Lions drop three of last five, fall to 1-2 in early SLC standings

A five-game week saw the Lions (11-5, 1-2 SLC) drop three games, including two against in-state and conference rivals Nicholls State. The three losses dropped the Lions into seventh place in the conference.

The Lions started off the week on the road against the Jackson State Tigers (9-4) in a non-conference matchup, but dropped the match after a lackluster performance on the offensive side, pushing just one run across home plate. The lone run was scored by junior outfielder Ladd Rhodes. Freshman pitcher Andro Cutura took the mound and managed four scoreless innings before giving up two in the fifth. Sophomore right-hander Jason Greenleaf replaced Cutura, but gave up one unearned run in the seventh.

The Lions returned to action the next night, coming back to Pat Kenelly Diamond at Alumni Field against non-conference opponent the Alcorn State Braves (3-11).  The Lions’ bats wasted no time getting started, scoring three runs on a homerun by senior first baseman Jonathan Pace in the opening inning, and tacking on four more in the third. Pace’s homerun was the first of the year for the Lions. Junior left-hander Buck Bernard pitched six innings, giving up a solo homerun to Braves first baseman Rodney Warren. Bernard finished his night with three strikeouts and gave up three hits.

“Buck Bernard did a super job throwing strikes and went deep into the game,” said head coach Jay Artigues. “That’s what we want out of our starters, go deep and turn it over to the bullpen.” Senior right-hander Josh Janway took the traditional pitcher’s at-bat for the Lions. “We have a tradition,” said Artigues. “We always have a senior pitcher, one of our four year guys, get an at-bat, and this was his turn.”

The Lions finished the second game of the five-game stretch, winning 12-1.

Artigues was pleased with the offense after the win.

“I was really impressed with the way the guys swung the bats,” said Artigues. “We had a chance to get a lot of guys in there.”

The Lions went into Thibodaux, LA Friday for their first conference game against the Nicholls State Colonels (9-7, 2-1 SLC). The Lions got off to a fast  start, tallying three runs in the first inning. Senior right-hander Joseph Koon could not hold the lead, however, giving up two runs in the bottom of the second and three runs in the bottom of the third. The Lions managed to tie the game at five in the top of the fourth. Junior right-hander Kaleb Manuel, who replaced Koon, gave up two more runs in the bottom of the fifth, giving the Colonels a 7-5 lead. The Colonels tacked on four more in the bottom of the seventh, putting their lead at 10-5. The Lions held a late rally in the bottom of the eighth, plating four runs, but could not manage another one, ending the game in a 10-9 loss.

The teams returned to Hammond on Saturday, and the Colonels opened the scoring early, making use of junior left-hander Jordan Hymel’s early ineffectiveness. The Colonels plated two, but Hymel soon settled in, fanning a career high 10 batters. Senior outfielder Cody Gougler provided a solo homerun in the bottom of the fourth, putting the lead at 2-1. The Colonels added two more in the top of the sixth, while the Lions could only muster one run in the eighth, losing their second straight to the Colonels, this time 4-2.

An eighth inning surge by the Lions was the deciding factor in Sunday’s game, putting the Lions in the win column for the first time in the weekend series, 5-3. Sophomore right-hander Dylan Hills earned his fourth win in relief after taking over the pitching duties from Janway.