So we are now 30 games into Tech’s baseball season, and things have definitely gone better. After Tech started 8-0 (and then went 7-2 after that), the team has seem to have fallen off a cliff. Including a home sweep at the hands of Southern Miss, Tech has gone 4-9 against a mix of good (USM) and bad (Stephen F Austin). Why has this happened? What has gone wrong?
Well, there’s a long answer and a short answer. I’m going to draw the long answer into the next few posts, but I’ll address the short answer here: it’s a slump.
Even great baseball teams go through slumps. Even the World Series Champion Chicago Cubs went through a 5-15 slump midway through last season. But they still ended the year with a league best 103 wins. This happens in the college world too, but to a lesser degree. Last year, regional hosts LSU went through a 3-6 span and ULL went 5-7 (that included a loss to Tech in Lafayette).
Tech’s 4-9 slump is worse than both of those examples, but not by that much. And even with a slump this bad, Tech still has 26 games left to play before the conference tournament. Luckily, with games at Old Dominion, Florida International, and a revenge game against McNeese State in Ruston, Tech still has a few chances to increase its RPI to make the tournament.
So let’s talk about RPI. Last year four C-USA teams made the NCAA Regional field of 64: USM, Rice, FAU, and Tech. C-USA’s RPI rating is about the same as last year’s, so we can probably assume three or four teams will make it again this year. Southern Miss is practically a shoe-in, so that leaves ODU (Massey: 24 RPI: 56), Charlotte (Massey: 71 RPI: 46), FAU (Massey: 64 RPI: 105) to compete for those spots, with outside pressure from UTSA and a Rice team that is trying to turn its season around.
At the end of the regular season last year, Tech had an RPI of 23, leading to its at-large Regional birth. Tech currently has an RPI of 63, so the team is quite a bit behind where it was at the end of last season. Its worth mentioning that UCONN had an RPI of 47 and made the tourney last year as an at-large, so that may be a good goal to keep in mind.
Tech will get out of this slump, hopefully sooner than later. That being said, every game now feels make-or-break. This weekend is no exception, where Tech plays a Rice team that has been struggling (10-21 record), but has been playing the 13th toughest schedule in baseball (compared to Tech’s 222 SOS). Tech can still afford to lose a series or two, but it will need to finish strong to have a solid chance to make the tournament.
I’m going to spend the next couple posts looking at more specific things that have happened during this slump as well as just over the year. The next post will compare this year’s team to last year’s team at 30 games in. I will also try to have posts up about runners left on base and pitching over the next few days. You can then use all this information to decide whether or not you should panic.