Can the Braves
make it two in a row?
Alcorn State, the reigning tournament champion, began this season with a 3-17 record. They’ve committed 107 errors this season — fifth-most in Division I — and reliever Chris Garza, who leads the team with 19 appearances, will miss the tournament with an injury. But Barret Rey has won this tournament as a pitcher, assistant coach and head coach. Don’t count him out.
Inconsistent Tigers have won here before
It’s been a strange ride for Grambling. The Tigers looked like early favorites, winning five of their first six Western Division games — including a sweep of Southern at Lee-Hines Field. But Grambling took a midseason tumble, dropping three home games at SU, before rebounding at the end of the regular season. No SWAC team has more hits, runs or RBIs than Grambling, which sports a .290 team average.
A dark horse
Two months ago, Prairie View won twice in three games at Southern — and four years ago, under then-coach Michael Robertson, the Panthers beat SU twice, eliminating the Jaguars in the ’08 tournament at Lee-Hines. Prairie View led the Western Division race for much of this season. The Panthers tied for the third-best team ERA in the league (3.99), and they turned 39 double plays.
looking for more
In six seasons under coach Omar Johnson, the Tigers — with a strong pitching staff and a disciplined, fundamental approach at the plate — have entered the tournament as one of the favorites. But they haven’t won yet. This year, they steamrolled the Eastern Division. But they haven’t beaten Southern in their past six tries.
on the Hornets
Alabama State made a major commitment to its program when it hired Mervyl Melendez, who led Bethune-Cookman to the NCAA tournament 11 times in 12 years. Although the Hornets finished the regular season on a 4-14 slide, they finished with 20 wins for the first time since 2002, and only the eighth time since 1982. It might be a stretch to call them contenders. But Melendez wins in May.
— Perryn Keys