Located in the heart of SEC country, Louisiana-Lafayette knows its place in the college baseball hierarchy. That doesn't mean the Ragin' Cajuns have to accept it.
They've amassed the most wins in Division I this year, but the accomplishment is diminished by the fact they are in the Sun Belt Conference. Thus, their season will defined by how far they go in the NCAA tournament.
"We have to play bigger than we are," coach Tony Robichaux said Monday.
That's life in the No. 11 RPI conference, where any loss is a bad loss and even some wins hurt because of the weakness of the opponent.
Still, the Ragin' Cajuns (49-7) are up to No. 2 nationally behind Oregon State in some of this week's major polls and No. 7 in the RPI. They're poised to be among the top eight NCAA seeds; that is, unless they stumble in this week's Sun Belt tournament.
Robichaux likes to say his team is made up of "plow horses, not show horses," and before breaking the huddle after wins, he asks, "What have we earned the right to do?"
The shouted response: "MORE!"
Robichaux returned almost all his everyday players from last year's 43-win team that lost at LSU in a regional final. Pitching depth improved with the arrival of junior-college transfer Carson Baranik (10-1, 2.99 ERA) and the emergence of 6-foot-7, 230-pound freshman reliever Reagan Bazar (4-0, 2.32).
Lafayette is scoring eight runs a game and batting .319 with 125 doubles and 61 homers. Caleb Adams is batting .375 with 10 home runs, and seven other regulars are batting at least .309.
It's not all about power, though. The Ragin Cajuns have three dozen bunt singles, and their top power hitters are willing and able to sacrifice. Robichaux pointed out that his team used a squeeze bunt to beat Alabama — one of three valuable wins against the SEC.
"Their motto is to 'rise and grind,'" Robichaux said of his players. "That's what they enjoy doing, and we've been successful with it to this point."
A look around the country:
WETZLER WIZARDRY: Coming off his five-game suspension, Ben Wetzler pitched a two-hitter in Oregon State's 3-0 win against Washington on Sunday. The Beavers won two of three in the series and lead the Huskies by two games in the Pac-12 with three to play. Wetzler struck out nine and lowered his nation-leading ERA to 0.84.
MIAMI'S STRONG FINISH: ACC regular-season champion Miami won 27 of 30 following a 13-12 start and has its first 40-win season since 2008. The Hurricanes, who won two of three against North Carolina this past weekend, finished two games ahead of Virginia, which lost two of three to Wake Forest.
LANGUISHING LONGHORNS: Dillon Peters and Morgan Cooper combined on a no-hitter in Texas' 12-0 win at Kansas State on Friday, one of the Longhorns' few highlights since mid-April. Texas started 30-8 but finished fifth in the Big 12 — five games behind champion Oklahoma State — after losing eight of its past 14.
INDIANA'S STRONG ARMS: Indiana pitchers' combined ERA of 1.53 in Big Ten play was the lowest since Iowa's 1.17 in 1965. No Big Ten opponent has scored more than four runs.
BRONCOS' IRON ARM: Chad Mayle of Western Michigan threw 156 pitches in nine innings in a two-hit shutout at Central Michigan on Friday. The highest pitch count in Division I this season, as tracked by statistician Boyd Nation, is 157 by Chicago State's Ean McNeal against Texas-Pan American in April.
BIG BOPPERS: Tennessee Tech leads the nation in home runs with 78, the most since East Tennessee State hit 86 in 2011. Brandon Thomasson homered twice in the Golden Eagles' weekend series against Belmont and has 22, one behind national leader A.J. Reed of Kentucky.