Cards vs. Cowboys carries plenty of weight

Published 8:02 pm Thursday, April 14, 2016

Lamar sports information

BEAUMONT – After suffering its first loss in 29 days Wednesday afternoon, the Lamar baseball team looks to rebound in a huge Southland Conference set in the Cardinals’ return to Vincent-Beck Stadium when McNeese State pays a visit for a three-game tilt that opens at 6 p.m. Friday night.

It’ll be the first weekend back at The Beck since LU faced New Orleans.

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The second game of the series is slated for 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon while the finale is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday. All three games will be carried on the Big Red Sports Network.

While the Cardinals (25-8, 10-2 Southland Conference) had their 15-game win streak snapped at Baylor on Wednesday on a late comeback from the Bears, the Cowboys (20-11, 10-5) have strung together six straight wins, including a 7-0 shutout at nationally-ranked LSU. The two programs are the only two league schools to down the Tigers.

Lamar does enter the series with a nine-game conference win streak, and has won its last 14 over schools in the Southland Conference. It played Nicholls and Abilene Christian in non-conference action. The Pokes enter after sweeping New Orleans on the road.

The weekend’s series is sponsored by Neches Federal Credit Union. Saturday, it will have a T-shirt give away, while supplies last. Also on Saturday, fans who show up with a football Spring Game ticket will get in a discounted price. Both Friday and Saturday, student-athletes are volunteering to collect samples for the Delete Blood Cancer drive.

The donation area for the event will be set up between the baseball and softball fields. The Cardinal football team will be on hand during the Friday night contest and Saturday will be covered by the LU basketball teams.

Two of the league’s top pitchers, in terms of earned run average, will face off Friday night in right-handers Kaleb Fontenot (4-2, 1.38) and reigning Southland Conference Pitcher of the Week Will Hibbs (6-1, 2.05). Fontenot, whose ERA is second in the league, has pitched eight contests on the year and has 58 2/3 innings of work — second in the league — with just nine earned runs allowed and league-leading 63 strikeouts.

Hibbs has worked in 57 innings this year in 10 appearances and has given up 13 earned runs on 40 hits along with 54 strikeouts. He ranks fifth in the league in ERA and tops it in wins.

Starters for Saturday have also been chosen while Sunday starters are still to be determined. Righty Billy Love (3-1, 2.70) will take on left-hander Bryan King (3-1, 2.57) in the second contest. King has pitched 42 frames with 12 earned runs allowed on 43 hits with 40 strikeouts. Love has 40 innings of work with 12 earned runs allowed.

Both teams sit one place apart from each other in hitting and ERA in the league rankings. Lamar sits fourth in the conference in hitting at .296 while the Cowboys trail on a .284 average, but the Pokes sit third in the league in ERA (3.62) and the Cardinals are fourth at .373.

As a team, McNeese scores at a 5.6 runs per game clip and gives up only 4.4 a contest. It is led in hitting by Connor Crane, who leads in all of the Triple Crown categories. The senior has a .373 average with 26 runs batted in and seven homers. He also leads the way with 34 runs scored.

Lewis Guilbeau follows with a .355 average and 26 runs batted in. Joe Provenzano (20) and Matt Gallier (21) each have RBI totals over 20.

Big Red continues to be led in hitting by Stijn van der Meer, who carries a 23-game hit streak into the series, at .369 and is second in runs with 28 behind Jake Nash’s 29. Nash sits in a tie with Reid Russell for the team lead in RBI at 35, and Russell tops the team with 11 home runs this year.

Catcher Bryndan Arredondo is third on the team in hitting at .347, behind Russell at .349, and freshman Robin Adames is hitting .317. Nash is in striking distance of .300 at .295 on the year.

The Cardinals step back into nonconference action at 4 p.m. on Wednesday when they face Texas Southern at Vincent-Beck Stadium.