Southeastern Louisiana’s baseball team didn’t need to win Thursday in order to be named the Southland conference regular-season champions, but the Lions wanted to end the suspense early.
The Lions came into Thursday needing either a win against UNO or a loss by second-place Northwestern State in order to claim this season’s Southland crown.
But they took care of business themselves, jumping out to an early lead and cruising to defeat the Privateers 5-0 at Maestri Field, clinching an outright Southland conference regular-season title for the first time in school history.
“There’s no better feeling,” Southeastern coach Matt Riser said. “When you have a goal that you set out to achieve from the beginning of the season and you reach it, it’s a wonderful feeling. The best part about it is that this is just the first of many goals we plan on achieving this year.”
The last time Southeastern (39-15, 23-5) did win a conference title for baseball was in 1994, when the Lions were members of the Trans America Athletic Conference, and before most of the players on this year’s team were out of diapers.
“Before the season, we had a lock in the locker room with the code ‘1994,’ and we said we needed to change that by the end of the year,” said Southeastern first baseman Kevin Carr, who was 2 years old in 1994. “It’s an outstanding feeling just to celebrate with these guys and I couldn’t be any happier right now.”
With Thursday’s win, Southeastern set the Southland record for most consecutive conference wins in a regular season (14), but that only marks one of the accomplishments Southeastern has been able to reach during this historic season.
The Lions already owned the school record for conference wins in a season coming into Thursday’s game, and with a sweep over UNO (14-38, 3-25) in this weekend’s three-game series, they’ll also own the record the Southland record for most conference wins in a season (25) and school record for most wins in a season (41).
“It’s not always about the records and the streaks, but we are proud of the accomplishments we’ve reached this season,” Riser said. “It’s about these guys coming in day-in and day-out and putting in the necessary work. That’s how you reach the point where you can start setting records, and I couldn’t be any prouder of the work we put in this year.”
The Lions took advantage of some early fielding mistakes by UNO in the third inning.
After hitting a single to left field and stealing second base, Julian Service scored the first run of the night for the Lions when a UNO fielding error allowed Jacob Seward to reach base. After stealing second himself, Seward was able to advance to third on a second fielding error by UNO and made the Southeastern lead 2-0 when he stole home a few pitches later.
“We take pride in our ability to put pressure on the defense with our speed,” said Seward, a former Brother Martin standout. “We were able to get a few on early in that third inning, and it allowed us to steal a few bases and put some pressure on them.”
Southeastern now sets its sights on making more history by winning a second consecutive Southland Conference tournament title.
No team has been able to win the tournament in back-to-back years since Sam Houston State was able to string three together from 2007-09.
With the final two games between UNO and Southeastern split home and home, the Lions host UNO on Friday, with both teams playing their regular-season finale at Maestri Field at 1 p.m. Saturday.