Lamar on fire, hosting No. 7 LSU in sold-out game

Published 4:22 pm Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Going into LSU’s fall ball schedule, then-Tigers assistant coach Will Davis could not imagine the scenario for tonight’s game at Lamar.
For the first time in his association with college baseball, he finds himself in the opposite dugout of LSU’s. That is, when he’s not working third base.
“It’s going to be a weird feeling, for sure,” he said Tuesday. “I’m excited because I want to see our guys against a top-10 ballclub. … I’m assuming it’s going to be a packed atmosphere. But it’s going to be weird not just because it’s my former school. I coached all these guys [at LSU] a month ago.”
It’s old news these days, but Davis was hired last month as Jim Gilligan’s successor at the helm of Lamar baseball for the 2017 season. A few days later, Davis decided to step down from his role in Baton Rouge rather than wait until season’s end.
“Since I became the head coach, I wanted to come now if I could,” Davis said. “We had to work out some things from a human resources standpoint. There was a limbo after I became the coach whether I could come now or wait until June.”
The transaction only serves as one of four big storylines going into the Tigers’ visit to Vincent-Beck Stadium tonight. The other three: Well, the visit of a nearby SEC power itself, the game being sold out, and Lamar’s first 4-0 start since 2013.
Lamar’s quick start has not come against slouches, either. The Cardinals have followed up a sweep of Ohio Valley Conference champion Southeast Missouri State with a surprisingly welcome 13-5 beat-down of No. 23-ranked Arizona on Monday.
“I can remember years ago playing LSU,” Gilligan said. “They were good back then. We used to do really well against those guys. The reason we won was we were good. I thought the team we played this weekend [SEMO] was a fabulous ballclub. It’s legit in a lot of areas because we have talent and we played well [Monday] night. We have a potential to have a really good ballclub.
Gilligan added hitting the ball well against a Pac-12 traditional power like Arizona only fueled Lamar’s confidence. The Cards showed plenty of it Monday, tattooing a pair of grand slams and a couple of two-run home runs.
Gilligan, who owns a 1,324-875-1 overall record on the collegiate level, couldn’t immediately recall coaching in a game where two grand slams were smashed.
“I don’t think we have,” he said. “[Monday], we’re used to playing with the wind blowing. We had the wind blowing out. We’re going to have as much power in the lineup as any team we play. Sometimes, Vincent-Beck Stadium takes that away from you.”
But not Monday.
Redshirt senior Jacoby Middleton smacked one of the four-baggers almost over the “green monster” wall in the fourth inning and sent his two-run shot over right in the sixth.
That earned him the Southland Conference hitter of the week honor, which was announced Monday.
“He’s a much better ballplayer than he was last year before the [blown bicep] injury,” Gilligan said. “It was really devastating to lose him last year. We lost Cutter McDowell last year [after the fifth game]. That’s two of our better hitters.”
Brendan Satran’s grand slam, which gave the Cards a 4-2 lead in the second, only revealed their depth in the lineup. The junior is the last batter in the order.
Gilligan didn’t seem concerned about his pitching availability, given seventh-ranked LSU is the fifth game in six days for Lamar. In fact, like many coaches, Gilligan used his first few games to evaluate his pitching depth.
“I was talking to [LSU coach] Paul Mainieri. He asked, ‘You’re going to play on a Monday before you play us?’” Gilligan said. “I couldn’t pass up a team like Arizona in Beaumont. Paul is coming here because it’s my last year. It’s not recommended scheduling if you’re trying to beat LSU coming off a four-game series.
Gilligan cited the pitching efforts of senior Travis Moore, who struck out five and gave up one hit in the final three innings against Arizona.
“That just gives me confidence in another pitcher to put in that weekend pile,” Gilligan said. “Hopefully we can come out of the LSU series with another guy.”
Gilligan is sending junior right Brent Janak to the mound and added sophomore transfer Tyler Keegan could see some action.
LSU is coming off a three-game home sweep of Cincinnati, including a 12-inning, 6-5 win in Friday’s season opener.

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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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