BEAUMONT, Texas – The Lamar University Cardinals look to earn the No. 2 seed in next week’s Southland Conference Tournament when they host the Nicholls Colonels in a three-game Southland Conference series at the LU Softball Complex this weekend to conclude the regular season. The teams play a doubleheader at 4 p.m. Friday and a single game at 1 p.m. Saturday.
The Cardinals (26-24 overall, 16-8 Southland) need to win the series to clinch the No. 2 seed and the accompanying first-round bye. LU trails Nicholls (33-17, 17-7) by one game in the standings heading into the weekend. The loser of this weekend’s series will be the No. 3 seed. McNeese has already clinched the regular-season title and the No. 1 seed.
“Getting the No. 2 seed and the bye is a big deal,” LU coach Holly Bruder said. “It saves your pitchers, and it’s one less game you have to win to become champion.”
Both teams come in off weekend sweeps last weekend. LU took all three games at UIW last weekend, while Nicholls wrapped up its home season with a three-game sweep of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
“We have a lot to play for,” Bruder said. “Not only the No. 2 seed, but we have a chance to post the best conference record in school history. I think we’re hitting our stride at the right time, but we know this will be a tough series.”
The Cardinals hit .415 last weekend against UIW, going 39-for-94 at the plate with eleven doubles, three triples and five home runs. LU had a .755 slugging percentage and a .496 on-base percentage for the three games.
“We have struggled against worse pitching than that this season,” Bruder said. “We had good at-bats and made adjustments. We need to keep that going this weekend.”
Both teams have solid pitching staffs. The Cardinals will likely go with senior right-hander Ciara Luna (11-14, 2.50) and junior right-hander Laura Napoli (11-9, 3.80), while Nicholls will likely start senior right-hander Jackie Johnson (17-10, 2.10) and sophomore righty Megan Landry (12-7, 2.58).
“We know what to expect from them, and they know what to expect from us,” Bruder said. “I believe we can score some runs off them. We must play good defense and not give them extra outs. We’ve been working on our small-ball defense this week.”
Brittany Rodriguez leads the Cardinals with a .406 batting average. Brynn Baca is hitting .329 with a team-high 30 RBIs. Ashley McDowell is hitting .304 for the Cardinals.
Nicholls is led by Samantha Mracich, who is hitting .399.
SENIOR DAY: The Cardinals will honor their three seniors (Baca, Luna and McDowell) in ceremonies following Saturday’s game. Luna, who struck out a career-high 12 batters earlier this season vs. Ohio State, enters the weekend with 226 career strikeouts, tied with Shannon Millman for the all-time LU record. McDowell holds numerous LU records including home runs (21), doubles (41), runs scored (128), RBIs (106), total bases (307) and stolen bases (37). Her 189 career hits are five behind the LU record set by Stephanie Meeuwsen. Baca, the school’s all-time leader in being hit by a pitch (42), set the LU single-season record for walks last year when she drew 32 bases on balls.