TOURNAMENT DARK HORSES
Jackson State: The Tigers are the second-best team in the SWAC and came the closest to beating Alabama State this year. But they wouldn’t meet the Hornets until the finals, and by then, Alabama State might be too hot to take down.
UAPB: The Golden Lions are the top seed from the Western Division and have the best conference record outside of Alabama State. Then again, Pine Bluff didn’t play the Hornets this season.
Texas Southern: The reigning SWAC champion is definitely an underdog as the No. 3 seed in the West — but as crazy as the tournament has been in recent years, having experience in big games can be the boost the Tigers need.
Grambling: The Tigers are the only team on this list that could see Alabama State before the finals. Grambling’s offense can heat up in a hurry and make a title run much more difficult for the Hornets.
NUMBERS WORTH KNOWING
482: Number of runs scored by Jackson State this season, the most in Division I
0: Number of Alabama natives on the roster for top-seeded Alabama State
38: Stolen bases by Texas Southern’s Ryan Lazo, third-most in the nation
14: Number of SWAC championships won by Southern coach Roger Cador
2009: Southern hasn’t won the SWAC tournament since 2009 at Lee-Hines Field
7: Number of SWAC teams among the bottom 10 in Division I fielding percentage
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Joseph Camacho, pitcher, Alabama State: The three-time SWAC Pitcher of the Year has been dominant in his senior season, posting the sixth-best ERA in Division I (1.38). He hasn’t lost in 35 consecutive games, going 35-4 over the course of his career.
Carlos Ocasio, center fielder, Alabama State: Ocasio doesn’t lead the SWAC in many categories, but he was in the top 5 in virtually every one. As the SWAC Player and Hitter of the Year, he’s second in the conference in home runs (13), third in RBIs (58) and fourth in runs (54) and slugging percentage (.628).
Skyler Henson, reliever, Arkansas-Pine Bluff: Henson did not allow a single earned run through 16.1 innings against SWAC teams this season, earning him Relief Pitcher of the Year honors. Against all teams this season, Henson allowed eight earned runs on 19 hits through 22 appearances.
Daniel Barnett, third baseman, Grambling: Barnett didn’t make the All-SWAC, first team but he certainly could have. The SWAC Newcomer of the Year is 16th in Division I with 59 RBIs and leads the SWAC in hits (73) and slugging percentage (.661).
Cornelius Copeland, shortstop, Jackson State: Copeland was a first-team All SWAC selection after leading the league in batting average (.421), on base percentage (.538) and runs scored (60).