’s shortstop has carved out a critical role. DeBarge went 7-for-10 during the Sun Belt Tournament and should be set to hit in the two-hole. He has raised his batting average 47 points in May. Louisiana needs DeBarge to stay hot, get on base and score to have a shot during the regional.
Schultz was special his last time against top-seeded Texas State in the Sun Belt Tourney, hurling 142 pitches in the complete-game performance. He limited the league’s most potent offense to two runs on six hits with 12 strikeouts. Schultz has been the Cajun’s sturdiest starting pitcher, and he’ll need to maintain that steadiness at College Station.
Roccaforte has been Louisiana’s top hitter but couldn’t find his groove during the conference tournament, going 2-for-12. UL will need more production from its three-hole hitter if it’s going to take down the field at regionals, where most of the top pitchers are right-handers. Matchups could favor Roccaforte, who bats left-handed.
The Cajuns’ normal Friday night starting pitcher, Talley hasn’t recorded a win since May 6 against Texas-Arlington. That was also the last time he pitched into the sixth inning as better offenses have chased him in some games. Louisiana’s bullpen has been solid recently, but in an NCAA Regional conserving arms will be paramount. When he gets his start, Talley will need to venture as deep into the game as possible.