The Port Arthur News
BEAUMONT — The Lamar Lady Cardinals are out to prove they belong to be in the Southland Conference Softball Tournament.
After being picked to finish dead last in the regular season and being the only team not to have a player receive first-team or second-team All-Southland Conference honors, the Lady Cardinals finished in fifth place in the conference in their first season of softball since 1987. Lamar wrapped up a tournament berth on the final weekend by sweeping Houston Baptist in a three-game series.
“It’s great for the program that we’re going to the tournament in our first season,” Lamar coach Holly Bruder said. “We created our own destiny. However, we’re not satisfied to just go to the tournament. We want to make some noise while we are there.”
Lamar (24-33 overall, 14-13 Southland) takes on fourth-seeded Central Arkansas in the tourney opener at 11 a.m. Thursday at Northwestern State in Natchitoches, La. Central Arkansas swept a three-game series from visiting Lamar on April 27-28, winning each game by two runs.
“We proved we can play with them,” Bruder said. “We were in every game.”
Central Arkansas (36-18, 15-10) is led by Southland Conference Pitcher of the Year Kelsie Armstrong, who brings a 28-12 record into the tournament. Armstrong tied with Lamar left-hander Shannon Millman for the conference lead with 13 Southland wins.
“We scored 10 runs on Armstrong over the last two games,” Bruder said. “That gives us some confidence.”
Lamar center fielder Candyce Carter, who earned third-team All-Southland Conference honors, leads the Lady Cardinals with a .349 batting average, a .616 slugging percentage and 31 RBIs. Carter hit .352 in SLC play with five home runs and 16 RBIs.
The Lady Cardinals also need production from first baseman Ashley McDowell, shortstop Stephanie Meeuwsen and catcher Beverly Corry. McDowell, who set a school record with 12 home runs this season, led the Southland with eight HRs in conference play.
Meeuwsen led Lamar with a .357 batting average in conference play, while Corry was third in the Southland with an on-base percentage of .500 in SLC games. Millman, McDowell, Corry, and left fielder Jenna Holland earned honorable-mention All-Conference honors for Lamar.
Holland hit .289 overall and .315 in Southland Conference play.
Millman (17-14, 4.21), who is 13-6 in Southland play, is likely to get the start in Thursday’s opener. Right-hander Tina Schulz (5-13, 5.12) is Lamar’s second starter.
The winner of Thursday’s game meets top-seeded McNeese State at 4 p.m. Thursday. The loser of Thursday morning’s game plays in a loser’s bracket game at 1:30 p.m. Friday in the double-elimination format.
“I believe we can beat any team in this tournament,” Bruder said. “We just have to play the way we are capable of.”
All tournament games will be shown live on www.Southland.org, with the exception of Saturday’s championship round, which will be shown on