College Preview

2006 Southland Conference Preview




HOW THEY'LL FINISH



Conference Overall


W
L
W
L
1. Lamar
16
11
38
23
2. Northwestern State
22
5
41
20
3. Texas State
15
12
32
26
4. Texas-Arlington
14
13
26
32
5. +Texas-San Antonio
14
13
27
34
6. Louisiana-Monroe
9
18
26
29
7. Sam Houston State
13
14
24
29
8. McNeese State
12
15
23
31
9. Southeastern Louisiana
13
14
29
31
10. Nicholls State
7
20
22
31
11. Stephen F. Austin
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(2005 records listed; 2006 national ranking in parentheses)
+ 2005 conference tournament champion; NCAA regional participants in boldface

Projected NCAA Teams (1): Lamar.
Conference Schedule: 30 games. Schedule begins March 10.
Conference Tournament: Six teams, May 24-27 at Beaumont, Texas (Lamar).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM(2005 records listed; 2006 national ranking in parentheses)
+ 2005 conference tournament champion; NCAA regional participants in boldface

C--Mike Ambort, Jr., Lamar (.336-*18-*65). 1B—Kyle Jones, Jr., Texas State (.279-4-39). 2B--Brandon Morgan, Sr., Northwestern State (.265-8-49). 3B—Ryan Saltzgaber, Jr., Texas-San Antonio (.288-4-30). SS—Bryan Cartie, So., McNeese State (.348-2-29). OF—James Bennett, Sr., Louisiana-Monroe (.335-13-45); Collin Delome, So., Lamar (.307-4-37); Ryan Spencer, Sr., Southeastern Louisiana (.310-11-62). DH—Taylor Faul, So., McNeese State (.339-6-37). P—Derek Cloeren, So., Northwestern State (7-3, 3.63); William Delage, Sr., Lamar (6-5, 3.31); Derrick Gordon, Jr., Lamar (4-7, 3.95).

Player of the Year: Mike Ambort, c, Lamar.

Top Newcomers: 1. Brian Needham, rhp, Lamar (Fr., 18th round/Astros ’05). 2. Ryan Baker, 2b, Lamar (Jr., Tr.—Weatherford, Texas, JC). 3. Adam Moore, c, Texas-Arlington (Jr., Tr.—Nebraska).

TOP PROSPECTS, 2006-07 DRAFTS

1. Mike Ambort, c, Lamar.
2. James Bennett, of, Louisiana-Monroe.
3. Derrick Gordon, lhp, Lamar.

SHORT HOPS

• Lamar’s Jim Gilligan became the 32nd coach in NCAA history to win his 1,000th game during last year’s Southland Conference tournament. He won 990 of those games during his 28-year career at Lamar, so will be in line for another celebration when he wins his 10th game early in the 2006 season.

• Lamar is favored to topple defending champion Northwestern State this year as it returns six of its eight top pitchers and has added 6-foot-7 freshman LHP Brian Needham, an 18th-round draft pick of the Astros. Needham will have a tough time cracking a rotation that includes senior LHP William Delage (6-5, 3.31), junior LHP Derrick Gordon (4-7, 3.95) and junior RHP Steve McFarland (8-2, 4.16). The Cardinals also return junior C Mike Ambort (.336-18-65), who led the conference in home runs and RBIs, setting a school record for homers in the process.

• Stephen F. Austin became the 11th team in the conference when it resurrected its baseball program, which had been dormant since 1995, when a lame-duck program went 2-40 and 0-24 in Southland Conference play.

• New Southeastern Louisiana coach Jay Artigues, who joined the program from Pearl River (Miss.) Junior College, was counting on the return of three first-team all-conference performers, but only senior OF Ryan Spencer (.310-11-62) will be in the lineup this year. Sophomore SS Steve Clevenger (.347-4-43) initially chose to transfer to national champion Texas, then ended up at Chipola (Fla.) JC. Junior RHP Bernard Robert (9-4, 2.53), who led the conference in ERA, moved on to Alabama. Both Clevenger, a Maryland native, and Robert helped lead the Maryland Orioles to the All-American Amateur Baseball Association title last summer.