LAKE CHARLES, La. – Led by a 4-for-4 night from Grant DeVore, several heroes appeared for Lamar University baseball when the Cardinals clinched their spot in the Southland Conference Tournament with a 4-1 win over McNeese Friday night in league play at Joe Miller Ballpark.
The win puts the Cardinals (33-22, 16-13 Southland) into seventh place, a half-game behind Stephen F. Austin and Central Arkansas – who finished their regular seasons Friday with a sweep of Houston Baptist and Nicholls, respectively. New Orleans sits in eighth with a 16-14 record. Nicholls was mathematically eliminated Friday.
With a win Lamar would fifth seed, and with a loss it would be the eighth seed.
DeVore recorded singles for the Cardinals in the first, third, fourth and sixth innings. He also drew a walk in the eighth inning. Lamar’s pitching held the league’s leading offense in McNeese (35-18, 21-8) to just one run and had several dandy plays in the field.
Jace Campbell (4-4) stole the show early with back-to-back strikeouts to end a perfect first inning, and proceeded to strikeout five of the first nine batters he faced. Two of McNeese’s eight hits were in the second inning, but he held them hitless until the fifth.
The Cardinal offense staked him to an early 3-0 lead in the third inning when it rallied for four hits and took advantage of an error. Vincent Dellocono and DeVore started off the inning with back-to-back singles. On DeVore’s single, Dellocono ran from first to third, and scored on Phil Ingram’s single. Robin Adames reached on an error that loaded the bases for a RBI single through the left side from Reid Russell. Still with bases loaded, Bryndan Arredondo lifted a sacrifice deep to center field and sent home Ingram.
The Cardinals made fine defensive plays in the fourth and fifth innings, started with a diving grab and toss at first base from Trey Silvers. He and Campbell teamed up to get Joe Provenzano before Shane Selman hit a shot Chad Fleischman for the second out. Campbell and Silvers teamed up again for the third out on a barehanded grab and throw from the junior pitcher.
The most significant defense play was in the fifth. After a leadoff bomb from Austin Nelson cut it to 3-1, McNeese put up two singles in three at-bats for men on first and second with one out. Rickey Ramirez ripped a ball to shallow center and a sprinting Dellocono made the catch before the ball touched the ground and doubled up Mitchell Rogers - who took off thinking it was a base knock - at second base.
“Coach Hatten does a great job with the outfielders. Vince is a great centerfielder and has made some great catches in the last couple of weeks, and that was a big one,” said Davis.
DeVore made a fabulous diving play of his own in right field in the sixth.
Galen Andrews took over for Campbell in the sixth inning with a runner on first with one out, and slammed the door with two flyouts. He worked around and error in the seventh and turned it over to Tanner Driskill – who notched his sixth save of the season. Driskiill faced nine batters and stuck out four of them. He opened each the eighth and ninth innings with back-to-back punchouts.
With an insurance run needed, Reid Russell blasted his 10th homer of the season with a leadoff bomb in the ninth inning.
DeVore’s four-hit day was the first of his career at Lamar, and moved his average out to .338, which is second on the team behind Cutter McDowell – who has missed the last nine games with an injury. He and Reid Russell each had multi-hit games and led LU to outhit the Pokes 9-8. Ingram, Silvers and Dellocono notched the other three hits.
“What more can you say about Grant DeVore,” said Davis. “That guy is a catalyst and a ball player.”
McNeese’s Provenazno, Nelson and Rogers each recorded two hits, and Robbie Podorsky and Dustin Duhon had the other two.
Campbell fired 5 1/3 innings with the lone run allowed. He gave up six hits and one walk, and struck out four. Andrews tossed 1 2/3 scoreless, hitless frames with a strikeout, and Driskill pitched two innings with just two hits allowed.
“Jace Campbell, Galen Andrews and Tanner Driskill were phenomenal and stepped up when we needed them to,” said Davis. “We made some mistakes as a team, but we overcame them and I couldn’t be prouder of this team.”
Rhett Deaton (8-3) took the loss and was pulled with after two innings. He allowed two runs on four hits with a walk and strikeout. Trent Fontenot tossed a team-long three innings with three hits and an unearned run.
The Cardinals and Cowboys will meet for the rubber match and regular season finale at 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon at Joe Miller Ballpark. Lamar will send out right-hander Jimmy Johnson, and McNeese hasn’t announced who it will start. The Southland Conference Tournament is set to begin Wednesday, but the lower four seeds are still yet to be determined. McNeese has the top seed, Southeastern is second, Sam Houston third and Houston Baptist fourth.