Lions prepare for Southland Tournament run - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Lions prepare for Southland Tournament run

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From SLU Athletics

SUGAR LAND, Texas – The Southeastern Louisiana University baseball team opens its quest for an NCAA postseason appearance as the No. 4 seed in the 2013 Southland Conference Baseball Tournament that gets underway Wednesday at Constellation Field in Sugar Land, Texas. The 7,500-seat Constellation Field is home to the Sugar Land Skeeters, a member of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, and opened in 2012.

Southeastern (33-22, 16-11 Southland) matches up against the No. 5 seed Lamar Cardinals (36-18, 15-12 Southland) at 7 p.m. in first-round action. No. 27-ranked, and the tournament's top seed, Sam Houston State (36-18, 20-7 Southland) faces No. 8 seed McNeese State (23-29, 10-17 Southland) at 4 p.m. The winners of the two late games advance to face each other at 7 p.m. Thursday while the losers will square off Thursday at 12 p.m.

The Lions are making their sixth-consecutive appearance in the Southland Tournament, all under coach Jay Artigues, and eighth overall. Southeastern is 11-14 all-time in the tournament, 9-10 under Artigues, and advanced to the championship game last season. During the 2013 season, SLU compiled a 10-11 record against teams in the tournament field.

All of Southeastern's games in the tournament can be heard in the Hammond area on KSLU-FM (90.9), on the internet through the Southeastern athletics website, as well as on the KSLU iPhone and TuneIn Radio apps. Live stats, as well as a free live video stream, will be available. Links to audio, video and stats are located on the baseball schedule page at www.LionSports.net.

The Lions won two-of-three games this past weekend at McNeese State after dropping two-of-three games to Sam Houston State over Mother's Day weekend.

Jameson Fisher (.323), Harry Slade (.323) and Ben Hernandez (.315) lead Southeastern at the plate. Jesse Buratt and Fisher lead the team with 11 doubles while Fisher and Aaron Haag have hit a team-high three home runs. Slade leads the team with 35 RBIs and 13 stolen bases.

Southeastern will send senior right-hander Kaleb Manuel (4-4, 3.71) to the hill against Cardinal junior left-hander Jonathan Dziedzic (6-3, 3.35) in the opener. Manuel tossed a pair of scoreless innings in relief against Lamar earlier this season while Dziedzic picked up the win in the series opener, April 5. Dziedzic allowed two runs, one earned, on five hits in eight innings of work. He walked a pair of batters and struck out seven.

Buratt, Hernandez and Slade were named third-team members of the All-Southland Conference team, announced Monday by the league office. Fisher and Tate Scioneaux (6-3, 3.70), the Lions' second-round starting pitcher, were honorable mentions.

The tournament gets underway with No. 6 seed Stephen F. Austin facing No. 3 seed Oral Roberts Wednesday at 9 a.m. The Golden Eagles are making their debut in the Southland tournament after winning the Summit League tournament each of the last 15 years. ORU is 23-30 overall and was 16-11 in its first Southland season. At 28-27 overall and 15-12 in league games, SFA is making its sixth overall tournament appearance and its fifth consecutive.

The winner of the ORU vs. SFA game will await the winner between No. 7 seed Central Arkansas and No. 2 seed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (12 p.m.). The Islanders secured their best tournament seeding in school history after going 17-10 in Southland games to go along with a 32-22 overall mark. Last year, the Islanders upset top-seeded Sam Houston in the first round. This year, they will meet Central Arkansas, which is making a return trip to the tournament after playing in its first last year.

The winners of Wednesday's two early games advance to play Thursday at 4 p.m. while the losers play Thursday at 9 a.m.

This marks the 27th year of the Southland Conference baseball tournament. It began in 1964 though no tournament was played between 1969 and 1992. Since it resumed in 1993, Sam Houston State and Texas State lead all conference teams with four tournament championships. The Bearkats won their first tournament title in 1996 and won three in a row from 2007 through 2009. The regular-season champion has won the tournament eight times though just three times since the tournament resumed in 1993. The last team to do that was Texas State, which won both the regular-season and tournament titles in 2011.

The tournament is set up in similar fashion to the NCAA College World Series in that there are two brackets with the winners meeting for the championship. Unlike in Omaha, the bracket winners of the Southland tournament meet in a single game to decide the championship. The winner of the Southland tournament is the league's automatic qualifier for the NCAA tournament, which begins with regional play, May 31-June 3.

The schedule of the double-elimination event has four games on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Two "if-necessary" games are scheduled for Saturday before the championship game, which will be played at 5 p.m. and be available exclusively on ESPN3. The championship broadcast will be called by Chris Mycoskie, the Southland's director of television, and Greg Swindell, a 17-year MLB veteran. Every game of the tournament, which the exception of the title game, will be streamed live on the Southland Conference Digital Network, which includes Southland.org and the league's free mobile and tablet apps for iPhone and Android.

An all-tournament pass, which allows entry into all 15 possible games of the tournament, is $50. A single-day pass, which will include four games on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday with a maximum of three games on Saturday, is $15 each day. Season ticket holders of the Sugar Land Skeeters will be eligible for a buy-one, get-one free ticket offer. Additionally, children 5 and under will be admitted free of charge, while students at Southland Conference institutions will also gain free admission with a valid student ID. Tickets will be available for purchase in person at the Constellation Field box office, by phone at 281-240-4487, ext. 300, and online at sugarlandskeeters.com. Online orders are subject to a $1 service charge per ticket.

The winner of the 2013 tournament receives an automatic qualification to the NCAA tournament. The selection show airs Monday, May 27 at 11 a.m., CDT, on ESPNU.

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