MOBILE, Ala. — Regardless of what happens over the weekend in the Sun Belt Conference baseball tournament, Louisiana-Lafayette is assured of entering next week’s NCAA tournament with the country’s best record.
The Ragin’ Cajuns will take a 51-7 mark into Saturday’s 9 a.m. winners bracket final game against Texas State. The country’s next-highest win total is the 45-10 record of Cal Poly, which has finished its regular season (the Big West Conference does not play a postseason tournament).
Louisville was 44-13 entering a Friday American Athletic Conference game against South Florida, and Virginia took a 43-12 record into an ACC tournament game against North Carolina on Friday.
Twenty teams nationally had 40 wins going into Friday competition, including LSU, South Carolina, Florida State, Oklahoma State, Houston and Oregon all at 42 wins.
The Cajuns were the first team in the nation to get to the 40-win mark and got to that mark before May began in an April 29 6-5 win at Southeastern Louisiana.
While the Cajun team is focused on two more wins in the Sun Belt tournament, UL-Lafayette’s athletic department and many fans are looking ahead to Monday and the announcement of the NCAA tournament bracket.
The selection show airs at 11 a.m. Monday on ESPNU, and UL-Lafayette will hold a fan gathering at Moore Field to watch the announcement. Gates at the park will open at 10:30 a.m. and free snow cones and popcorn will be available, and fan giveaways and a meet-and-greet with the team will follow the show.
The Cajuns expect to receive one of the 16 home sites for the regional round, with those 16 sites announced at 8 p.m. Sunday on the ESPN “Bottom Line” as well as at @NCAACWS on Twitter andfacebook.com/NCAACWS. Ticket information for the expected regional at Moore Field will also be available at the Monday gathering.
The top eight national seeds, which will host the Super Regional round if they win their regionals, will not be announced until the Monday selection show.
Historic winning percentage
Only nine teams in NCAA Division I history have ever finished a season with a higher winning percentage than the Cajuns’ current .879 (51-7) mark.
The all-time record holder is Arizona State in 1972 (64-6, .914), and the most recent of those nine came n 1998 when Wichita State went 56-7 (.889).
The others are Texas in 1982 (59-6, .908), and 1975 (56-6, .903), Arizona in 1974 (58-6, .906), St. John’s in 1981 (34-4, .895), Texas A&M in 1989 (58-7, .892), Oklahoma State in 1988 (61-8, .884) and Arizona State in 1973 (59-8, .881).
No NCAA team has finished a season with a winning percentage of over .850 since Southern went 44-7 (.863) in 2003. LSU led the nation in winning percentage last year with an .838 mark (57-11).
UT Arlington and UL-Lafayette go into their Saturday winners bracket games in the tournament riding nine and eight-game winning streaks, respectively. Those are the third and fourth longest win streaks in the country entering Friday’s play.
Canisius holds the nation’s longest win streak at 17 games entering a Friday game against Fairfield in the Metro Atlantic Conference tournament. The only other team with a double-digit win streak is Maryland, which is at 10 straight entering a Friday game against Florida State in the ACC tournament.
The significance of Maryland’s streak? The Terrapins are coached by John Szefc, the Ragin’ Cajuns’ top assistant from 2003-08 who has led Maryland to a school-record 35 wins this season. The Terps knocked off third-ranked Virginia 7-6 in the ACC tournament on Thursday. Szefc, coach at Marist from 1996-2002 before joining the Cajun staff, was assistant coach at Kansas in 2009-10 and associate head coach at Kansas State in 2011-12 before going to Maryland.
The Cajuns’ two wins over UL-Monroe and Texas State in the tournament are UL-Lafayette’s first games on neutral fields this year. The two victories boosted the Cajuns to 24-2 away from home this year, with the squad holding a better record on the road than at its M. L “Tigue” Moore home field (27-5).
UL-Lafayette began the week ranked seventh the NCAA’s Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) behind Virginia, Florida, Florida State, Indiana, Oregon State and Vanderbilt, jumping two places from its No. 9 ranking the previous week.
The NCAA only updates its official RPI on a weekly basis, but two respected web sites that do daily updates on the percentage have the Cajuns bumped up to sixth entering Friday’s play. Both Boyd’s World and Warren Nolan have UL-Lafayette trailing Virginia, Florida State, Indiana, Florida and Oregon State with Vanderbilt seventh and Texas eighth.
Entering Friday’s play across the country, UL-Lafayette ranked in the top four nationally in 11 major offensive categories, including leading the nation in slugging percentage (.503) despite getting only one extra-base hit (15 singles and a Caleb Adams double) in Thursday’s win over Texas State.
The Cajuns also lead the country in triples (26), and they are second nationally in hitting at .321 (Delaware State is at .331), hits with 638 (New Mexico has 639), home runs with 61 (Tennessee Tech has 79), runs with 466 (Tennessee Tech has 470), doubles with 127 (William & Mary has 144) and sacrifice flies with 43 (Southeast Missouri State has 45).
UL-Lafayette is fourth nationally in scoring with 8.0 runs per game (Tennessee Tech is at 8.4 to lead the country), stolen bases with 102 (Wofford has a national-high 152) and on-base percentage at .410 (Delaware State leads at .431).