CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Press release) - Lamar University's players made big splashes throughout the 2010 Southland Conference Baseball Championships and they made even more after it ended Saturday night.
A few minutes after the Cardinals concluded their four-game march to the tournament title with a resounding 17-7 victory over regular-season league champion, at least half of the excited team members sprinted across the Whataburger Field outfield, scaled the right field wall and began plunging into the swimming pool just beyond it.
Indeed, the Cardinals had plenty to celebrate, including their climb from the tournament's lowly No. 7 seed to their third SLC Tournament title and to earning the school's 13th NCAA Tournament berth.
Once the Cardinals put up a big five-run second inning to overcome a 4-1 deficit, the stunned Bobcats, who beat Lamar three times during the regular season, never really had a chance. They batted around twice - in the second and fifth innings - and they accumulated a season-high 22 hits.
Making their 35th victory of the season a true team effort, every Cardinal position player rapped out at least one hit and scored at least one run. Shortstop Aaron Buchanan and right fielder Quentin Luquette led the way with four hits each, and the tiny Buchanan flexed his muscles by blasting the first home run of his collegiate career - a solo shot over the right field fence in the seventh inning.
Brightest star for the Cardinals during their improbable four-game sweep over No. 2 seed Northwestern State, sixth-seeded McNeese State (twice) and the highly-favored Bobcats was centerfielder Anthony Moore. Media members covering the tournament confirmed it by voting the senior from Cedar Hill the tournament's Most Valuable Player.
For the tournament, Moore went 10-for-16 at the plate for a sizzling .625 average. He stroked two doubles, slugged three home runs and drove in 10 runs. He started his championship game contributions with a spectacular sliding catch in center field in the first inning, and he went on to go 2-for-5, belt a two-run homer in the tide-turning second inning and finish his night with a leadoff double in the eighth.
Junior catcher Joey Latulippe and freshman pitcher Jonathan Dziedzic joined Moore on the 11-member all-tournament team. Latulippe went 2-for-4, scored two runs and drove in two in the championship game, while Dziedzic picked up a save in the Cardinals' 4-3 tournament-opening win over Northwestern State and struck out 10 batters in their 9-3 semifinal triumph over McNeese State.
Matison Smith, who earned his 10th victory of the season in the Northwestern State game, started again Saturday night but wasn't as sharp this time around. When the Bobcats, who had unleashed a 20-hit attack in a 15-10 win over UT Arlington earlier in the day, pulled to within 8-7 in the fifth inning, coach Jim Gilligan summoned former Lufkin Panther Blake Ford from the bullpen.
Ford, a lanky junior right-hander, held the Bobcats scoreless over the final 4.1 innings to notch his third victory in seven decisions.
"Obviously, our season has been a grind, but we're a different club now," said Gilligan. "They guys continued to get better. Anthony Moore has found himself at the plate, and Ryan has been coming on of late. They're two the reasons we're an improved team now.
"I could go position-by-position and say this guy and then that guy are all why we're where we are now."
When a media member asked him about his championship game homer, Moore responded, "I was looking to drive the ball to the gap. The ball has been carrying to left field. I just got the ball up, and it went out of the park."
Of his late-season turnaround, Moore, "With coach Gilligan's help, I've learned to keep things slow at the plate and not swing at bad pitches. This week I've been really relaxed, and I tried to do the best I could in each at-bat."
Lamar University drew seventh-ranked TCU Monday as its first-round opponent for the Cardinals' 13th NCAA Baseball Championships appearance.
Texas Christian University, which is 46-11 on the season after winning last week's Mountain West Conference Tournament, will serve as host for the Fort Worth Regional, set for Friday through Monday. The Horned Frogs will host the 35-24 Cardinals in Friday's second game in Lupton Stadium at 7 p.m.