The voice of and for USM students


The voice of and for USM students


The voice of and for USM students


Sun Belt Tournament In-Depth Preview and Predictions

Dima Mixon
Christian Ostrander walks off the field following Southern Miss winning the 2023 Sun Belt Baseball Championship.

At 37-18, the No. 25 ranked Southern Miss Golden Eagles head to Montgomery, Alabama, for the Sun Belt Baseball Championship. Last year, in their inaugural year in the Sun Belt, Southern Miss beat Louisiana to claim the Sun Belt Tournament Championship. This season, Southern Miss looks to defend that crown with tournament play starting Wednesday at 12:30 PM.

Here are the ten teams that qualified for the tournament in Montgomery and their seeds:

  1. Louisiana
  2. Southern Miss
  3. Troy
  4. James Madison
  5. Georgia Southern
  6. Appalachian State
  7. Coastal Carolina
  8. Old Dominion
  9. South Alabama
  10. Georgia State


And here is the bracket.

The good news for Southern Miss is that being the two-seed, they get to play the highest-seeded winner of the single-elimination games on Tuesday. This means that in those play-in games, the teams would have to burn their ace, while Southern Miss still has the option to throw Billy Oldham in the Wednesday game. Billy Oldham vs. someone’s number two is a seemingly pleasing task if you are a Southern Miss fan.


No. 10 Georgia State (25-31,13-17) (RPI 105)

 The Panthers are slumping their way into the Sun Belt tournament, earning a bid after Southern Miss beat Texas State in the final series of the regular season, giving them the tie breaker. Georgia State has lost 12 of its last 16 games, including being swept by Appalachian State and losing series to both Coastal Carolina and Old Dominion to finish out the year.

The Panthers are led in batting by Will Mize and JoJo Jackson. Mize holds a .350 average along with a team-high 17 home runs and a team-high 60 RBIs. Jackson boasts a .310 batting average along with 14 home runs and 44 RBIs, second on the team to Mize.

They really struggle on the mound, which may prove to be their downfall in the first round against Coastal Carolina.

The team has an ERA of 7.40, that number shoots up in Sun Belt play to 8.04. Rob Evans has pitched the most for them with 48 IP has an ERA of 5.62 and is 3-2 on the season.

The Panthers will face Coastal Carolina in the opening round on Tuesday. They lost two out of the three meetings earlier this month.


No. 9 South Alabama (31-24, 14-16) (RPI 66)

South Alabama’s record and conference record show why the Sun Belt is one of the tougher leagues in the country. The fact that the Jags almost missed the tournament with a winning record is almost ludicrous and shows how difficult it was for all teams to navigate the Sun Belt slate this season. 

The Jaguars come into the SBC tournament playing very well. They came within a run of taking the series against Louisiana in the final weekend and have won three of the last five games. They have big non-conference wins on their resume that have heightened their RBI, including against Alabama and Mississippi State.

Lucas Ismaili leads them in home runs (11) and RBIs (42). Their pitching is among the best in the Sun Belt with a team ERA of 5.38. Cam Hill, their ace, holds a 4.39 ERA with 43 strikeouts and 34 earned runs.

The Jaguars will take on Old Dominion in the opening round on Tuesday. They lost two out of three to the Monarchs earlier in the season.


No. 8 Old Dominion (29-24, 15-15) (RPI 72)

Old Dominion is outside of any bubble talks and will need to win the Sun Belt tournament to make the NCAA tournament. They have the team capable of going on a run, as this team is still fresh with talent from last year’s squad.

The Monarchs have not been playing the best of baseball as of late, but they did take a road series at Georgia State to secure their spot in the Belt tournament. Any type of momentum going into tournament play is big.

They have a potent lineup that all starts with Maverick Stallings. Stallings has a team-high in-home runs with 11 and 32 RBIs. Next is Luke Waters, who was named second-team all-Sun Belt, and holds a team-best .320 batting average along with 10 home runs and 39 RBIs.

Where Old Dominion can really hurt you is with their pitching. They boast a 4.53 team ERA, which is second-best in the Sun Belt. They have five guys all under an ERA on 4.00 and are led by Jacob Gomez who has a team-high 56 strikeouts and an ERA of 3.00.

Old Dominion is a dark horse to make a deep run in the tournament. They will take on South Alabama in the opening round. They lost two out of three to the Jaguars earlier this season.


No. 7 Coastal Carolina (33-21, 16-14) (RPI 35)

If you had told me at the beginning of the year that Coastal Carolina would be the seven seed in the Sun Belt tournament, I would have said you were nuts, but here we are. After starting the season 15-2, Sun Belt play has really darkened Coastal Carolina’s season. This included an eight-game losing streak towards the end of the season, where they were swept in back-to-back weekends by Southern Miss and Troy. 

But they do enter the tournament on a four-game winning streak and pose a dangerous threat to whoever they play because 

They rank second in the Sun Belt in offense. The video game numbers that Coastal puts are up are sometimes hard to put in perspective. The Chanticleers have five players batting over 300 and are led by three players who have 60+ RBIs in Blake Barthol (60), Caden Boudine (65) and Graham Brown (60).

Barthol leads those candidates and the team in home runs with 15, along with Zack Beach, who also has 15 homers.

The Chanticleers’ setbacks are on the mound. They rank tenth in the Sun Belt with a team ERA of 6.05 and do not have one pitcher under a 4.00 ERA. The key to beating this team is keeping the bats under control and getting to the bullpen.

Coastal is definitely in the race to win the Sun Belt tournament; don’t let that seven next to their name fool you. A date with Southern Miss on Wednesday afternoon is on the horizon. 

But first, they must take care of business against Georgia State this afternoon in a single elimination game.


No. 6 Appalachian State (31-19, 16-13-1) (RPI 76)

Appalachian State comes into the tournament this season in a very similar scenario to last season. Needing to make a deep run to potentially be in line for an at-large bid, but more importantly to win the tournament to steal a bid a get into the field of 64.

The Mountaineers have lost three of their last four games, but before that, they were on a five-game winning streak and have had mostly an up-and-down season for most of the year. 

What keeps the Mountaineers a threat in the tournament is, no doubt, their offense. Starting with Banks Tolley, who boasts a batting average of .385 with 71 RBIs and 25 home runs, Tolley, a Madison, Miss native, was named first-team All-Sun Belt and is performing at a high level going into the tournament.

They also have three other plays batting above 300 and CJ Boyd holds 16 home runs to his name.

The Mountaineers’ pitching is their biggest weakness. They rank second to last in the Sun Belt with a team ERA of 7.02. Other than their ace, Jackson Steensma, who has an ERA of 4.15, a 1.22 WHIP, and 69 strikeouts, no pitcher has an ERA of under five. .

They will face Troy on Wednesday to start the double-elimination portion of the bracket. They lost the series to the Trojans at the beginning of April.


No. 5 Georgia Southern (30-25, 17-13) (RPI 68)

Georgia Southern is right back to its winning ways this season after a rocky last year. The Eagles have performed well this season, but they will need an SBC championship to keep playing past this weekend.

They have not played particularly the best baseball over the past several weeks, but they did string together a win streak of seven straight wins in the beginning of May and late April. Josh Tate leads the Eagles in batting with a .375 average. However, he has collected just 27 RBIs and three home runs.

For power, the Eagles rely on Cade Parker who has knocked home 10 long balls as well as 32 RBI’s. Jarrett Brown and JD Kaiser lead the team in RBI both with 43.

The Eagles pitch okay with a team ERA of 5.45 which is sixth in the Sun Belt. Ty Fischer is their ace who has a ERA of 4.79 along with 61 strikeouts and just 19 walks. Their secondary pitcher is Mitchell Gross who leads the team with a 3.66 ERA and 58 strikeouts along with 17 walks. 

They will face James Madison in the opening round of double-elimination play. The Dukes swept them earlier this season. 


No. 4 James Madison (32-21, 17-13) (RPI 43) 

The Dukes come flying into the tournament, having won seven of their last ten, and might be one of the hotter teams in the Sun Belt. The Dukes have made appearances in many Regional projections, but a couple of wins in the Sun Belt tournament certainly will help them make a case to the committee. 

They have a good resume, with wins over Arkansas and Virginia Tech, and an RPI of 43, which is right on the bubble. 

What is interesting about the Dukes is that they dont particularly hit the ball all that well, or pitch the ball that well but they are a scrappy team that is fighting for a tournament spot. 

Fenwick Trimble, who was voted first team all Sun Belt, leads the Dukes in batting average (.374) and RBIs (56). Jason Schiavone leads with 17 home runs and Brendan O’Donnell follows closely behind with 11. 

On the mound, the Dukes struggle a bit but are led by Max Kuhle (5-4, 4.40 ERA) and Donovan Burke (5-2, 4.40 ERA). 

They will face Georgia Southern to open double-elimination play on Wednesday. They swept the Eagles earlier this season. 


No. 3 Troy (36-20, 18-12) (RPI 52) 

The Trojans have had a great season but have really struggled as of late. They are somewhat slumping into the SBC tournament, having won just four of their last ten games. While Brooks Bryan and Kyle Mock were both named to the first and second-team all-Sun Belt, the Trojans will need to have a significant turnaround to win the tournament. The good thing for them is that they have the team to do it. 

Ethan Kavanagh, Mock, and Tremayne Cobb Jr. are all the main faces of the Trojan offense. Kavanagh presents the greatest challenge for pitchers with an average of .371 and an ob% of .502. Bryan leads the Trojans with 82 RBIs and a team-leading 17 home runs. They are a force and significantly dangerous going into the tournament. 

Their pitching ranks seventh in the Sun Belt with an ERA of 5.57 and they are led by Luke Lyon and Noah Manning from the mound. Lyon boasts a 4.08 ERA and an 8-3 record while Manning has a 6-0 record with a team-high 3.94 ERA. 

They will face Appalachian State in the first round of double elimination on Wednesday. They took the series against the Mountaineers earlier this season. 


No. 2 Southern Miss (37-18, 20-10) (RPI 34) 

Southern Miss enters the tournament as the hottest team in the Sun Belt, and potentially the country. They have won 15 of their last 19 games, including 10 of the last 11. They are playing their best baseball at the right time and are projected to make the NCAA tournament regardless of what happens this week in Montgomery with an RPI of 34. 

Since the series at Louisiana on April 26-28, Southern Miss has seen its talent come together to grind out wins, with every group pulling its own weight. 

They are led in batting by Dalton McIntyre with a .374 average and 31 RBIs. For power, they turn to the likes of Slade Wilks (14 home runs, 58 RBIs), Carson Paetow (11 home runs, 46 RBIs) and Nick Monistere (8 home runs, 45 RBIs). 

Ozzie Pratt is someone they rely on to get on base. Pratt holds an 11-game multi-hit hitting streak, following Wilks’s 28-game hitting streak. 

On the mound, the Golden Eagles have been hit with multiple injuries, but still sit third in the Sun Belt with an ERA of 5.14. Led by Oldham and Niko Mazza, Southern Miss has one of the best duos in the league and will rely heavily on them to get them through the first two games. 

On the back in Colby Allen, Kros Sivley and JB Middleton are all forces to be reckoned with. Not to mention the surging freshman Josh Och who has only allowed one run over the last 10 ⅔ innings pitched. 

Southern Miss will look to defend their tournament crown starting with playing the highest-seeded winner out of the play in games on Tuesday. 


No. 1 Louisiana (40-16, 23-7) (RPI 36)

The Cajuns have had an incredible year highlighted by Kyle DeBarge and LP Langevin sweeping Sun Belt Baseball Player of the Year honors. Player of the Year—DeBarge—and Pitcher of the Year—Langevin—respectively. 

The Cajuns are a lock to make the NCAA tournament but could start on a hot streak if they can avenge their championship loss last season and win the tournament this year. 

They lead the conference in both batting and pitching and have won seven of the last 10 games. 

As mentioned, DeBarge leads the team in all categories posting a.361 batting average along with 21 home runs and 67 RBI’s. Trey LaFleur has a .360 average with 10 home runs and 37 RBIs. 

On the mound, the Cajuns might have the best duo in Langevin and Chase Morgan. Langevin has totaled 97 strikeouts, while Morgan has tallied 61. 

Louisiana will take on the lowest-seeded team that comes out of the single-elimination games. 


Here is my bracket projection. 

edited bracket

I have Louisiana taking home the tournament in a close game against Southern Miss. It wiill be a fun weekend, and I hope you follow our coverage here at

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