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A Pair of Walk-offs Propel Lamar to a Series Victory over Gritty McNeese State


Picture via @Lamar_Baseball on Twitter/X


Lamar University is no longer a team under the radar. Riding the nation's longest winning streak followed up by a sweep of Big 12 leader Oklahoma, they quickly rose to national prominence. While Lamar has not found its way into the NCAA tournament under 8th-year coach Will Davis, the pieces have been there. 2022 saw Lamar eclipse the 20 win mark in conference play, but a Nationally-Ranked GCU left received the WAC bid. While the record took a step back in 2023, they had a trio of marquee wins over the Omaha-bound TCU Horned Frogs, the Houston Cougars, and the Texas A&M Aggies. Fun Fact: Ryan Snell’s home run against Texas A&M is still the furthest ball I have ever seen at Olsen. A triple-digit exit velo BOMB in every sense of the word. While Lamar struck fear into their conference opponents, it didn't necessarily translate to wins in Southland play. Lamar would finish 3rd in conference play and go 0-2 in the Southland tournament. “That's just the Southland conference man; the best team is sitting at home after the first elimination day” said a fellow Southland coach.


But this year's team at Lamar feels different. In Lamar’s first series post-OU, they handled their business against a McNeese team looking to rebound.  The Pokes employ one of the deepest staffs in the Southland, so Lamar was going to have their hands full. “All three games were just a grind really with the wind blowing in”


Friday night saw the Cards drop Game 1, 4-2. Cameron LeJeune looked the part of a Friday Night Ace, tossing 7 innings while allowing only a lone run, a River Orsak RBI single. Brooks Caple fought through a pesky Cowboys lineup and was able to keep his club within striking distance. While Lamar lost, the signs of their success were evident. LeJeune is a high strike-out guy, averaging just a hair over a strikeout per inning. However, against Lamar, LeJeune was only able to strike out 1. “We see high velo and high break in practice with the machines” said Senior Tanner Wilson. “ (It) makes it easier to make contact on the ball in games; even if we don't make solid contact, we are still giving us a good chance…” 


Saturday saw Jacob Ellis and Austin Neal combine for an 11 inning no-hitter. Jacob Ellis was tremendous as he only surrendered 1 base runner, a 7th inning walk, and was able to strand him at third with 1 out. Luke Bumpus was the hero as his 7 pitch, bases-loaded walk was the game winner. While Zach Voss, the McNeese starter, was on the mound for the Pokes, he was only able to strike out 2 batters. 


Sunday, we were treated to another pitcher's duel. Alexis Gravel was tremendous for McNeese, working his longest outing of the year: 6 innings, 5 hits and only 1 run allowed. “Alexis did a great job of minimizing damage throughout that game by staying in the zone with his Slider and Fastball” said pitching coach Mikey Hoerner. “It’s hard to put together multiple good at-bats when he is locating with both pitches."

  

Hunter Hesseltine was great for Lamar early, working 4 scoreless to open the game. But a 5th inning injury on a bunt would force Will Davis to use his pen. McNeese would score 3 in the inning, only 1 earned, to take a 3-1 lead. From there, the trio of Jackson Cleveland, Kyle Moseley, and Andres Perez would all throw up zeros for the Cards. While McNeese would get a few runners on in the later innings, Lamar did a tremendous job of limiting the free bases as all 3 runners would not reach second base.


Tanner Wilson would trim into the lead in the 7th with an RBI single. Little did we know, this would be a precursor to the dramatics in the 9th. An 8 pitch walk from Austin Roccaforte would force McNeese to make a move for Senior Righty JT Moeller, who held the Cardinals scoreless in his previous 2 outings. Jack Schell was able to deliver another pinch-hit single, and an error had both the tying and go-ahead run in scoring position with the top of the order up. Moeller was able to induce weak contact to record two outs, giving McNeese a chance to escape the jam. From there, Tanner Wilson would pick his Cardinal teammates. “I knew that changeup was coming, knew it would fall into my bat path, just wanted to put it on the ground and let my guys run a bit.” And run they did. Wilson was able to steer the ball down the line at third and beat a diving Chase Keeton. Both runners would score easily, and Lamar would take the series. 


Good teams have the ability to win games in a variety of ways. Last weekend, it was a shootout with the wind blowing out in Norman. At home in inverse conditions, Lamar was able to win games with pitching and timely hitting. You never want to face a quality team that is backed into a corner, yet Lamar did that this weekend and walked away victorious. Lamar is a team no one wants to see in a regional. Their staff, never say die attitude, and timely hitting will make a host's life hell in June. Do not underestimate this Lamar team.

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