Sept. 17, 2009
Lamar to launch fall baseball practices Monday
BEAUMONT, Texas - Jim Gilligan borrowed one of legendary University of Texas football coach Darrell Royals's favorite sayings in assessing the prospects for his 2010 Lamar University baseball team.
"Darrell used to say the definition of a guy who has potential is that he's a guy who hasn't done it yet," said Gilligan.
When Gilligan's 2010 hopefuls hit the Vincent-Beck Stadium field for their first of 20 fall practices Monday afternoon, they'll be loaded with guys who have "potential." It'll be up to the 34th-season head coach and his assistants to identify the guys who truly have the abilities "to do it."
With only 16 lettermen among the 40-player squad, there will be plenty of opportunities for newcomers to strut their stuff. After all, the Cardinals lost their entire starting infield, their starting catcher and standout outfielder Tyler Link from the team that posted a 38-22 record and advanced to the semifinals of the 2009 Southland Conference Tournament.
Among the departed are four of the Cardinals' five .300 hitters, including leader Brian Taylor, who batted .371 and also topped the club in runs batted in with 59 while also doing a stellar job at second base.
Link, who will help the coming season's team as a student coach, posted a .369 average as a senior, while shortstop Jeremiah Sammy batted .310 and third baseman Chris Dunkin .309. Senior outfielder Quentin Luquette, who hit .316, is the lone, returning .300 hitter.
While the Cardinals lost starting catcher Ryan Saldivar
, they'll be far from destitute behind the plate. Joey Latulippe
, who batted .345 and drove in seven runs in eight games before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury, is being counted on for big contributions.
"We lost a good stick and a good defensive player in Steven Tucker at first base, but Wade Mathis has some experience there and is coming off a great summer in the Carl Young League," said Gilligan. "Also, Ryan Meade (from Temple College) is a big, strong, over-the-lights power guy.
"I'm also high on Aaron Buchanan, who played shortstop at Galveston Junior College last season, but we're looking at him at second base. He'll remind our fans of Blake
Justice, who played some spectacular ball for us a few years ago. He's not as fast with the bat as Blake, but he has a lot more power and he'll be a great defensive second baseman.
"Another possible at second base is Jude Vidrine (a freshman from Nederland). He can already hit, and he's going to become a complete player. It's just a matter of when."
Vidor sophomore V.J. Bunner, who backed up Sammy at shortstop last season and batted .268, has an experience edge going into fall workouts, but the coaches will be paying close attention to Lake Charles freshman Tyler Theriot.
"Theriot is a special athlete, and he could get to feeling very comfortable at shortstop," said Gilligan. "As for third base, both Pablo Salinas and Michael De La Rosa have great junior college credentials. Salinas was an All-American his freshman season at Alvin JC, and both of them have good power.
"Even though Luquette was a regular out there last season and Anthony Moore started a lot of games, too, nothing is established in the outfield right now. There will be a real dogfight among six or seven guys for those three positions."
Among the possibilities in addition to Luquette and Moore are Ted Zentek from Temple College, Clayton Farhat from Navarro Junior College, Michael Padgett from Angelina Junior College and returning letterman Kevin Roebuck.
Port Neches-Groves' Eric Harrington, the 2009 SLC Freshman of the Year, will join Matison Smith in heading up the pitching staff. Harrington went 8-1 and posted a 3.01 earned run average while striking out 63 batters in 83 2/3 innings, while Smith was 6-6 with a 3.52 ERA to go with 53 strikeouts in 76 2/3 innings.
"Harrington and Smith were our Friday and Saturday guys last season, so you're likely to see them in those roles again this spring," said Gilligan. "We also have a promising freshman left-hander in Jonathan Dzedzic from Atascocita High School."
Jake Henderson, younger brother of former star first baseman/designated hitter Will Henderson, has transferred from the University of New Orleans and has two years of eligibility remaining and the experience to possibly step into the starting rotation.
"Jake is a sinker/slider-type guy who was the Friday night starter at UNO," said Gilligan. "He has great potential, and then there's Miller Aldrich, a big right-hander from Angelina College who could help us on the mound and as a designated hitter or third baseman.
In summation, Gilligan said, "It's impossible to predict any type of a starting lineup now. We have some seniors who can provide leadership, but they're going to need help. We're not asking the new guys to replace the skills of the departed ones. They have to do their own things, and we - as coaches - will have to fit all of the pieces together."