The Golden Eagles (24-6,8-1 C-USA) have easily emerged as the top contender for the regular season Conference USA crown, but there is one team that sits right behind them — Old Dominion.
Conference play has shaken up much differently than it has in past years. The biggest change is Rice , who have for decades been a powerhouse, sit with a 10-21 record. As of now, they are on pace to miss the conference tournament.
Florida Atlantic is playing expectedly with a 19-8 overall record and 7-2 in C-USA. The loss of so many starters from last season has set them back, but by no means does that make them a bad ball club. The notable teams that FAU has played are former 17th ranked Miami and currently-ranked 14th Florida Gulf Coast. Both of whom FAU have faced or will face. Although they may be out of contention to repeat as the regular season champs as the season rolls along, they will still be dangerous in the conference tournament.
Louisiana Tech started the season extremely hot beating a good Arkansas team early on. Yet, they have had many miscues especially with the start of conference play. La. Tech currently has a 19-10 overall record and are tied for last place with a 2-7 record in conference. To add to it, the Golden Eagles swept them in the opening weekend which were three big wins that will help later in the season.
Finally, ODU sits in second with a 22-7 overall record and 7-2 in the conference. One major factor setting apart the Golden Eagles and ODU is strength of schedule. ODU has faced only two ranked teams, losing 14-2 to Kentucky and 18-5 to Virginia.
The second major thing is that the Golden Eagles are statistically better than ODU in both pitching and hitting. In hitting, the Golden Eagles’ batting average is a .307 and have hit a total of 44 home runs as a team. ODU hits a .276 and has only 14 home runs as a team. In pitching, the Golden Eagles lead the conference with a 3.40 ERA and ODU sits at third in conference with a 4.19 ERA.
The Golden Eagles have faced tougher opponents such as Mississippi State and University of Louisiana-Lafayette to name a few. They also still have several tough matchups, most notably against Ole Miss who they must still play twice. For Old Dominion, the toughest team left on the schedule is Southern Miss, which may solidify USM as being the top dog in the conference.
The Golden Eagles will play ODU in a pivotal weekend series from April 21-23 at Pete Taylor Park.