June 2, 2011
BEAUMONT - Lamar University's baseball team closed the door on its 2011 season last week with back-to-back losses of 3-2 to Stephen F. Austin and 4-1 to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the Southland Conference Tournament in San Marcos.
Coach Jim Gilligan's Cardinals finished the season at 29-27, ending a 10-year run in which the team had won at least 34 games a season and had averaged 36.9 victories per year. The Cards finished a disappointing 15-18 in the SLC standings in 2011 and were the No. 7 seed in the eight-team league tournament.
Highlights to the season included non-conference road victories of 12-7 over then 15th-ranked Rice University and 7-3 over then 19th-rated Baylor University. The Cardinals' longest winning streak was a seven-gamer early in the season, but they also endured a six-game losing streak (all in league play) in April and they lost four of their final five games.
Another highlight to the season was a 7-4 home win over the University of Houston that enabled Gilligan to become only the sixth active NCAA Division 1 coach to reach the 1,200 milestone in career wins. He finished the season with a career record of 1,206-770 in 35 seasons, and he is 1,196-760 in 34 seasons as Lamar's head coach.
Led by junior outfielder Jeff Abt and senior right-handed pitcher Blake Ford being named to the third team, four Lamar players earned All-SLC recognition for 2011.
Abt, from Spring High School by way of the Air Force Academy and San Jacinto Junior College, led the team in batting with a .329 average, and he shared the team lead in runs batted in with 38 with senior first baseman Wade Mathis.
Ford, a Lufkin High School product who came to the Cardinals from Northeast Texas Community College, was the team's regular Friday starter, and he compiled a 6-4 record and 3.47 earned run average and had a team-best 78 strikeouts in 102.2 innings.
The Cardinals' other all-conference selections - senior outfielder Ted Zentek
and senior catcher Joey Latulippe
- both made the honorable mention list.
Zentek, a two-year letterman from Simsbury, Conn. by way of Temple College, tied Mathis for the team's second-best batting average at .310, and he had 28 RBIs in 56 games. Latulippe, from Clear Creek High School and Angelina College, was a mainstay behind the plate for the Cardinals for two years, and he batted .295 and had 29 RBIs during his senior season.
The 6-foot-5, 210-pound Ford was voted the SLC Pitcher of the Week on April 11 after hurling a six-hit, 1-0 complete-game victory over A&M-Corpus Christi. The 6-2, 190-pound Zentek was named the SLC Hitter of the Week on May 16, on the heels of a 10-for-15 performance during the Cardinals' three-game sweep of UT Arlington.
In addition to Mathis and Latulippe, the Cardinals are also losing the rest of their starting infield in the persons of second baseman Andy Mena (.210 batting average), shortstop Aaron Buchanan (.295) and third baseman Pablo Salinas (.272).
Also concluding their Cardinal careers and leaving Gilligan and his assistant coaches with a huge recruiting challenge are Zentek from the outfield, pitchers Taylor McInnis, Garrett Steward and Stephen Tromblee and infielder Scott Pasket.
Huge setbacks to what had been high expectations for the Cardinals for the 2011 season were the early-season losses to injury of starting pitchers Eric Harrington of Port Neches-Groves and Jonathan Dziedzic of Humble Atascocita. However, both are expected back for next season.