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BASEBALL: Lamar opens Friday with series vs. LIU Brooklyn

LIU Brooklyn at Lamar

College baseball; 6 p.m. Friday; 2 p.m. Saturday; 10:30 a.m. Sunday; Vincent-Beck Stadium, Beaumont

Probables: Friday, Righty Zach Pederson, LIU, vs. lefty Jason Blanchard, Lamar; Saturday, righty Jackson Svete, LIU, vs. lefty Noah Sills, Lamar; Sunday, lefty Patrick Clyne, LIU, vs. lefty Grason Wright, Lamar

Lamar sports information

BEAUMONT — It’s been an almost endless 279 days of summer ball, fall world series, weightlifting, recruiting trips, scrimmages, and practices since the 2018 season ended for Lamar baseball, but all that waiting and hard work is finally about to pay off when the 2019 campaign begins on Friday.

Big Red will play host to the Blackbirds of LIU Brooklyn this weekend at Vincent-Beck Stadium in the first steps of a journey possibly returning Lamar to the postseason.

Along with the official debut of the brand new, state-of-the-art, $1 million turf field on Friday, Cardinal fans have lots to look forward to during opening weekend. Friday’s 6 p.m. game will feature a first pitch from Beaumont’s mayor, Becky Ames, and will be a $1 general admission.

MCT Credit Union is the sponsor for the entire weekend and will do promotional giveaways including baseball pennants on Friday and miniature baseballs on Saturday.

Sunday Fun-Day will include CJ’s Inflatables behind home plate and a post-game opportunity for Junior Cardinals to run the bases. Sunday’s game, originally scheduled for 1 p.m., has now been changed to a 10:30 a.m. first pitch to allow LIU Brooklyn to make its flight home.

Fifteen members of the 2019 squad will make their Cardinal debuts next Friday including eight freshmen, a sophomore transfer, five junior transfers, and a senior transfer.

Between D1Baseball, Perfect Game, and the SLC, seven Cardinals have received all-conference preseason honors. Robin Adames, JC Correa, Cole Coker, Ryan Erickson, Jason Blanchard, Jorge Gutierrez, and Dylan Johnson were picked by those organizations as either All-Conference players or Top MLB Prospects in the SLC. Erickson was also named to the NCBWA Stopper of the Year watch list.

D1 Baseball had four Cardinals in the 2019 Top Draft Prospects list and another Cardinal listed as an impact freshman. Correa, Blanchard, Gutierrez, and Adames were all predicted as potential draft picks and Dylan Johnson was projected as an impact freshman. Perfect Game had Adames and Erickson on their preseason All-SLC team and Blanchard and Johnson as top pro prospects. Coker was Lamar’s representative on the SLC Preseason All-Conference First Team.

LIU Brooklyn is in its third season under Blackbird alum Dan Pirillo (53-54, 28-26 Northeast Conference) and experienced a remarkable turnaround under Pirillo last year after a somewhat disappointing 2017. LIU Brooklyn went 22-28 two seasons ago and missed the Northeast Conference (NEC) tournament, and it looked as if 2018 could yield a similar result with a 2-5 start. The Blackbirds turned it around with a terrific March though, fueling a run that saw an NEC tournament championship, an NCAA Regional appearance for the first time since 1972 and its first ever Regional at the NCAA Division I level.

All but eight of last year’s regional team return for LIU in 2019 including team hits leader Edward Modica (.299 batting average, 59 hits, 7 doubles, 4 home runs, 31 RBIs, 30 runs) and home run leader Alex Briggs (.276 batting average, 50 hits, 13 doubles, eight home runs, 43 RBIs, 29 runs). Several of the team’s best arms also return this year including Rob Griswold (1-2, 2.10 ERA, 18 appearances, 2 saves), Mike Kreiger (4-2, 2-20 ERA, 28 appearances, 7 saves), and all three of this weekend’s starters — Jackson Svete (3.75 ERA, 4-2, 23 appearances), Zach Pederson (3.97 ERA, 6-4, 14 starts), and Patrick Clyne (4.73 ERA, 5-5, 15 starts).