LU Baseball set for SLC Tournament
BEAUMONT – Historically, Lamar stands
out as one of the Southland Conference’s most recognized baseball programs, and
on Wednesday, the 2013 edition will look to carry on that proud tradition as
the Cardinals will open up play at the Southland Championship Baseball
Tournament at Constellation Field in Sugar Land.
The fifth-seeded Cards will match-up against
fourth-seeded Southeastern Louisiana in the opening round of the double
elimination tournament, and on Thursday, the winning and losing team will take
on their respective counterparts from the game between top-seeded Sam Houston
State and eighth-seeded McNeese State.
Lamar enters the 2013 postseason looking to build on a
conference legacy that includes 10 regular season titles, 438 conference wins
and 30 conference tournament victories, marks that outpace every active
Southland member. The Cards have also taken home three conference tournament
championships, which ranks as the second-best total in conference history.
All of that success has come under the guidance of
36-year skipper Jim Gilligan, who has posted a 26-16 record in the league’s
ultimate tournament since returning to the conference in 1999. This season
marks the first that the Cards have competed in the event as the fifth-seed,
but it’s worth noting that LU boasts of a 7-4 mark in that time as a
bottom-four seed. In 2010, Lamar came in as the No. 6 seed and posted a 4-0
mark en route to earning the SLC’s automatic berth into the NCAA Regionals.
Four Cards remain from that 2010 team, including
Wednesday’s scheduled starter Jonathan Dziedzic, who played a major part in the
2010 postseason. The southpaw out of Humble struck out the final batter to earn
the save in the opener against Northwestern State and returned to the mound two
days later to pitch seven innings with 10 strikeouts in a win over McNeese
State, securing a berth into the championship game.
That week in 2010 offered a fitting preview for what
Dziedzic was to become, and he’ll look to keep it going as he leads the charge
against the Lions on Wednesday. The junior, who boasts of 310 strikeouts
for his career, became the school’s all-time leader in the statistic after
allowing just one earned run in eight innings of work earlier this season in
Hammond. A selection to the All-Southland Second Team this season, he enters
the tournament with a 6-4 overall record and a 3.35 earned run average.
V.J. Bunner and Eric Harrington also played a part in
the run to the 2010 championship as Bunner collected a pair of runs and
Harrington tossed a complete game victory against McNeese. However, Harrington,
an All-SLC First Teamer, is set to miss the remainder of the season due to an
arm injury sustained late last month. Bunner, who also earned first team
honors, will be available on the heels of season that saw him score 43 times
with team-leading marks in home runs (6) and slugging percentage (.515).
Jude Vidrine sat out the 2010 season with a redshirt,
but has carried a heavy load this season, putting up a .416 on-base percentage
with 49 scores.
Darian Johnson is set to lead an LU group that made
the trek to Beaumont in the aftermath of the 2010 championship. Johnson, the
Cards’ third member of the All-SLC First Team, led the team in batting average
for the second consecutive season, boasting of a .369 mark to go along with 44
runs batted in and 42 scores. Fellow seniors Seth Dornak, Aaron Olivas and Brad
Picha, all members of the All-SLC Second Team, combined for a .305 batting
average to go along with 98 scores and 126 RBI this season.
Sam Bumpers, LU’s first-ever SLC Newcomer of the Year,
rounds out the gaudy offensive numbers for the Cards, boasting of a .341
average with a team-leading 19 doubles, 46 runs and 34 RBI.
Lamar has also been the best defensive presence in the
conference this season, entering with a league-best .980 fielding percentage,
which ranks sixth nationally. The team has also turned 52 double plays, which
also leads the SLC, and committed just 41 errors, 13 fewer than any other SLC
Earlier this season, Lamar took two out of three from
Southeastern Louisiana in Hammond. After Dziedzic led the team to the 6-2
victory in game one, the Lions evened up the series with a 7-5 decision on
Saturday. However, the Cards left little up to chance on Sunday, hitting the
road early after picking up a dominating 18-1 seven-inning win.
All-time, the Cards and Lions have met four times in
the SLC Tournament, including on three occasions in the 2008 edition. In all,
LU has picked up three wins from the games with just one loss. The only time
the two sides have met in the tournament opener came in 2008, which saw
second-seeded LU squeak out an 8-7 win.
Following Wednesday’s game, Lamar will take on either
Sam Houston State or McNeese State. The Cards have met the Bearkats just twice
in tournament play, falling both times, including in the 2008 championship game.
LU holds a 4-1 mark vs. McNeese, including back-to-back decisions in 2010 to
send the Cowboys back to Lake Charles empty-handed.
First pitch on Wednesday at Constellation Field is set
for 7 p.m. With a win, Lamar would play again at 7 p.m. on Thursday, but a loss
would put the Cards in an elimination game at noon.
Wednesday, April 23 2014, 11:23 AM CDT