Four players to watch and teams to beat in the Sun Belt Conference baseball _lowres

Photo provided by Kemp -- The Louisiana-Lafayette baseball team celebrates with the trophy after defeatingTexas-Arlington 6-5 for the Sun Belt Conference tournament title last year.


MATT ROSE, 3B, GEORGIA STATE: The 6-foot-4 Rose has already clubbed five homers this season for the Panthers after finishing third in the conference with 11 a year ago. He was a pre-season all-league pick and a D1 Baseball preseason All-American, and he’s delivering on his promise so far.

KEELER RASCH, 3B, ULM: Rasch has raked through the first 10 games of the season. He’s ranked in the top six in the SBC in batting average (.400), slugging percentage (.767), on base percentage (.485), runs (10), RBI (13), home runs (3), and total bases (23).

JASON RICHMAN, RP, GEORGIA SOUTHERN: Despite not starting a game this season, Richman is leading the league with 22 strikeouts in 18 innings pitched. Opponents are batting just .119 off the junior southpaw, who struck out seven six innings of shutout ball in a recent sweep against Georgia.

COULTON LEE, RP, ARKANSAS STATE: Lee has allowed just three hits in 11.2 innings of work over four appearances, and leads the Sun Belt with a miniscule .075 batting average against. The sophomore left-hander is related to Major League Baseball star Cliff Lee.


APPALACHIAN STATE (5-6): The Mountaineers have clubbed 10 homers in their first 11 games, and are a bit of a mystery entering their first year in the Sun Belt.

ARKANSAS STATE (7-3): The Red Wolves feature a formidable 1-2 punch in starting pitchers Tyler Zuber (2-0, 1.42 ERA) and preseason all-conference pick David Owen (2-1, 2.42).

GEORGIA SOUTHERN (8-5): Could the Eagles challenge for the title just like their basketball and football contemporaries? They’ve already swept Georgia.

GEORGIA STATE (7-5): The Panthers still haven’t played a game outside of the state of Georgia, and their pitching (4.79 team ERA) is a concern.

SOUTH ALABAMA (8-5): The Jags are the only Sun Belt team hitting better than .300 (.307), and they’ve scored a league-best 91 runs through 13 games.

TEXAS STATE (3-8-1): What’s going on with the Bobcats? A preseason pick to finish second, they’ve hit just .226 as a team and have a staff ERA of 5.04.

TROY (7-5): The Trojans got off to a hot start, thanks to some stellar pitching (23 runs allowed in first nine games), but they’ve given up 23 runs in three straight losses.

UALR (3-5): UALR has only played eight games , but its been blown out by 13 or more runs in three of them. Both pitching depth and offensive production appear to be issues.

UT-ARLINGTON (3-5): The Mavericks have also only played eight games, but it’s enough for there to be some concern about its pitching staff (4.70 ERA).

UL-MONROE (6-4): The Warhawks have good balance, with four hitters in their lineup hitting better than .340 and a pitching staff that yields the second-best ERA in the league (3.13).