Jan. 25, 2012
BEAUMONT, Texas -
Fresh from enjoying a successful fall semester in the classroom, Lamar University's baseball team will open preparations for its 2012 season Friday afternoon when head coach Jim Gilligan will oversee the Cardinals' first team practice in Vincent-Beck Stadium.
Twenty of the Cardinals' 35 scholarship players posted grade point averages of 3.0 or better during the fall semester, including two who made the President's List (4.0) and six who made the Dean's List (3.5 or better).
"There are a couple of keys to that," said Gilligan, who ranks sixth among the NCAA's active coaches with 1,206 entering his 35th season at Lamar. "First, we have recruited good young men who take their academics seriously, and secondly Helene Thill (Lamar's assistant athletic director for academics) and Tommy Collins (academic advisor) have done great jobs of counseling the players.
"I am very appreciative of their support, and I am very proud of how well our players did in the classroom. They are a mature group of kids, and anytime you have 20 of 35 guys make 3.0s or better, it makes it fashionable to be a good student. It makes the other guys want to strive to join that group."
Senior catcher/designated hitter Cameron Campbell and freshman infielder Ryan Bertram were the Cardinals who posted perfect 4.0 GPAs during the fall semester. Those who made 3.5s or better were junior infielder/pitcher Ben Coram, redshirt freshman pitcher Chase Angelle, senior pitcher Zach Boulanger, freshman infielder Wayne Stanley, sophomore outfielder Jude Vidrine and senior pitcher John Gilligan.
The Cardinals, who went 29-27 during the 2011 season and bowed out of the Southland Conference after back-to-back losses to Stephen F. Austin and A&M Corpus Christi in San Marcos, will open their season on Feb. 17 with a 6 p.m. game against Portland in first-round play in the Lamar Classic.
Despite their down year last season, the Cardinals have averaged 36.2 victories per season over the past 11 years, and they will go into their opener with an all-time record of 1,428-1,038 for a .579 winning percentage.
Gilligan, who is a member of the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame and was inducted last spring into the Southland Conference Hall of Fame, has accounted for 1,196 of those victories (his other wins came in a 10-10 season at Western New Mexico in 1971).
"It's going to be good to get onto the field with the players," said Gilligan. "We're going into these workouts very excited and with positive attitudes.
"The biggest thing we have to address is that we have a lot of new players, but there's no question that there are going to be a lot of talented players out there. We'll have a problem in that we have more than eight guys who are capable of being position starters, but that's a good problem to have. We will have to make the best utilization of that depth.
"If the pitching comes around the way I think it will, we'll have the potential to have a heck of a season. The kids have been revving it up in their individual drills, and they're really ready to get after it."
In addition to being successful in the classroom during the fall semester, the Cardinals were very active in performing community service work Among the activities they participated in were the Julie Rogers Gift of Life Breast Cancer Walk, the Walk to End Alzheimer's, the Walk to Cure Diabetes, visitations to the children's ward at Baptist Hospital, visitations at local elementary schools, attending Boys and Girls Club activities at Colorado Canyon and a movie outing with the children at the Women's Shelter.
"The players took a great interest and pride into giving back to the community," said Gilligan. "I'm proud of what they did as a team. It goes back to our athletic leaders such as Jason Henderson (interim athletic director), Larry Tidwell (head women's basketball coach and former athletic director) and Tic Price (academics coordinator) placing a large emphasis on student-athletes giving back to the community.
The Cardinals are banking on the healthy returns of junior right-handed pitcher
Eric Harrington of Port Neches-Groves and junior left-handed pitcher Jonathan Dziedzic of Humble Atascocita, each of whom was sidelined by injuries last season.
Also returning to the pitching staff is senior left-hander Machon Trimm of Pearland, and the Cardinals also have a returning All-SLC third teamer in senior outfielder Jeft Abt of Spring, who led the team in batting last season with a .329 average.