After winning consecutive Conference USA series, Louisiana Tech (25-13, 6-9) is set to host UAB (17-20, 5-10) in a pivotal three-game set. Winners of eight of their last eleven, the Diamond Dogs are currently #34 in the RPI. While the RPI is certainly worth of an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, Coach Burroughs pointed out, “we’re not going to get caught up in RPI, our number one goal is to go out and win the game tomorrow, no matter who the opponent is.” With a favorable schedule remaining over the final 15 Conference USA games, the climb up the standings begins this week.
Offensively UAB is headlined by Brewer Hicklen. The right-handed hitting Hicklen is hitting .339 with six home runs and 24 RBI on the year. While UAB may not have the best offense in the country, in the words of Coach Lane Burroughs, “UAB is going to dominate the fundamentals, I can assure you of that.” The Blazers have some team speed and will look to use it this weekend against a Tech pitching staff that has been exceptional in conference play the previous two weekends.
On the mound Thomas Lowery has had a nice year for the Blazers. Having seen time as a starter and reliever, Lowery has turned in a 3.70 era in just over 48 innings in 2017. Having allowed 42 runs in getting swept against Middle Tennessee State last weekend, the Blazer pitching staff will be looking to turn things around against an always dangerous Tech lineup this weekend.
Tech seems to have solved its pitching issues that plagued them throughout the first part of CUSA play, Burroughs attributes that to, “we figured out a weekend rotation and that’s helped us. Casey Sutton has taken the bull by the horns and nailed down the Friday night role.” After an all-conference year in 2016, Sutton struggled out of the gate in 2017. However, in his last two times out he has righted the ship and really solidified his role as the Friday night starter that Tech had difficulty finding throughout the first half of the year.
With four home runs in his last five games Chase Lunceford has really began to heat up. After blasting 11 home runs in 2016, Lunceford has matched that total in 2017 and will look to tack on a few more this weekend. Lunceford along with Marshall Boggs in the middle of the Tech lineup have combined for 18 home runs and 81 RBI on the year. The Diamond Dog lineup has remained consistent throughout the year and will look to have another big weekend against an average UAB pitching staff.
As Tech continues to make its push towards the top of Conference USA, be sure to join us at BleedTechBlue.com for all things Louisiana Tech baseball as well as some Bulldog football recruiting.