SUGAR LAND —
SUGAR LAND – Head coach Jim Gilligan had to go to his bullpen early on Thursday afternoon, Fortunately for the Lamar baseball team, Lance Warren answered the call in impressive fashion, allowing just three hits over 8.2 innings of work to lead the Cardinals to a 10-3 victory over McNeese State, knocking the Cowboys out of the Southland Tournament at Constellation Field.
“It turned into a one-man bullpen today, and I didn’t think he could go nine,” Gilligan said. “But he could go 8.2, and he did pretty well. Lance did a fabulous job today. He was a little bit tired in the sixth, but I told him to just throw it out there and let his defense work. That’s what he did. He learned a little bit about pitching today.”
With the win, the Cards improve to 37-19 on the year and advance to play the loser of Southeastern Louisiana-Sam Houston State game on Friday at noon. LU had fallen into the consolation bracket Wednesday night, after a rain-delayed 5-3 loss to Southeastern Louisiana.
Warren, who pitched a full four innings longer than his previous career-best, struck out four and walked just one. Hibbs’ final line was 0.1 innings pitched, surrendering three scores (two earned) and a hit.
“I wasn’t expecting to go that long,” Warren revealed. “I’ve come in for some situations this year, but I was just trying to do what I could. We had to win today, and I needed to come out and get ahead of people.”
Despite incurring a 3-0 deficit after the top of the first, the LU offense responded forcefully in the bottom half of the frame. Aaron Olivas earned a one-out walk and later scored on a Brad Picha single, and Garret Autrey laced a single down the left field line to even things up a few minutes later.
Olivas finished the game 2-for-4 with three scores, and Picha had a two-hit day as well, crossing home twice. Autrey was the primary run-producer for the Cards, knocking in four and ending 2-for-4. On the whole, LU out-hit McNeese 13-4.
The Cards took their first lead of the ball game two innings later. A costly error by Cowboy shortstop Connor Lloyd and V.J. Bunner’s double down the left field line put LU up 4-3. Another error by Lloyd on a Vidrine grounder kept the LU rally going, scoring both Bunner and Seth Dornak to put McNeese in a 6-3 hole.
Bunner was 2-for-3 on the day with two scores and two RBI. Dornak also scored twice, going 2-for-4.
LU doubled its advantage in the fourth. Olivas led off with a single, and a two-out single by Bunner brought him home to chase Cowboy starter and SLC Freshman of the Year Bryce Kingsley from the mound. Autrey came up big once again, sending the second pitch off McNeese reliever Jacob Williams deep into center for a two-run double.
Kingsley was pegged with the loss, allowing nine runs (seven earned) on eight hits and three walks in 3.2 innings of work.
Olivas and Dornak combined for a run in the sixth to account for the final score.
McNeese finished the season with a 23-31 record.