Southland No. 2 Lions reach to play at full potential

The 2011 Lions started off the season in grandiose fashion, by ending FIU’s Garrett Wittels’ hitting streak at 56 games. The rest of their season, however, was a roller coaster perhaps best summed up by six errors against LSU, and thus a potential that was never reached. That Lions team finished the season 35-22, with a conference record of 18-14.

The 2012 Lions won their first seven games before being trumped 12-1 by in-state rival Tulane. It also saw junior Brock Hebert shoot to the top of several statistical categories, but has remained among the top with 28 steals. A mid-March, two-game sweep of then-ranked Mississippi State under a full crowd at Pat Kenelly Diamond showed that this Lions team had a chance to be serious contenders.

“We’re in striking distance of the championship,” said Jay Artigues, head coach.

But, this Lion’s team has faced its share of troubles as well. The Lions own an 13-8 record in conference play, which is good enough to award them second place, but still leaves questions open.

One series that stood out to Hebert was the March 30-April 1 series against the Lamar Cardinals, in which the Lions dropped the Saturday and Sunday contests.

“We came out with a lot of intensity Friday night and we lacked that intensity on Saturday and Sunday. I think our team’s starting to figure it out,” said Hebert. “A lot of guys are starting to figure out what needs to be done to win a ball game.”

Still, Artigues recognizes the solid performance by his team throughout the season.

“The guys have done a great job being consistent all year, and that’s the thing I’m most impressed with,” said Artigues. “We had a great weekend sweeping Texas State, and we’re still in second place.”

The Lions have only two non-conference games left on their slate, including a match up on Wednesday against No. 1 ranked LSU in Baton Rouge.

“You can’t be nervous, that’s just an opportunity,” said Hebert. “Everybody wants to play the big SEC schools. When you’re little, everybody wants to play there, including me. I loved playing there last year, but I hate them now.”

The Lions will also drive to Huntsville, Texas to take on top-ranked Southland opponent Sam Houston State on May 11-13, a match up Hebert believes they can win. “I’m really confident about playing Sam Houston, even though they’re in first place,” said Hebert. “I have a really good feeling about the rest of the season.”