The Port Arthur News
BEAUMONT – The Lamar baseball team currently sits in a four-way tie for second in the Southland Conference, but the Cardinals will have their sights set on first this weekend as league-leading Stephen F. Austin comes to town for a three-game set at Vincent-Beck Stadium.
Lamar, which at 9-6 in conference play trails SFA by a game, became the first Southland team to 30 wins this year after sweeping past Northwestern State a week ago. The series was never close between the hot-hitting Cards and the Demons as LU out-hit the hosts .348-.226 en route to out-scoring NSU 37-7.
For the year, Lamar (30-11) has been remarkably adept at the plate, leading the conference with a .303 average and .416 slugging percentage. Playing in what many consider to be a pitcher’s ball park, Cardinals have made the most noise via the double, hitting 94 of them, which leads the league by 17.
Individually, Darian Johnson has fueled the offense with a .385 batting average with 33 runs batted in and 37 scores.
Sam Bumpers and V.J. Bunner are hitting .353 and .336 at the plate, respectively. Seth Dornak (.314), Aaron Olivas (.306), Zach Luevanos (.304) and Vidrine (.300) round out the .300 or better hitters for the Cards, and Brad Picha isn’t far behind them at .298.
On the mound, Lamar has been just as impressive, boasting of the league’s second-best earned run average at 3.64. Jonathan Dziedzic, Friday’s scheduled starter, has been the star of the rotation, striking out 77 in 70.1 innings of work with a 2.82 ERA and 6-1 record. The southpaw out of Humble has been unhittable at times, leading the SLC with a .196 opponent batting average.
Eric Harrington, who expected to take the mound on Saturday, has been strong as well, running up a 6-1 mark over 68.1 frames with a 2.50 ERA.
Sunday’s starter will be announced at a later date.
A major reason for the success of the pitching staff has been the exceptional defense, which boasts of the nation’s best fielding percentage at .985 and a league-leading 39 double plays. On the year, the defense has committed just 23 errors, 17 less than every other conference school.
SFA is 10-5 in conference play and 23-18 overall after taking two out of three from Southeastern Louisiana last weekend and picking up a pair of midweek victories over Texas Southern. Last season, the Cards took two out of three from the Lumberjacks, and Harrington was the star on the mound, going the distance in a game one victory. At the plate, Vidrine and Dornak hit .455 with seven scores and four RBI.
The weekend will also serve as LU’s annual Alumni Weekend, with an alumni and parent tailgate set for Friday night. On Saturday, the 1973-78 baseball teams will be honored in a special pre-game ceremony and post-game banquet, which will be hosted by the Lamar University Baseball Players Association.
First pitch on Friday is set for 6:30 p.m.