May 26, 2010
CORPUS CHRISTI - Quentin Luquette went 2-for-4 and scored the game-winning run, and Matison Smith was outstanding on the mound Wednesday afternoon as seventh-seeded Lamar upset No. 2-seed Northwestern State 4-3 in the opening round of the 2010 Southland Conference Tournament at Whataburger Field.
Lamar (32-24) will face No. 6-seed McNeese State Thursday afternoon at 4 p.m. in a winners' bracket game. The Cowboys, who have beaten the Cardinals all four times this season, upset No. 3-seed Southeastern Louisiana 8-7 with a two-out, 2-run home run by Steven Irvine in the ninth inning.
Luquette's fourth-inning sacrifice fly to deep left field brought in Aaron Buchanan to snap a 2-2 tie. The senior right fielder then doubled into the power alley in left center field to lead off the seventh, and he promptly scored the game's deciding run moments later when first baseman Wade Mathis singled into the left-field corner.
Smith, a senior right-hander came within one out of pitching his fifth complete game of the season. Despite allowing at least one hit in each inning and 13 total, the Nederland product gutted his way through a 133-pitch performance in near 95-degree heat.
"It has been extremely gratifying to me as a coach to have watched the amazing mental and emotional development of Matison Smith over the past four years," said Jim Gilligan, Lamar's head coach. "He came here as a scared freshman, and he's leaving us after this season as one tough, tough senior.
"He has truly turned himself into a man. It was obvious in the last inning that he was totally out of gas, but he wasn't looking over his shoulder for help. He wanted to pitch and to get the final out, but I didn't think that would a good idea."
Smith, who yielded two earned runs, walked one and struck out one, retired Demon center fielder Oscar Garcia on a flyout to open the ninth inning then gave up a single to left field to shortstop Chase Lyles.
Before Smith could entice another flyout to Anthony Moore in center field for the inning's second out, Lyles recorded his team-high 33rd stolen base of the season to move into scoring position. When the count went to 3-0 on Tyler Baisley, Gilligan summoned Jonathan Dziedzic from the bullpen to replace Smith.
Dziedzic, a freshman left-hander from Humble Atascocita, completed the walk to Baisley then gave up an infield single to Justin Martinez to load the bases. Dziedzic then boldly blew three-straight strikes past pinch-hitter Trevor Geist to end the two-hour, 41-minute thriller watched by a crowd of 334 at Whataburger Field.
"Northwestern is a tough team to get strikeouts against," said Gilligan. "Matison battled those guys from his first pitch to his last, and he got only one strikeout. Dziedzic faces two batters and gets a three-pitch strikeout to end it. Go figure."
The save was the second for Dziedzic, who also has a 4-5 record as a starter this season.
Easily the biggest battles Smith fought all afternoon were the ones he won over Eric DeBlanc and Garcia, the SLC's Nos. 1 and 3 hitters entering the tournament with respective averages of .397 and .377. DeBlanc went 0-for-5 from his leadoff spot, and Garcia, who follows him in the Demons' batting order, was 1-for-5 with the lone hit being a harmless two-out single in the fourth inning.
Mathis and Moore joined Luquette at the two-hit plateau for the Cardinals, who had a total of 10 hits to reach double figures for the 11th-sraight game.
Junior right-hander Eric Harrington, who is 7-3 with a 4.94 earned run average, will start Thursday's game for Lamar. If the Cardinals win, they'll advance to a 4 p.m. game on Friday. If they lose, they'll play the winner of Thursday's morning elimination game between Northwestern State and SLU at 9 a.m. on Friday.