Kyle Cedotal hasn’t forgotten the last time Southeastern Louisiana played UNO.
For almost two weeks now, the Lions ace has sat on the memory of giving up five runs on eight hits in 2.2 innings. That was the last time Cedotal stepped on the mound. It was the worst game of his career.
“That’s not how I was built here at Southeastern,” Cedotal said. “That’s not what I’m about.”
Cedotal will get his chance at redemption when he steps back onto the mound against the Privateers on Wednesday for the opening game of the Southland Conference tournament. First pitch between the No. 2 seed Lions and No. 7 seed UNO is slated for noon at Constellation Field in Sugar Land, Texas.
Cedotal said he’s well-rested after being removed from the starting rotation against Central Arkansas this past weekend, and he thinks he has located the problem with his recent performance.
Cedotal said he has been throwing too high in the strike zone for the past month, which led to him giving up 24 runs on 40 hits in his past five starts.
Coach Matt Riser said he’s confident Cedotal will return to his usual form for the tournament. At least he hopes so, because the Lions are going to need all the help they can get after stumbling into the postseason by losing their grip on the Southland regular-season title in the final weekend after a sweep by Central Arkansas — the only outcome that would result in Southeastern losing the No. 1 spot to Sam Houston State.
“The first goal was to try to win that conference regular-season championship outright. We didn’t do it. We fell short,” Riser said. “Sometimes those failures are a blessing in disguise. We’ve had failure before and we’ve faced our fears before, and this is a resilient bunch. When you look at our club and look at the bracket … you can’t be more excited about our club, and I don’t think our club could be more excited going into this tournament.”
Riser may not be too far off saying the fall to the No. 2 seed is a blessing in disguise.
Only two top seeds won the championship since the Southland started playing a conference tournament in 1993 — Lamar in 2004 and Texas State in 2011. The Lions were a No. 5 seed in 2014 when they won their only championship since joining the conference in 1998.
In fact, since expanding the tournament to eight teams in 2008, four Southland champions have been No. 7 seeds — the spot UNO is in this week. The Privateers are making their first appearance in the Southland tournament since joining the league in 2014; this is the ninth consecutive appearance for Southeastern.
Most of the pressure this week will be on the shoulders of the Lions, who need a strong showing if they want any hope of landing an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
Southeastern fell to No. 45 in the RPI after its dismal weekend and would almost certainly need to make a deep run in Sugar Land to claim one of 33 at-large bids — if that’s even still a possibility. RPI-wise, their recent struggles put them behind Southland foes Northwestern State (40th) and Sam Houston State (43rd).
Just to be safe, the Lions aren’t letting themselves consider an at-large bid.
“The ultimate goal is to get to regionals, and we know winning the tournament does that for us,” Riser said. “We don’t want to sit there on Monday and hope and pray that we’re in.”