BASEBALL: Home turf, literally: Cards prep in Davis’ backyard, sort of

Published 7:25 pm Thursday, January 17, 2019

Lamar has gone three days into baseball practice in Will Davis’ backyard, sort of.

“I live in Port Neches, so it hasn’t been too inconvenient for me,” the Cardinals’ third-year head coach said Thursday during a Facebook Live! interview at The News’ office. “Might have been for our players, but we’re very thankful PNG offered their field for us. … We’ve been able to accomplish all the work we needed to get in down there, so we’re very grateful for them. I don’t know where we would be without them.”

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With class not yet in session for the spring semester at Lamar, the baseball players have worked out during the late morning at Port Neches-Groves High. The school is alma mater to Cardinals’ redshirt sophomore outfielder Cole Girouard, sophomore outfielder Logan LeJeune and freshman left-handed pitcher Josh Hranicky.

Lamar is installing Hellas Construction turf that will be ready in time for its Fan Day on Feb. 2.

“The playing surface is always pristine, and you don’t have to worry about weather, really,” Davis said of the new turf at Vincent-Beck Stadium. “I’ve talked to other coaches who have it. They say they never looked at The Weather Channel app. It’s probably my most-used app.”

Along with the new turf installment comes an upgrade in the drainage system. The last major renovation to the 50-year-old ballpark was done in 2010.

“On the other side, the aesthetic look is so much nicer,” Davis said. “It’s a nicer look for the fans and the recruits. It certainly makes the stadium so much nicer.”


Growing pains healed?

Lamar finished the 2018 season at 19-36 overall and 13-17 in the Southland Conference, but had won four of its last five games overall. The young Cardinals did have a six-game winning streak during a stretch in April and was a win shy of qualifying for the Southland tournament.

Freshmen including Nederland infielder Chase Kemp, LeJeune and Girouard were forced to see plenty of action.

“At times, we had five different freshmen in the lineup, just in the batting order,” Davis said. “We also pitched three freshmen as well. So, at times, we were playing eight different freshmen.”

Collegiate Baseball Scouting Network recently commended Lamar for landing the 22nd-ranked junior-college recruiting class for 2020. Pitchers Zach Bravo of Butler Community College in Kansas, Braxton Douthit of Northern Oklahoma College-Enid and Trevin Michael of Northern Oklahoma College-Tonkawa, as well as Cisco College infielder Zach Sweet comprise the class. Four high schoolers have already committed to the signing class.

Davis recruits the high school level hard in a conference where teams usually are loaded with junior-college and college transfers.

“We knew that might cause us to take some lumps last year, which we did early on,” Davis said. “We played really great the second half of the year. We swept McNeese. We swept Corpus Christi. We were in it until the very last day, and weren’t eliminated until the last day of the season. We were very close to accomplishing our goals last year, and we pretty much returned everybody this year.”

Among the returnees is senior infielder Robin Adames, who stands 61 hits shy of the Lamar record for career hits (256 by Jordan Foster, 2001-04). Adames, from the Bronx, New York, is a career .467 slugger and .314 hitter who has homered 18 times at Lamar.

“If his price would have been right, he certainly could have gone as a junior,” Davis said. “He showed a lot of maturity there and passed up the opportunity to play professional baseball and wanted to focus on working toward his degree and being close to finishing after this year.”


Correa’s modesty

The talk of last season’s recruiting was infielder J.C. Correa, the brother of Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa who transferred for this spring from Alvin Community College. Correa hit .364 in 80 career games and slugged .491 for the Dolphins, and was drafted in the 33rd round by the Astros last summer.

“As talented as he is, as great of a kid he is, he’s so coachable,” Davis said. “There’s no, ‘My brother is a shortstop for the Astros’ pretentiousness at all. He wants to learn. All the guys love him. He comes every day and puts in the work.

Correa is overcoming surgery on his hamate bone, located near the wrist, which he injured during a fall game against Texas State. He missed four to six weeks of fall drills.


Fan Day

The new turf at Vincent-Beck should be finished in time for Fan Day, set for Feb. 2 from 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

The free event features a full scrimmage by the Cardinals and a chance for attendes to walk on the new turf. Players from the baseball and softball teams will sign autographs, and a kids’ clinic will be held after the scrimmage.

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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