Weather usual foe of Lamar’s at home

Published 10:56 pm Tuesday, April 19, 2016

BEAUMONT — Vincent-Beck Stadium is Lamar’s home field for baseball. Yet, the wind from the south usually comes in uninvited.
“This park really doesn’t play to our strengths,” longtime Lamar coach Jim Gilligan said Tuesday. “This weekend would have been interesting at McNeese [State], where [the wind] would have been rolling out at the same miles per hour.”
McNeese, which was the invited guest this past weekend for the Battle of the Border series, had no problems with the wind in the final two games, winning both games by one run each. That moved the Cardinals (26-10, 11-4 Southland) two games behind leader Southeastern Louisiana (26-11, 13-2) in conference standings, with only Sam Houston State (21-16, 14-4) separating them and McNeese in (22-12, 12-6) in fourth.
Gilligan, who has 17 regular-season games left (15 in Southland) in his 39th and final season leading the Cards, feels his team plays better when the wind blows away from home plate, or toward the south. Lamar scored nine runs on 23 hits during the three-game series against McNeese, but was shut out 1-0 in the Sunday finale.
“We were a good ballclub this week,” Gilligan said. “Those were extreme conditions. How would you like to have eight right-handed hitters up, and the wind is howling in from left-center field? That puts the brakes on you a little bit. If the wind is just blowing in 5 miles per hour, it would have been tough but not impossible.”
The mean wind speed Sunday in Beaumont was 19.68 mph with a maximum wind gust of 33.37, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac online.
Gilligan, though, isn’t placing all the blame on the wind.
“But let me say this about McNeese, they were excellent on the mound,” he said. “… I can’t fault my guys because how often do you see 91 [mph pitches] on the knees and moving? If you can do that, sometimes you tip your cap, and I think they did a good job bringing [their pitchers] in at the right time. All three of their starters gave good performances.”
So did Lamar ace Will Hibbs, who 14-strikeout classic in eight innings earned him a Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Pitcher of the Week nod. Lamar won Friday’s game 5-1.
“I don’t necessarily think we did anything wrong as a staff,” said Hibbs, who at 7-1 has the best record among Southland pitchers. “They had a couple of balls that found the grass. We had a lot of hard-hit balls that found gloves that didn’t go our way. With conditions like this, you can afford to attack the hitters a little more.
“As much of a cliché as it is, we just hit balls right at some guys, and theirs just found some holes.”
Senior leadoff Stijn van der Meer also saw a 24-game hit streak snapped in Saturday’s 5-4 loss. McNeese scored all five of its runs in the fifth inning.
The Dutchman has only one home run this season on a team whose 32 home runs — 11 by Reid Russell — already surpasses last season’s count by 15. And the wind makes it no easier for such a power-hitting team.
“We have a lot of power hitters on our team,” van der Meer said. “I think we have to play a little more small, but that’s up to the coaches. I feel like our lineup is good enough to still get it down with just hitting.”
Should weather permit Lamar to host Texas Southern at 4 p.m. Wednesday, the Texas wind may once again be the tougher opponent. But Lamar won’t have to worry about the wind chiming in during the seven following games, including Southland series at Houston Baptist and Incarnate Word and a mid-week meeting at Rice.
Gilligan won’t miss it after he coaches his final game.
“If I get another job, I hope it’s in a dome somewhere,” he said.

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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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