Artigues and Lions post fifth straight 30 plus win season

Nearly all of the Lions Athletic programs fell short of expectations this season starting with a football team that finished last in the conference and the most recent being the baseball team, which finished fourth in the Southland Conference and lost in the first round of the double elimination SLC Tournament taking place May 25-26.

The first of the two losses came in a 12-0 shutout by Sam Houston and the next came at the hands of SLC champs Texas State 5-2, with Southeastern giving up five runs in the seventh inning. The Wildcats went on to win the tournament clinching the automatic bid to represent the SLC in the NCAA Tournament.

Prior to the start of the 2011 season Sports Information Directors of the SLC picked the Lions to finish as high as second in the conference. Rightfully so, head coach Jay Artigues and the Lions entered the season with high expectations of contending for the SLC crown and after returning seven starters from a team that went 40-19 the previous season, that goal seemed well within reach.

“I thought the guys did a great job as far as getting us in the position to play for a championship at the end,” said Artigues. “It was our fifth straight year with 30 plus wins and fourth straight year in the Southland Conference Tournament.”

 The beginning of the season looked promising for Lions fans as the Lions played six of their first seven games on the road going 6-1 with a series win over Florida International, where they ended the 56 consecutive hits streak of FIU short stop Garrett Wittels, leaving him two short of tying the NCAA record. Over that seven game span the Lions also won the South Alabama Jaguar Classic highlighted by a 6-2 victory over SEC power Alabama on Feb. 25.

“We had a lot of exciting wins throughout the year,” said Artigues. “Beating Alabama, beating FIU two out of three on ESPN, but obviously you want to end it with a championships and only one team gets to do that.”

The Lions season then took a turn as they lost three of their next four games before rebounding with a series sweep over conference foe UTSA. Led by the all-time winningest senior class in Lions history the Lions propelled to a 35-22 record on the season ending conference play losing two of their last three games heading into the SLC tourney. On May 14 the Lions were in a three-way tie for second place in the SLC with Sam Houston and Stephen F Austin but losing two of their last three games dropped the Lions to fourth in the conference heading into the tourney.

Stiff competition was the Achilles heel for the club as coach Artigues noted.

“This conference is loaded,” said Artigues “We were rated seventh toughest conference in the country and that is the highest its ever been rated, but we had a chance to compete for a title at the end and that’s all you can ask for.”

“This senior class goes down with 144 wins in fours years which is phenomenal.”