Cardinals seize victory No. 1,200 for Gilligan
That seemingly forever elusive 1,200th victory finally arrived for Lamar University coach Jim Gilligan Wednesday night.
After six-straight unsuccessful tries and with an excited Beck Stadium crowd of 1,529 looking on, the Cardinals made the necessary plays to defeat the University of Houston 7-4.
“I’ve been nervous as a cat in a dog pound for two weeks, because I don’t like losing that many games in row,” said Gilligan from his office a few minutes after his celebrating players doused him with a huge container of ice. “I was still nervous in the ninth inning because the bases were loaded.”
Senior right-hander Blake Ford, who earned the first save of his college career, wiggled out the bases-loaded jam by enticing a grounder by Austin Gracey to shortstop Aaron Buchanan, who flipped the ball to second baseman Andy Mena for the forceout to end the 2-hour and 47-minute game.
“I am very proud of my players and not the ones on this season’s team,” said Gilligan. “Milestones are a reflection on a lot of good players, and I’ve been very fortunate to have had a lot of them over the years.
“So many guys have contributed in a lot of big ways to a lot of big wins. The big thing tonight was our pitchers putting together a really strong performance. With the wind blowing out the way it was, it made it a hitters’ night, but the pitchers kept getting a lot of key outs. Then we also did a good job at the plate.
“I hope this means we can get on a streak and start making some noise in our remaining conference games.”
Jeff Abt made the first big noise for the Cardinals Wednesday night with a towering shot over the right field fence to stake them to an early 3-1 lead. The Cougars bounced back with a pair of fourth-inning runs to force a 3-3 tie, but the Cardinals regained the lead with a three spot in the sixth to gain some needed separation.
Ted Zentek and Wade Mathis stroked RBI singles in the big sixth, and Cameron Campbell plated the final run with a booming double into the gap in right center. The Cardinals added an insurance run in the eighth on Campbell’s RBI single to left field.
Freshman right-hander Kane Benoit of Port Neches-Groves, who held the Cougars to one run over 2.1 innings, got his second victory in as many seasons, and Taylor McInnis put in 2.1 innings of hitless ball to set up things for Ford.
Zentek went 3-for-4, while Abt and Campbell both contributed 2-for-3 efforts to the Cardinals’ 12-hit attack on five Cougar pitchers.
The Cardinals will resume Southland Conference action Friday night when they open a three-game home series against Northwestern State. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m., and Saturday’s game will be at 2 while Sunday’s series finale is scheduled for 1 p.m.