Lamar set for Southland Tournament

GO CARDINALS <b>Jonathan Dziedzic</b>
Jonathan Dziedzic

May 21, 2013

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SLC Tournament Notes (Day One)Get Acrobat Reader

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 Baseball Tournament at Constellation Field in Sugar Land.

The Last Meeting
Southeastern Louisiana1
April 7, 2013
Hammond, La.
Offense catches fire in 18-1 rout of Southeastern Louisiana

HAMMOND, La. – Three Cardinals collected three or more hits and six knocked in multiple runs as the Lamar baseball team throttled Southeastern Louisiana in 18-1 fashion in seven innings to secure its first Southland Conference series win of the year.

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 school.

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.




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