Riser making his mark

Published 7:00 am Thursday, May 29, 2014

HAMMOND, LA. — After a stellar playing career, it didn’t take Picayune’s Matt Riser long to make his mark as a collegiate head coach.

Riser has guided his Southeastern Louisiana University baseball team into the NCAA Baseball Tournament in his first year at the helm of the Lions.

Southeastern Louisiana is in the event for the first time in 20 years, and will travel just down Interstate 12 to Alex Box Stadium to meet the homestanding LSU in Friday’s first game of the Baton Rouge Regional at 2 P.m., Friday afternoon.

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“We couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity” Riser, an all-state standout at Picayune High who helped lead the Maroon Tide to the 2002 Class 4A state title, said. “It’s one of the great venues in college baseball and the atmosphere will be tremendous. It’s a chance for us to stay close to home, and our fans can travel over and watch us. I like the match-up. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

The Lions (37-23) finished fifth in the Southland Conference regular season, but saved their best for the stretch run winning their last three league series and then going a perfect 4-0 in the conference tournament to clinch a trip to regionals for the first time since 1994.

“We had some bumps and bruises along the way, but I can’t tell you how proud I am of the way the guys have come together as a team,” Rise added.

Ironically, the last appearance for SLU in the NCAA Tournament also came in Baton Rouge two decades ago.

Even though regional play is a new experience for the SLU players, that’s not the case for Riser. He played in two different NCAA Tournaments as an outfielder for Tulane, including helping lead the Green Wave to the College World Series in 2005.

Riser was promoted to the top spot at SLU in January, after serving as an assistant coach for several seasons under Jay Artigues. Artigues took over as the Lions’ Athletics Director, and handed the reigns of the baseball program over to Riser.

After his stellar career at Picayune, Riser was a standout player for Artigues for two years at Pearl River Community College before moving on to Tulane.

LSU is the No. 1 seed in the four-team regional that also includes No. 2 seed Houston (44-15) and No. 3 Bryant (42-14). The Lions are the fourth seed. It will be the second meeting of the season between the two teams. LSU visited Hammond on Feb. 19 and won 7-3

“It’s a familiar opponent,” Riser said. “We played them earlier at our place and had a tight game early. A lot has changed since then. We’ve come a long way, and they have come a long way. They are one of the hottest teams in the country. But again, I like it.”