Is It Time To Change Conference Tournament Formats?

May 27, 2015 · By · Filed Under Baseball, Editorials, Softball · Comment 

Jaguar_Logo_720x544Though South Alabama’s baseball team was not selected for the NCAA Tournament, they did achieve more this season than many thought they would. Going into the season the league coaches and media voted the Jaguars to finish seventh in the conference. How wrong were they?

Probably one of the most telling weekends of the season was when the Jaguars seemingly came out of nowhere and seized first place in the conference and did not look back until the regular season ended and they had taken the regular season title with them.

And they were playing their best ball at the end of the season.

They tore through the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. Well, until the conference championship. But even that was a heavyweight bout. Tied 1-1 in the top of the 12th inning and Louisiana-Lafayette used a grand-slam home run to defeat the Jaguars. Unfortunately that left USA one win short of making the NCAA Tournament.

But could it be time to change the conference tournament formats?

The NCAA Regionals are a true double-elimination tournament where you could have a school face defeating a team twice on the same day to advance to the Super Regionals.

South Alabama was on both sides of the debate this season. The Jaguar softball team lost to Lousiana-Lafayette in the conference championship play-in game and lost. They then had to win the losers bracket to earn the right to a rematch with the Ragin’ Cajuns in the conference championship game. In that championship game the Jaguars held on to defeat the Cajuns, who were undefeated in the tournament, and take the automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.

But they have been on the other end of the of the same situation in recent history too. Against the very same school too!

So I ask again, should the conference championship game be winner-take-all or should they take the same approach as the NCAA Regional tournament and be a true double-elimination tournament? The current format, for those that do not know, is a single-elimination first-round followed by a double-elimination tournament until the championship game which is a winner-take-all game.

Either way, South Alabama would have been affected this season. The baseball team would have had a second shot at defeating the Cajuns for the automatic bid and the softball team would have needed to defeat those pesky Cajuns a second time to earn the automatic bid themselves.

Would the results have been the same? We won’t know.

Jag Record 12 Individuals Advance To NCAA East Regional For Track and Field

May 22, 2015 · By · Filed Under NCAA, Sun Belt Conference, Track and Field · Comment 

Jaguar_Logo_720x544The University of South Alabama track and field program will send a record number of individuals to the NCAA Preliminaries.

On Wednesday the NCAA released the entries for the East Region Preliminaries and the Jaguars will be represented by a record 12 individuals. The meet will include the top 48 individuals in every event in the region will be hosted by North Florida in Jacksonville May 28-30. Those who finish in the top 12 will move on to the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Oregon next month.

Among those representing the Red, White and Blue are eight men and four women, including a pair who won their event in the Sun Belt Conference Championships two weeks ago.

Renaldo Frechou is the highest seeded Jag entering the east region preliminaries by ranking fourth in the men’s hammer throw. Jan-Louw Kotze ranks 13th in the men’s discus. Both Frechou and Kotze both broke conference records during the season.

The USA men’s contingent consists of: Zach Blahnik (hammer throw), Matthew Dillon (110 meter hurdles), Nick Farrell (pole vault), Christoph Graf (5,000 meters), Patrick Rohr (3,000 meter steeplechase) and Mark Watts (400 meters). Spencer Anderson also posted a qualifying time in the 400-meter hurdles but will not participate as he has earned his degree earlier this month and has joined the military on a full-time basis.

The USA women’s contingent include: Kaitlyn Beans (triple jump), Phoebe Dowson (discus), LaMia Miller (shot put) and Barbara Rivera (javelin).

This marks the third consecutive regional for Kotze while Farrell and Frechou both has postseason experience from last season.

This marks the second consecutive postseason selection.

Jags Advance In SBC Championship With 14-4 Win Over Georgia State

May 22, 2015 · By · Filed Under Baseball, Sun Belt Conference · Comment 
Kevin Hill struck out a 10 batters as he eclipsed the 100-strikeout mark for the season, he's the first jaguar to do that since P.J. Walters 166 in 2006. | Photo Credit: John Adams usajaguars.com

Kevin Hill struck out a 10 batters as he eclipsed the 100-strikeout mark for the season, he’s the first jaguar to do that since P.J. Walters 166 in 2006. | Photo Credit: John Adams usajaguars.com

Jaguar ace Kevin Hill struck out 10 batters in seven inning and allowed only one run on eight hits and three walks to help lead the USA to a 14-4 win over #5 seed Georgia State on Thursday.

Hill earned his 10th win of the season and is the first Jaguar to do so since D.D. Hanks did it in 2010. Also his 10 strikeouts puts him over the 100-strikeout mark for the season which is the first Jaguar to do so since P.J. Walters’ struck out 166 in 2006.

USA pounded out 18 hits in the game.

The Jags threatened to in the top of the first inning but were unable to push a run across the plate. It was GSU that would score the first run of the game in the bottom half of the opening frame. Trae Sweeting led off with a double down the left-field line and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt. Hill got Caden Bailey to fly out to left field for the second out of the inning but a two-out RBI single up the middle would score a run for GSU.

But the Panther lead would not last long as the Jags answered with three runs in the top of the second and they would not relinquish it the rest of the game. Cole Gleason led off with a walk. Danny Martinez followed with a single to right field. The first out came when Jared Barnes sacrifice bunt attempt led to a force out a third base. Ryan Raspino delivered an RBI double to the right-center gap to score Martinez and tie the game. Cole Billingsley hit a single to left-center field to plate both Barnes and Raspino for a 3-1 USA advantage.

Eight Jaguars recorded at least one hit in the game. Billingsley led the way with a career high four hits by going 4-for-6 with a double, three runs scored, two RBI and a stolen base. Raspino also tied a career high with three hits by going 3-for-4 with two doubles, a home run, three RBI and four runs scored. Collura also tied a career high with three hits as he had a double, three RBI and a run scored.

USA will have Friday off and will play at 9am Saturday in the winner’s bracket by facing the winner of Arkansas State and Georgia State, both of which play on Friday in an elimination game.

Jags Defeat ASU 6-2 In First Round of SBC Championship

May 21, 2015 · By · Filed Under Baseball, Sun Belt Conference · Comment 

SunBeltLogo_2013The top seeded Jaguar baseball team defeated 8th seeded Arkansas State 6-2 in the opening round of the Sun Belt Conference Championship at Riddle-Pace Field in Troy, Alabama on Wednesday.

Left-hander Jared Gates (5-3) allowed only two runs on four hits while striking out two with seven walks in 7 1/3 innings to earn the win. Ben Tayler struck out one in 2/3 of an inning of scoreless relief to earn his seventh save of the season.

The Red Wolves struck first in the top of the third inning when they led off the inning with a walk, then moved to third on a double to right-center field. They pushed the run across the plate when Zach George hit an RBI groundout to shortstop.

The Jags answered in the bottom half of the inning after Davis Knapp drew a one-out walk then advanced to third on a single back up the middle by Ryan Raspino. Cole Billingsly then hit an RBI single to right field to bring Knapp in and tie the game at one each.

USA took their first lead of the game with a three run fourth inning. Adam Ballew and Danny Martinez reached base on consecutive singles to start the inning. Gleason hit an RBI single off the right-field wall to score Ballew and a one-run lead. Matt Bolger hit a sacrifice bunt to advance both runners into scoring position with one out. Knapp would ground out to second to score Martinez and give the Jags a 3-1 lead. Raspino hit an RBI single to center field to bring Gleason home for a 4-1 lead through four innings.

The bottom of the fifth inning began with Benn Gann reaching base after being hit by a pitch, then advance to second on Bud Collura’s grounder to shortstop which was mishandled allowing Gann to reach second base. Ballew hit a double off of the right-field wall to score Gann. Then Martinez followed suit with an RBI groundout to first base allowing Collura to score for a 6-1 Jaguar advantage.

The Red Wolves threatened in the top of the sixth inning after loading the bases on a pair of walks and a fielder’s choice, but Gated would work out of it with an inning ending flyout to left field.

In the top of the seventh, Gates hit a batter to lead off the inning then a bunt-single put runners on first and second. Another Gates walk would load the bases with no outs. But Gates would induce a 6-4-3 double play allowing the runner on third to score the final run of the game. Then an inning ending flyout to left field would end the threat.

Ballew finished 3-for-4 with a double, an RBI and a run scored. Raspino went 2-for-4 with an RBI while Billingsley had two hits, an RBI and two stolen bases.

South Alabama will face 5th seeded Georgia State on Thursday in the second round of the SBC Championship.

Jags Fall In Game 1 To Troy, Doubleheader Slated For Today To Determine SBC Regular Season Champ

May 16, 2015 · By · Filed Under Baseball, Sun Belt Conference · Comment 

SunBeltLogo_2013The 29th ranked Jaguar baseball team had their Friday evening game postponed due to weather. The Jags need one win to claim the Sun Belt Conference Regular Season title.

On Thursday night the Jags fell to Troy 2-1. The Trojans need to sweep the series to win the Sun Belt Conference regular season title while the Jags just need to take one of the remaining two games to claim the title for themselves.

Saturday’s doubleheader between the Jaguars and the Trojans will start at 3pm and the second being slated for 6:30pm.

Jags defeat Chattanooga 11-1, Advance to play #4 Auburn

May 16, 2015 · By · Filed Under NCAA, Softball, Sun Belt Conference · Comment 

USA-SoftballThe 22nd ranked South Alabama softball team used 11 unanswered runs in four innings to defeat Chattanooga 11-1 in five innings.

The Jags found themselves trailing 1-0 after the top of the first inning when Sarah Beth Roberts hit a two-out solo home run, but that would be all the scoring the Mocs would muster against the Jags.

Emily Messer led the Jaguars at the plate with a career best four hits as she went 4-for-4 with three runs scored and an RBI.

Sophomore designated player Chloe Rathburn went 2-for-3 with two RBI and a run scored. She also tied a single-season record with 52 RBI and 15 doubles.

Senior shortstop Kaitlyn Griffith and sophomore center fielder Amanda Minahan both had two RBI in the game.

Farish Beard started the game with a pair of strikeouts but, after being called for a series of illegal pitches, was relieved by freshman right-hander Devin Brown. Brown would throw 4 1/3 innings of one-hit shutout relief with eight strikeouts and no walks against the Mocs to extend her shutout streak to 11 1/3 consecutive innings dating back to the Sun Belt Conference Championship game against 10th ranked Louisiana-Lafayette.

The Jags advance to face 4th ranked Auburn in game 3 of the regional tournament at noon on Saturday. Game 4 will follow at 2:30pm as an elimination game between Chattanooga and Tennessee Tech, who lost to Auburn Thursday evening 4-1.

The winner between USA and Auburn will advance to the finals while the loser will face the winner of game 4 in an elimination game with the winner advancing to the finals against Auburn on Sunday.

The game against Auburn will also be the first time the Jaguars have faced former Jag Haley Fagan, who transferred to Auburn after the 2013 season.

Jaguar Baseball vying for Sun Belt Conference Title versus Troy this weekend

May 14, 2015 · By · Filed Under Baseball, Sun Belt Conference · Comment 

SABaseballThe 29th ranked Jaguar baseball team will host Troy for a three-game Sun Belt Conference series which will determine the regular season Sun Belt Conference champion at Eddie Stanky Field.

The series began Thursday evening at 6:30 (currently trailing 1-0 through 3 1/2 innings) with game two at 6:30pm on Friday and ending on Saturday at 6:30pm, the finale being broadcast on ESPN3.

The Jags (34-18, 19-8 SBC) needs just one win to clinch their 15th Sun Belt Conference title and its second in four seasons under head coach Mark Calvi.

Troy (29-23, 17-10 SBC) must sweep the three-game series in order to clinch the SBC title.

Righty Kevin Hill (9-0) will seek his 10th consecutive win. He has also threw three consecutive complete games and four consecutive against SBC opposition.

Jags Open 2015 Auburn Regional on Friday

May 14, 2015 · By · Filed Under NCAA, Softball, Sun Belt Conference · Comment 

USA-SoftballThe 22nd ranked South Alabama Jaguar softball team will participate in their fourth-consecutive NCAA Regional starting on Friday in Auburn.

The Jags (38-11) will face Southern Conference regular season and tournament champion Chattanooga (35-13) on Friday at 3pm at the 2015 NCAA Auburn Regional. It will begin the double-elimination event which will send one winner to face the winner of the Lafayette Regional.

SEC Tournament champion and 4th ranked Auburn (49-9) will play Tennessee Tech on Friday at 5:30pm. The winners of both Friday games will meet at noon on Saturday for the first slot in the final. A pair of elimination games will be held at 2:30pm and 5pm to determine who will advance to the final as well.

Ahead of the Regional action, the Jags had two players named to the 2015 National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Division I All-Region on Thursday.

Sophomore designated player Chloe Rathburn was named to the second team while freshman right-handed pitcher Kalen McGill was named to the third team.

The awards honor softball student-athletes from the Association’s 10 regions with first, second and third team selections for each region. The teams were voted on by NFCA member coaches from each respective region and all the honorees will be eligible to be selected to one of three 2015 NFCA Division I All-American teams that will be announced on May 27.

Jag Baseball Hold Steady at #29 In Latest Collegiate Baseball Poll

May 12, 2015 · By · Filed Under Baseball, NCAA, Sun Belt Conference · Comment 

USABaseballThe University of South Alabama baseball team hold steady at #29 in the latest Collegiate Baseball Poll released on Monday after taking two out of three from Louisiana-Lafayette over the weekend.

In game one, Kevin Hill continued his excellent pitching with his ninth consecutive win by allowing only five hits with eight strikeouts and only three walks to extend his scoreless streak to 15 consecutive innings. He faced the minimum over the final four innings to give the Cajuns their first shutout loss of the season.

In game two, righty Ben Taylor earned his sixth win of the year with 2 2/3 innings of relief by allowing one run on one hit with three strikeouts and a walk.

Austin Bembnowski threw six innings and allowed just one run on six hits with five strikeouts and a pair of walks in a no-decision.

The game was scoreless until the bottom of the fifth inning when the Cajuns scored the first run of the game. Joe Robbins led off the inning with a single to left field and was advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt. Then a one-out single up the middles scored Robbins.

The Cajuns would load the bases later in the inning with two outs, but Bembnowski would work out of the jam with an inning-ending strikeout to minimize the damage to just one run.

In the top of the sixth, the Jaguars answered with their first run of the game. Ben Gann hit a double to the right center gap with one out. He was advanced to third on a one-out single to left field by Bud Collura. Then Adam Ballew hit an RBI single to right field to drive in Gann and tie the game at 1-1.

In the top of the seventh, the Jaguars earned their first lead of the game after Jared Barnes reached on a one-out single to center field, and advanced to second on a wild pitch then moved to third base on a pinch-hit single to right field by Danny Martinez. Ryan Raspino followed with a sacrifice fly to right-center field to score Barnes for a 2-1 Jaguar lead.

The Cajuns would answer in the bottom half of the inning on a suicide squeeze bunt.
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Jaguar Softball Travels to Auburn for the 2015 Auburn Regional this Weekend

May 11, 2015 · By · Filed Under NCAA, News, Softball, Sun Belt Conference · Comment 
The South Alabama Jaguar softball team learned their destination on Sunday at Heroes Sport Bar and Grill during their NCAA Selection Show gathering. | Photo credit: usajaguars.com

The South Alabama Jaguar softball team learned their destination on Sunday at Heroes Sport Bar and Grill during their NCAA Selection Show gathering. | Photo credit: usajaguars.com

The 23rd ranked South Alabama Jaguars road to the championship this season goes through Auburn as announced on the NCAA Selection Show on Sunday.

On Sunday evening the Jaguars found out that they were selected to participate in the NCAA Auburn Regional this weekend, May 15-17 and that they will face the national #4 seed Tigers, Chattanooga and Tennessee Tech.

This will be the Jaguars fourth appearance in the NCAA Regionals in as many years after earning the SBC automatic bid with their third title in four years. Previously the Jaguars participated in the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional in 2012 and 2014 and hosted the 2013 Mobile Regional, which was a first for the program.

USA (38-11) will open play on Friday against Chattanooga at 3pm.

Auburn (49-9) won the Southeastern Conference Tournament title on Saturday with a 6-5 extra innings defeat of 11th ranked Tennessee in the championship game.

Chattanooga (35-13) defeated USA 3-1 at the South Alabama Invitational on February 20, won its 13th Southern Conference Tournament title last weekend with a 3-1 win over Mercer.

Tennessee Tech (32-26) won it’s seventh Ohio Valley Conference Tournament title last weekend as well with a 3-2 win over top-seeded Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.

The winner of the Auburn Regional will advance to the Super Regional and will face the winner of the Lafayette Regional which features the 13th seeded Cajuns (39-9), Baylor (38-14), Mississippi state (35-19) and Weber State (38-17).

All games this weekend will be broadcast on the SECNetowrk+ and WatchESPN.com. Links directly South Alabama games will be provided by the USA Softball Schedule page as they are made available. More information about the tournament including tickets can be found at the 2015 NCAA Auburn Regional Tournament Central website.

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