Davis: Lamar close to NCAA regional

Published 10:37 pm Tuesday, June 7, 2016

BEAUMONT — Will Davis is jealous, and he is not afraid to say it.

LSU beat Rice in the final game of the Baton Rouge Regional of the NCAA baseball tournament Tuesday. Arizona advanced to the Super Regional to play Mississippi State. Lamar beat LSU and Arizona in the same week in February.

And Lamar, which had a 14-victory turnaround from 2015, didn’t even get a ticket to baseball’s Big Dance.

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“It just shows you how close we are,” Davis said.

Meanwhile, Davis — the former LSU assistant — was formally introduced as Lamar’s head coach Tuesday in the Cardinal Room at the Montagne Center.

Davis is happy for the opportunity he’s prepared for the past five months. But he’s not in a uniform coaching a team in a regional, as he’s used to.

“I like recruiting and all that stuff, but what we live for is the competition,” the now 32-year-old said. “I’m excited to have a team, prepare them and turn them loose when the competition comes in February.

“It just makes me sick that two or three more wins were the difference in us getting in or not getting in. I’m jealous of the other teams, and I hate that it’s going to take us eight more months before we play again to show everybody how good we are. … My hope, which is a realistic possibility, is that we will be playing on television this time next year.”

Davis, who played at LSU, won a national championship as an assistant with the Tigers in the classic 2009 three-game series against Texas and helped the Tigers reach two of the past three College World Series, as well as when he was director of operations in 2008. LSU missed the NCAA tournament just once with Davis on staff, in 2011, but won three SEC regular-season and five SEC tournament championships with him.

Now, he gets to follow in the footsteps of his father Randy, who was a head coach at Louisiana Tech.

Davis said his goal for the Cardinals, who went 35-19 and 20-10 in the Southland Conference last season, is to play an “exciting brand of baseball” that includes aggressive but smart baserunning. Davis has often said he wants Lamar to be more than a team that hangs its hat on power, but added he doesn’t want to just rely on “bleeding out” victories through a brand of small-ball.

“My whole philosophy, what I told the kids when I met with them last Friday, is that I want kids who love to play baseball, and I want that to be evident when I see them in recruiting,” Davis said.

All that’s left for Davis to do in the offseason is to finalize his first recruiting class and fill a void on his staff. He announced Tuesday that longtime hitting and first-base coach Scott Hatten will become recruiting coordinator, adding he is close to hiring a pitching coach. Davis’ now-retired predecessor Jim Gilligan specialized in that role.

While the Cardinals have not yet released a list of recruits, six from Mid- and South County verbally committed to Lamar.

“We’re probably going to be the first school to know who they are from an early age and develop relationships with them,” Davis said. “It is my goal that if there are players good enough to get, we go get them, and if we don’t get them, that they almost feel bad when they come tell me that they’re going someone else because we developed that close of a relationship with them.”

Lamar athletic director Jason Henderson said Davis, who was hired Jan. 16, was picked after a long, extensive search. Davis then elected to leave the LSU staff to join Gilligan’s staff at Lamar, and he actually acted as head coach for the 12-11 win over the Tigers on Feb. 24. That was two days after the Cardinals hammered Arizona 13-5.

On Feb. 26, Gilligan was absent due to sickness, and Davis led the Cardinals to a 7-6 win on Bryndan Arredondo’s walk-off home run.

“… To actually have the reins for two games was big, being able to manage not just the offensive strategy and substitutions but the bullpen as well,” Davis said. “I’ve always done it mentally, but to do it physically was a big benefit.”

Gilligan, who retired after his 39th season at Lamar concluded in the Southland Conference tournament, was not in attendance because, as Davis said, he’s in a better place.

“I don’t mean he died or anything,” Davis said to laughs, assuring those at the presser that Gilligan is just vacationing in the Hamptons, near his birthplace of New York City.

The biggest piece of advice Davis said Gilligan gave him: Embrace the community and don’t just “pass through.”

“We’re all in on Beaumont,” Davis said. “We’ve moved to Beaumont and we’re ready to go. This is my second home. Baton Rouge will always be home to me.”

I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews

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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