Cougars head east to take on Lamar
After their worst stretch of the season, in which they lost seven of eight, the Cougars have rebounded to win three of four, including a series win at home over Conference USA foe Memphis last weekend.
The Cougars now sit at 16-18 and will take a short break from league play to take on Lamar at 6:30 today at Vincent-Beck Stadium in Beaumont.
Lamar is the fifth team from the Southland Conference the Cougars will face. The others were Texas State, Stephen F. Austin, Texas-San Antonio and Sam Houston State. The Cougars went 3-4 against these programs, with three of those losses coming against Texas State at home to open the season.
Lamar is having another solid season under second-year head coach Jim Gilligan, who is in his 34th season with the Cardinals. He has a 1,144-722-7 record in his tenure at Lamar.
In Gilligan’s first season at Lamar, the Cardinals were 38-22 and split their two-game set with UH, losing 4-2 in Beaumont and winning 12-3 at Cougar Field. That win snapped Houston’s five-game winning streak over Lamar.
This year, Lamar is 23-15, including 14-6 in a fairly easy non-conference schedule. The Cardinals’ best win was a 13-7 victory at Rice on Feb. 24 in their fourth game of the season.
The Cardinals, though, are hot as of late, having won six of their last eight, including a sweep over reeling Sam Houston State last weekend at Vincent-Beck Stadium.
Lamar is solid on offense. The Cardinals are batting .295 as a team, with four regulars batting .309 or better. Shortstop Aaron Buchanan leads the way with a .381 average to go along with a team-high 42 runs scored and 23 RBIs. Outfielder Quentin Luquette is the team’s second-best batter with a .321 average and a team-high 36 RBIs.
Unlike most of the teams the Cougars have faced this season, Lamar has one of the better pitching staffs in the area with a 4.56 team ERA, including a trio of Matison Smith (6-1, 3.43), Eric Harrington (5-1, 3.73) and Jonathan Dziedzic (2-2 4.61).
That’s what UH head coach Rayner Noble is hoping to see out of his starters who, despite the team’s recent success, haven’t made it to the fourth inning in three of the last four games.
“We’ve just got to put somebody on the mound that can throw some innings for us and keep them at bay, and hopefully we can just keep scoring and keep scoring,” Noble said.
UH will dodge Lamar’s big three as Blake Ford is scheduled to get the nod for the Cardinals. Ford enters today’s contest with a 2-4 record and a 5.97 ERA. Noble will counter with Barry Laird, who is making his first start of the year and comes in with an 8.10 ERA.
After today’s game, the Cougars will return home to prepare for a three-game weekend series against Conference USA rival Southern Miss.