ULL opens pivotal weekend series with Arkansas State

The homestretch is here.

Louisiana-Lafayette begins its final homestand of the season with a three-game series against Arkansas State that begins at 6 p.m. Friday at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field.

This one is pivotal. The Ragin’ Cajuns are third in the Sun Belt Conference, three games behind first-place South Alabama and one game behind second-place Troy.

ULL (31-15, 12-9) can’t afford a slip-up against seventh-place Arkansas State (24-21, 10-11) this weekend.

After all, next weekend, the Cajuns will wrap up their six-game homestand with South Alabama. To have a shot at overtaking USA, they must first take care of the Red Wolves.

Louisiana-Lafayette is coming off a 6-4 midweek loss at Houston. Before that, however, the Cajuns won two of three games at FIU — their fourth straight Sun Belt series win.

ULL has climbed toward the top of the standings largely because of its red-hot offense, which ranks first nationally in slugging percentage (.491), home runs (52) and home runs per game (1.13).

Tyler Girouard leads the league with a .385 batting average, leadoff batter Dex Kjerstad is second in the league with 65 hits, and together, the ULL lineup includes nine hitters with 30 or more hits.

The Cajuns batted .328 in April, launching 30 homers in 19 games en route to a 12-7
record.

This weekend, ULL will face a Red Wolves pitching staff that has held opponents to a .248 batting average — the second-lowest mark in the Sun Belt.

Friday night starter Daniel Wright leads the league with 80 strikeouts.

Arkansas State has won 13 out of the past 16 meetings between the schools.