Gilligan among those honored on SLC 2000s All-Decade Team

GO CARDINALS <b>Michael Ambort</b>
GO CARDINALS
Michael Ambort
GO CARDINALS

June 13, 2013

FRISCO – After leaving the Southland Conference after the 1987 season, the Lamar baseball team followed a circuitous route back into the league in 1999. Unfortunately for the rest of the schools, the Cardinals quickly returned to the conference’s elite, and on Thursday, 11 players were named to the 2000s All-Decade Team with Jim Gilligan taking home Coach of the Decade honors.

Gilligan, who was honored as an All-Decade player for the 1960s team, now boasts of the coaching award for the 1970s, 1980s and 2000s. He ranks as the conference’s all-time winningest coach with 1,257 wins at Lamar and 381 in SLC play.

“A coach is only as good as his players,” Gilligan said. “It was such an honor to share this award with [former Louisiana Tech coach] Pat Patterson, but this one is really special too. This kind of recognition is just a reflection of the kind of guys that we got in here to play for us in the 2000s.”

Similar to the 1980s team, the 2000s team is highlighted by the presence of Major Leaguers in Clay Hensley and Micah Hoffpauir, a duo that helped propel the Cards to a Southland Tournament Championship in 2002. Joining the pair on the squad are Michael Ambort, Collin DeLomeTim Erickson, Jordan Foster, Jesse Floyd, Blake Justice, Erik Kanaby, Brian Sisk and Kyle Stutes.

Despite only spending one year in Beaumont, Hensley’s dominance is still talked about as the recent San Francisco Giant earned Southland Tournament MVP honors in 2002. The right-hander struck out a school record 127 in the season, which included a school-record 17 Ks in a win over UT Arlington.

“Clay’s out there and still doing his thing,” Gilligan said. “He needed a little bit of work when he first got here, but once we fixed that up, he was just dominant. What I remember most about him was that championship game. Northwestern State had the best hitter in the league up there in a one-run game with two outs. Hensley blew the first pitch right past him, and I’d never done this before, but I just sat my charts down because I wanted to enjoy watching him win the game. He was just so good when he left here.”

A lot of Hensley’s success was helped by the presence of former Chicago Cub Hoffpauir, who starred at the plate for the Cards in 2001 and 2002. A two-time All-Southland honoree, Hoffpauir racked up 50 doubles to go along with a .362 batting average, which ranks third in school history.

“Micah was just a great, great first baseman,” Gilligan explained. “It seemed like he was destined to be a big leaguer when he was here. He was one of those guys that you got excited about when he came to the plate because he had just a beautiful swing, and he was such a good ballplayer that he could play in center too if you needed him.”

Both Floyd and Justice were part of the 2002 team, but came back in 2003 to help the Cards to their first regular season title in the league since 1985. Floyd, an All-SLC honoree a year prior, earned Pitcher of the Year in 2003. The Nederland native finished his career with wins in 80 percent of his decisions, which ranks second in school history.

“I don’t think anyone could paint the outside corner like Jesse could,” Gilligan said. “He was so consistent and just a fantastic young man and a local product. When he didn’t get drafted, I had to call up [former Card and current MLB scout] Alan Marr, who signed him sight unseen. He called me back later and thanked me for making him look smart.”

Justice was also a two-time all-conference member after serving as a valuable top-of-the-line-up guy for the Cards. He finished his career with an impressive .361 average, which ranks fourth all-time, but he made sure to continue to do damage once he got on base, scoring 66 times in 2002, the third-best mark for a Lamar player ever.

“Blake was your prototypical lead-off guy,” Gilligan explained. “He could bunt, run and play second well. That’s one of the great things about baseball because he wasn’t a big guy, but he still certainly made an impact. He always kept the infield on his toes when he was at the plate, and he was fun to watch out there.”

Also starring on the 2003 team was a consensus All-American in Foster, who set school records in hits (96), batting average (.417) and doubles (29). He also knocked in 71 runs that season, coming up two shy of Kim Christensen's record. The Arlington native returned a year later to earn Southland Tournament MVP honors, and he went on to end his career with 256 hits and 63 doubles, best-ever marks for a Cardinal.

"Jordan was one of the greatest players that we've ever had, and certainly one of the best that the Southland's had," Gilligan said. "I'll tell you what, he was a player, and he was the type of guy you only had to teach something to once because after that, he perfected it. I'm very happy for him, and he's a guy who stays involved with our players association, so I know that he'll appreciate it.

Stutes, who played on both the 2002 and 2003 teams, announced his presence in the Southland with a memorable 2004 campaign. The southpaw out of Port Arthur was an All-American in 2004, winning the Pitcher of the Year in the process with a 10-2 record and a 2.49 earned run average. He ended his career with 86 appearances on the mound, which ranks third in school history.

“Kyle was a lefty who knew how to be a lefty,” Gilligan said. “The best way that I can describe him is that he was just a fierce competitor. He was a bulldog out there and good for us from the start. It’s always good to get a local kid like him, and he was the type of guy that you needed to have to win games.”

Another All-American in Michael Ambort stepped on campus as Stutes was getting ready to step off. The New Yorker cranked out a school record 38 homers with a 173 runs batted in, earning national honors and SLC Hitter of the Year in 2005. He made a return to the All-SLC team 2007 before getting selected by the San Francisco Giants in the sixth round, and he ended his career with 382 total bases, three shy of Jerald Clark’s program record.

“I felt really close to Michael and his family,” Gilligan revealed. “He handled himself so well throughout the process and when he got on campus as a freshman. I had senior pitchers raving to me about him his first year here, and we were fortunate to have an individual like him in our program.”

DeLome was also major player for Cards in the mid-2000s, earning both Player of the Year and Hitter of the Year in 2006. The .340 hitter holds the top three single season marks in triples, and finished with a school record 22 for his career, 11 more than second on the list. He also owns the top total bases mark for a season with 150, and his 152 career runs rank second all-time.

“Collin was triple waiting to happen,” Gilligan said. “He was a great kid with a sweet swing. Seeing him get on this list is a little special to me because his father also played for me. I’m really happy for him.”

Kanaby was the final Cardinal hitter to make the squad. The Beaumont product is the best hitter in school history with a .381 average. A two-time All-SLC selection, he truly broke out in 2007 with 91 hits and a .406 average, which featured an impressive 25-game hitting streak.

“Erik was very skilled with the bat,” Gilligan said. “He came in as an opposite field hitter, but we had him playing like Ichiro. There was no way you could defend him, and on top of that he could run. He just scared teams, even without much power, because they didn’t know how to get him out.”

Two pitchers rounded out the squad. The first, Erickson, earned Freshman All-America honors in 2005, but he was most outstanding in 2008 when he took home Pitcher of the Year. He holds the school record for saves with 17 for his career, and he also put up a scoreless streak of 20 consecutive innings at one point.

“Tim was our double-duty guy,” Gilligan explained. “We had him as a closer for a while, but one game, he saved us by throwing 8.2 innings out of the pen, and I decided he’d close Friday and pitch Sunday. He had a phenomenal pick-off move and was a great lefty. This is very well-deserved for him.”

Sisk, LU’s all-time leader in win percentage with a 21-5 record, featured in the 2007 and 2008 seasons. A two-time all-SLC honoree, the Tyler native is part of a select group of Cards to take home double-digit victories twice in a career.

“Brian could just jam hitters all day long, and he just intimidated teams,” Gilligan said. “Part of his routine after a start was to throw part of batting practice the next day. I remember him throwing 125 pitches against Northwestern State, and then when the team got there the next day they saw him throwing BP like nothing happened. He was just a hard worker with an old school mentality, and to top it all off, he was one of the more coachable guys I’ve had the pleasure of working with.”

The 2000s All-Decade team brought an end to the 50th anniversary celebration for Southland Baseball, and Lamar stood out from the rest of the pack with 35 players scattered among the four squads in which the Cards were eligible for selection.

#LUBaseball

 

Southland Conference 1970s All-Decade Team (2000-09; 56 players)

Name, Team

Pos.

All-SLC

Superlatives

Michael Ambort, Lamar

C

2005, 2007

2005 Hitter of the Year

Bubba Bell, Nicholls

OF

2005

2005 Batting Average Champion

Josh Boop, Northwestern State

OF

2003, 2004

 

Bryan Cartie, McNeese State

3B

2006, 2007

 

Michael Choice, Texas-Arlington

OF

2009, 2010

2010 Player and Hitter of the Year

Willie Core, Louisiana-Monroe

3B

2001

2001 Player and Hitter of the Year

Danny Davis, McNeese State

P

2006

2006 Pitcher of the Year

Colin Delome, Lamar

OF

2006

2006 Player and Hitter of the Year

Tim Erickson, Lamar

P

2008

2008 Pitcher of the Year

Stephen Flora, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi

C

 

2008 Newcomer of the Year; 2008 Batting

Average Champion

Jesse Floyd, Lamar

P

2003

2003 Pitcher of the Year

Jordan Foster, Lamar

OF

2003

2003 All-American

Anthony Garibaldi, Southeastern Louisiana

P

 

2003 Newcomer of the Year; SLC Season (20) & Career (30) Saves Leader

Isa Garcia, Sam Houston State

2B

 

2005 Newcomer of the Year

Paul Goldschmidt, Texas State

1B

2008, 2009

2009 Player of the Year; 2008 & 2009 Hitter of the Year; 2011- MLB, Arizona

Matt Green, Louisiana-Monroe

P

2005

2005 Pitcher of the Year

Seth Hammock, Sam Houston State

3B

2008

2008 Batting Average Champion

Brad Hanson, Northwestern State

OF

2001, 2002

 

Clay Hensley, Lamar

P

2002

2002 Tournament MVP; 2005- MLB, San Diego, Florida, San Francisco, Cincinnati

Steven Hill, Stephen F. Austin

1B

2007

2007 Player and Hitter of the Year

Micah Hoffpauir, Lamar

1B

2002

2008-10 MLB, Chicago Cubs

Kane Holbrooks, Texas State

P

2009

2009 Pitcher of the Year

Chris Howay, McNeese State

P

2000

2000 Pitcher of the Year

Jared Howton, Texas-San Antonio

P

2001

2001 Pitcher of the Year

Ben Jones, Louisiana-Monroe

1B

2003, 2004

 

Blake Jones, Northwestern State

DH

2005

2005 Player of the Year

Blake Justice, Lamar

2B

2002, 2003

 

Eric Kanaby, Lamar

OF

2007

2007 Batting Average Champion

O.J. King, Northwestern State

P

2002

2002 Pitcher of the Year; 2001 Newcomer of the Year

Charlie Kingrey, McNeese State

OF

2006, 2007

 

Trent Lockwood, Texas-San Antonio

1B

 

2007 Newcomer of the Year

Mark Lowe, Texas-Arlington

P

 

2006- MLB, Seattle, Texas, Los Angeles (AL)

Dustin Martin, Sam Houston State

OF

2006

2006 Batting Average Champion

Wade Miley, Southeastern Louisiana

P

2008

2011- MLB, Arizona; 2012 MLB All-Star

Matt Miller, Texas State

OF

 

2004 Newcomer of the Year

Adam Moore, Texas-Arlington

C

2006

2006 Newcomer of the Year

Brandon Morgan, Northwestern State

2B

2004, 2006

 

Daniel Ortmeier, Texas-Arlington

OF

2001, 2002

 

Matt Otteman, Texas-Arlington

OF

2009

2009 Batting Average Champion

Matt Overman, Nicholls

P

 

2003 Strikeouts Leader

Hunter Pence, Texas-Arlington

OF

2003, 2004

2004 Hitter and Player of the Year; 2007- MLB, Houston, Philadelphia, San Francisco; Two-time MLB All-Star

Keith Prestridge, Texas State

DH

 

2009 Newcomer of the Year

Luke Prihoda, Sam Houston State

P

2007

2007 Pitcher of the Year

Braeden Riley, Sam Houston State

2B

2009

2009 & 2010 Hits Leader

Michael Rockett, Texas-San Antonio

OF

2008, 2009

2008 Player of the Year; SLC Career Leader in AB (940), Hits (337), Doubles (64), Total Bases (537) and RBI (210)

Bernard Robert, Southeastern Louisiana

P

2005

2005 ERA Leader

Ryan Roberts, Texas-Arlington

3B

2003

2003 Hitter and Player of the Year; 2002 Newcomer of the Year; 2006- MLB, Toronto, Texas, Arizona, Tampa Bay

Jordan Robison, Northwestern State

OF

2000, 2001

 

Randy Roth, Southeastern Louisiana

DH

 

2005 Hits Leader

Mark Schramek, Texas-San Antonio

3B

2002

2002 Hitter and Player of the Year

Brian Sisk, Lamar

P

2007, 2008

 

Kyle Stutes, Lamar

P

2004

2004 Pitcher of the Year

Kevin Mitchell, McNeese State

1B/DH

2000, 2001

 

Brent Varnado, Southeastern Louisiana

P

 

2008 ERA Leader

Bobby Verbick, Sam Houston State

OF

2007, 2008

 

Chris Williamson, McNeese State

1B

2000

2000 Hitter and Newcomer of the Year

Mike Wombacher, Louisiana-Monroe

P

 

2000 Player of the Year

 

 

Coach of the Decade: Jim Gilligan, Lamar


 

 

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