2018 Southland Conference Baseball Tournament begins Wednesday

FRISCO, Texas -- The top eight teams in the league descend on Constellation Field for the 2018 Southland Conference Baseball Tournament, beginning Wednesday at 9 a.m. CT. Top seed Sam Houston State enters as the regular season title holder and defending tournament champion.

The double-elimination tournament will broadcast exclusively on ESPN+, available through ESPN.com and the ESPN app.

Home of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball’s Sugar Land Skeeters, Constellation Field is hosting the Southland tournament for the fifth time in six years and is slated to host through 2019.

No. 1 Sam Houston State - Record: 38-18, 24-6 SLC

The Bearkats secured their fifth regular season title in seven years and are seeking a third consecutive Southland tournament title this week. In 2017, Sam Houston became the only conference program in history to advance to the NCAA Super Regionals. The team earned four all-conference picks this year, led by first-team short stop Andrew Fregia. Sam Houston has won nine of 10 conference series in 2018, including five three-game sweeps.

First game: vs. No. 8 New Orleans, 4 p.m.

No. 2 Southeastern Louisiana - Record: 36-20, 21-9 SLC

Southeastern enters as the second-seeded team, one of two Southland teams with single-digit conference losses this season. The Lions ended their league slate early, closing out the season at home with a win against South Alabama and splitting a pair versus Houston. They took on Sam Houston State and Central Arkansas in their final two conference series, winning both 2-1. Southeastern is the only Southland team to win a series against the top seed Bearkats. The team is led by four all-conference picks, including a pair of two-time honorees in senior outfielder Drew Avans and junior pitcher Corey Gaconi.

First game: vs. No. 7 Nicholls, 12 p.m.

No. 3 Northwestern State - Record: 33-22, 18-12 SLC

The Demons completed an impressive turnaround this season. With five all-conference honorees and the 2018 Coach of the Year at the helm, Northwestern State went from 10-20 in league play in 2017 to 18-12 this season to secure the No. 3 seed. Four-time all-conference pick David Fry was named Player of the Year while junior transfer Jerry Maddox earned Newcomer of the Year. NSU enters the tournament having won seven of its last night Southland matchups. The Demons play the opening game of the tournament against No. 6 McNeese. The Cowboys downed the Demons 2-1 in their series meeting in April.

First game: vs. No. 6 McNeese, 9 a.m.

No. 4 Houston Baptist - Record: 26-28, 18-12 SLC

The Huskies enter as the fourth seed with the 2018 Hitter of the Year in Matt Heck, three first team all-conference picks, a third team selection and an all-defensive honoree. Heck, a senior outfielder from Midlothian, Texas, posted a .362 overall batting average, 45 RBIs and nine home runs. He racked up 76 hits in 210 at-bats for 10 doubles and 33 runs scored. HBU also sports one of the best pitchers in the league in senior Matthew McCollough. He registered a 3.02 ERA, an 8-3 record and tossed four complete games in 2018. The Huskies meet Central Arkansas in their first game, having won their regular season series on the road 2-1 in early April.

First game: vs. No. 5 Central Arkansas, 7 p.m.

No. 5 Central Arkansas - Record: 32-23, 17-13 SLC

UCA will look to reset for the Southland tournament after dropping its final three games of the season at Nicholls. The Bears earned five all-conference picks, three all-defensive selections and 2018 Pitcher of the Year in senior Tyler Gray. The right hander out of Fort Smith, Ark., tallied a 2.91 ERA and a 6-1 record. In 92.2 innings pitched he allowed just 30 total earned runs, 68 hits and struck out 113 batters while tossing two complete games. Central Arkansas takes on No. 4 HBU in its first tournament matchup, having dropped the series 2-1 in their regular season meeting.

First game: vs. No. 4 Houston Baptist, 7 p.m.

No. 6 McNeese - Record: 25-31, 15-15 SLC

McNeese earned an all-conference in three-time selection Joe Provenzano and an all-defensive honoree, Shane Selman. The Cowboys were regular season champions in 2017, their fourth overall. They enter the conference tournament on a four-game skid, having lost eight of their last nine conference matchups. Provenzano, a senior infielder from Downers Grove, Ill, leads the team with a .329 batting average, racking up 69 hits in 210 at-bats with 101 total bases. McNeese faces Northwestern State in the first round of the tournament. The Cowboys took the series 2-1 at home in their regular season meeting in April.

First game: vs. No. 3 Northwestern State, 9 a.m.

No. 7 Nicholls - Record: 26-30, 14-16 SLC

Nicholls finished strong when it counted, ending the season with a three-game sweep of Central Arkansas at home to seal their spot in a three-way tie for seventh place in the league standings. The Colonels earned a pair of all-conference selections and two spots on the all-defensive team, led by center fielder Chet Niehaus who landed a slot on both. The senior out of Hammond, La., batted .318 during conference play with a team-high five homers while amassing 104 putouts, three assists and just one error in league play for a .991 fielding percentage. Nicholls faces No. 2 Southeastern Louisiana in the first round, a team which they were 1-2 against on the road in their regular season series.

First game: vs. No. 2 Southeastern Louisiana, 12 p.m.

No. 8 New Orleans - Record: 26-30, 14-16 SLC

The Privateers head to the postseason wielding two of the strongest individual weapons in the league in senior third baseman Owen Magee and junior pitcher Bryan Warzek. Both were first team all-conference picks this season. Magee comfortably paces the team with a .335 batting average, tallying 80 hits, 14 doubles, 39 RBIs and 123 total bases. Warzek, a left-hander from Clifton Park, N.Y., was the most prominent presence on the mound for UNO, pitching 88.0 innings for the team this year. He notched a 4-2 record and 2.56 ERA, including 117 strikeouts. New Orleans faces the top seeded Bearkats in round one as the two teams meet for the first time this season.

First game: vs. No. 1 Sam Houston State, 4 p.m.

The winner of the Southland Conference Tournament earns the league’s automatic bid to the 2018 NCAA Division I Baseball Championship. The bracket will be announced Monday, May 28 on ESPNU at 11 a.m. CT.

The NCAA Division I Baseball Championship consists of a 64-team field – 31 automatic qualifiers and 33 at-large selections. Sixteen teams will be seeded and each of the seeded teams will be placed at one of the regional sites.

Regionals for the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship are scheduled for June 1-4 on 16 campus sites. At each campus site, a four-team, double-elimination tournament will be conducted and the 16 winning teams advance to the Super Regionals, held June 8-10 or June 9-11 on eight campus sites. At each site, two teams play in a best-of-three tournament format. The winners from each site advance to the NCAA Men’s College World Series.

The 2018 NCAA Men's College World Series (CWS) will be held at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb., from June 16-26/27.