Hibbs opens with 6-frame gem as Cardinals hold on

Published 12:06 am Saturday, February 20, 2016

BEAUMONT — Jim Gilligan thinks baseball scouts who attended Lamar’s season opener came to the wrong game.

That is, unless they were looking for good pitchers.

Senior Will Hibbs limited Southeast Missouri State to one earned run on three hits, Cutter McDowell batted 2 for 4, and Lamar began Gilligan’s 39th and final season as head coach with a 2-1 victory Friday night in Vincent-Beck Stadium. The Cardinals are 29-10 under Gilligan in season openers and 34-19 overall as a program.

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Jason McKinley is scheduled to start for Lamar against Clay Chandler of SEMO today. Game time is set for 2 p.m.

Hibbs (1-0) willed the Cardinals, striking out eight of 19 batters faced, just one more than the six-inning minimum. He got the upper hand against Southeast Missouri ace Joey Lucchesi, a left-hander who struck out nine but gave up two earned runs and four hits in a crucial third inning.

“Opening night is always a little jittery, to be expected,” Hibbs. “To me, opening night is a bigger deal than Christmas. It was awesome. I got strike one, and everything else was like riding a bike.”

Both pitchers were perfect through the first two innings. Hibbs took it further and allowed his first base runner with one out in the fourth.

Lucchesi gave up the four singles consecutively, to Brendan Satran, lead-off man Stijn van der Meer, Jacoby Middleton and McDowell. Van der Meer and McDowell produced a run each.

“It was very big, knowing we had Will on the mound, he’s going to put us through some really good innings,” McDowell said. “Just giving him some run support was what we needed for him.”

And then Lucchesi struck out the next two to finish the inning.

“He’s really tough,” Gilligan said. “I can’t be angry at my hitters for not getting to him because he’s a real prospect.”

Both teams hammered out five hits and committed no errors.

Enrique Oquendo earned the save with four strikeouts in 1 2/3 innings. He threw his second K with runners on second and third bases to prevent major damage by the Redhawks in the eighth and recorded a perfect ninth.

That wasn’t the only big jam the Cardinals staff found themselves in. Ryan Rippee slapped a two-out triple off Hibbs in the fifth and scored on a passed ball to put the Redhawks on the board. Lamar reliever Galen Andrews gave up two singles and walked a batter before inducing a double play in the seventh to keep the Cards ahead by one run.

“We absolutely had to have that because the game was getting away from us,” Gilligan said.

Lucchesi tossed 60 strikes in 101 pitches. Hibbs had 55 in 81.

Branden Boggetto hit 2 for 4 for SEMO, with Dan Holst and Daniel Costello also lining singles as well.

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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