Feb. 14, 2013
BEAUMONT – With yet another opening day on the horizon, Jim Gilligan repeated a familiar refrain for his 36th season at the helm of Lamar’s baseball program.
“I speak for LSU and I speak for Arizona State when I say that pitching is what’s most important for everybody,” Gilligan said. “We’ve got some good arms this year, and you’re going to see guys out there with radar guns out there every ball game. Right now we have good starters and relievers, and I think that I have enough to work with. However, we haven’t found out about the personalities of some of these kids yet, and now we’re going to get to see how competitive they are. That’s what’s really important.”
Lamar’s staff begins with Jonathan Dziedzic on Friday night. The junior southpaw out of Humble was drafted in the 37th round by the Boston Red Sox at the conclusion of last season, and he’ll be looking to build on a solid sophomore campaign a year ago that saw him post a team-best 3.47 earned run average with 68 strikeouts in 72.2 innings of work.
On Saturday, Gilligan will turn to the duo of Collin Chapman and Eric Harrington. Chapman, son of former LU pitcher Tracy Chapman, made 15 appearances as a freshman last season, including a masterful five-inning effort last April to help the Cardinals to a win over Stephen F. Austin.
On the other end of the spectrum, Eric Harrington will be coming into this season already firmly entrenched in the Lamar record books. The senior righty out of Groves pitched 101.0 innings last season and sits seven starts and 47.1 innings away from the top spot in both categories in LU history. An innings-eater over the course of his career, he had five complete games last season, including a 10-frame tour de force at Central Arkansas, holding the Bears scoreless and to just five hits.
Sunday’s starter has not been announced yet, but the Cards will look to a solid mix of newcomers and returners.
“We had 15 guys throw 15 pitches yesterday,” Gilligan, a former Card pitcher himself, explained. “This is that tweaking time right now. We have to get our pitchers on track and then keep them on track. That was sort of my last preview, and it helped me to line up the staff in order of importance.”
Offensively, there’s also a lot to look forward to for the Cards as returners account for 73% of all LU runs a year ago and 77% of runs knocked in.
The offense will likely begin with Preseason All-Southland honorees Darian Johnson and Brad Picha, who combined to hit .333 a year ago with 63 RBI and 57 scores.
The trio of Seth Dornak and Garret Autrey, .300 hitters themselves in 2012, will also add to this mix as well as outfielder Jude Vidrine, who led the team in home runs with five last year.
Other returners include infielders V.J. Bunner, Andrew Dewey and Aaron Olivas as well as outfielder Joe Arechiga.
Among the newcomers, Sam Bumpers will look to build on a stellar final year at Iowa Western Community College that included a Gold Glove award, a top 10 batting average and a national championship. Also making the move to Beaumont were fellow JuCo transfers Brandon Provost and Jake Sutton as well as Holden Holsomback, Kyle Tucker and current Lamar quarterback Ryan Mossakowski.
This weekend’s match-up will be the first-ever between the Norse and the Cardinals as NKU will be playing its first series as a Division I school after competing in Division II last season. A year ago, the team from Highland Heights, Ky., went 36-22 with a .278 team batting average and a 3.77 ERA. All-time, the Norse are 121-172-2 vs. Division I opponents.
Lamar will be looking to continue its phenomenal opening weekend success which includes victories in 18 of the last 21 season-openers. The Cards also boast of a 57-25 mark in a season-opening series. The last loss the Cards picked from a series to open the season came in 1998 to Nicholls, and the last time LU dropped such a series was in 1988 when Rice registered a two-game sweep.
First pitch on Friday night is set for 6:30 p.m., and Saturday’s doubleheader will begin at 1 p.m. The final game of the weekend is set to start at 11 a.m. on Sunday.