OLE MISS: Catcher Will Allen (.351), a semifinalist for three different national awards, is one of the most improved players in the SEC and a dangerous four-hole hitter as his 59 RBIs will attest. But the Rebels are solid in several places, especially at the top of the lineup, where Braxton Lee (.297, 30 steals) and Auston Bousfield (.352, 47 RBIs, 17 steals) can put pressure on the defense. First baseman Sikes Orvis (.548 slugging) was second in the SEC in homers (13) in a lineup that lacks the top-to-bottom power of the Cajuns order.
UL-LAFAYETTE: Second baseman Jace Conrad (.377), the Player of the Year in the Sun Belt Conference, and left fielder Caleb Adams (.387) have been the top bats in the country’s best power-hitting lineup (a team .497 slugging mark). Conrad leads the team in RBIs with 65 and stolen bases with 22 and had 11 hits and 10 RBIs in the regional, while Adams has been the Cajuns’ top homer producer two straight years. But lately, shortstop Blake Trahan (.357) has been red-hot, going 7-for-11 in the Sun Belt tournament and 10-for-16 in the regional.
OLE MISS: Chris Ellis and Christian Trent are a combined 19-1 with a 2.26 ERA and give the Rebels a big one-two starting punch — and that may be all that’s needed in the best-of-three super regional format. Third starter Sam Smith (5-4) hasn’t been as consistent, but pitching coach Carl Lafferty has a lot of options. Right-handers Josh Laxer and Aaron Greenwood have a combined nine saves and both have sub-2.00 ERAs, and Scott Weathersby was a bullpen hero with six innings of two-hit ball in the regional clincher against Washington.
UL-LAFAYETTE: The Cajuns have used the same trio of weekend starters all season in Austin Robichaux, Sun Belt Pitcher of the Year Carson Baranik and Cody Boutte, who are a combined 27-4 with a 3.08 ERA. It’s rare that any of the three goes less than five or six innings, but Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux — who serves as his own pitching coach — has had the luxury of a solid bullpen over the last half of the season with Matt Hicks, Matt Plitt and Reagan Bazar from the right side and Ryan Wilson from the left.
THIS IS GOING TO BE SUPER
The Cajuns were the heavy favorite to win the Sun Belt Conference but have done much more on the way to a consensus No. 1 ranking and the nation’s best record. The Rebels were not as highly regarded, picked sixth in the SEC West by the coaches, but rolled to the best mark in the West and won their final four conference series. The teams have met only three times in their history, none obviously with this much on the line, but in many ways they are very similar — effective hitting throughout the order, aggressive on the bases, solid defensively and a lot of quality arms among starters and out of the bullpen. UL-Lafayette has an advantage in power numbers and is more solid defensively, but Ole Miss can run nine regulars to the mound with ERAs below 3.00. Don’t expect either team to beat itself.