Late rally can’t overcome early mistakes as LCU’s baseball season ends at RRAC Tournament

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STERLINGTON, La. – The Louisiana Christian University baseball team found itself down five runs after two innings due to four early errors in its elimination game against Houston-Victoria in the Red River Athletic Conference Championship Tournament, but the Wildcats worked their way back into the contest.

LCU had the walk-off run in scoring position in the bottom of the ninth but couldn’t push that run home, falling to the Jaguars 9-8 Monday afternoon at the Sterlington Sports Complex to end the season.

The Wildcats found themselves in trouble almost immediately as the Jaguars led off the game with a base hit and LCU’s first error put two on with no outs. Brooks Southall struck out the next two to put the team on the precipice of getting out of the jam, but LCU’s second error of the inning allowed a run in and extended the inning further. The next Jaguar batter got a hit that knocked in two runs for a 3-0 UHV lead after the first inning as the Wildcats were retired in order in the bottom half.

In the second, UHV put runners on first and second with one out and a ground ball got the Wildcats again on the edge of getting out of a pickle, but another error allowed in those two runs to make it 5-0 Jaguars after two innings with all five runs being unearned.

The defense started to mend its ways, and in the fourth inning, the offense started to get in gear as well. Adrian Aguilar started the bottom of the fourth by getting hit by a pitch. Alex Ashby drove a pitch into the left-center gap, moving Aguilar to third.

During the next at bat, Ashby took off for second, which drew a throw, allowing Aguilar to take off for home and Aguilar beat the throw back home to get the Wildcats on the board. Ashby tagged up and moved to third on a fly ball out to right field and scored on a passed ball to make it 5-2 UHV.

UHV added to the lead in the fifth with a RBI single with two outs, putting the Jaguars up 6-2. But in the sixth, the Wildcats took advantage of an error from the other side to get that run back. With one out in the inning, Ju’Juan Franklin dropped a base hit into left field.

With two outs, a grounder back to the mound by Haydon Helms dropped the pitcher to his rear where he still tried to make the throw, only to put it up the line, allowing Helms to reach safely and Franklin to move to second base. With Nick Moreau now on second for Franklin, Nick Brunet shot a base hit through the right side, scoring Moreau to make it 6-3 after six complete.

Things seemed to get away from the Wildcats again in the seventh as the Jaguars hit a double and four straight singles to push across three more runs and extend the UHV lead to 9-3. But LCU was able to get all three of those runs right back in the bottom half of the inning. With one out, Adrian Aguilar was hit by a pitch, then Alex Ashby laid down a bunt that he not only beat out, but the throw bounced off his shoulder and rolled away, allowing both base runners to move up 90 more feet to get up to second and third. A ground ball to shortstop by Keelyn Johnson allowed Aguilar to score.

Ashby moved up to third on a wild pitch and scored on a Ju’Juan Franklin base hit up the middle. Peyton Lamartiniere hit a dribbler down the first base line that once again was tossed away by the Jaguar catcher, allowing Franklin to get to third and Lamartiniere to second. Dylan David came up in a pinch hit spot and beat out a slow roller to short as Franklin came home to cut the deficit down to 9-6 before the seventh inning ended.

With the Wildcats down to their last two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the bats made one last push to make the Finals. Keelyn Johnson led off the inning with a base hit back up the middle. With one out, Peyton Lamartiniere shot a base hit through the left side of the infield to bring the tying run to the plate. Now with two outs, Nick Brunet sent a base hit to the right-center gap, scoring Johnson.

Jacob Fowler drove a base hit through the right side, scoring Lamartiniere. Ty Morgan hit another slow roller towards shortstop and beat out the play to load the bases, putting the tying run just 90 feet away and winning run in scoring position. But the rally lasted no longer as a ground ball to second ended the game and the Wildcats season.

Peyton Lamartiniere, who enjoyed a giant weekend at the plate, went three-for-five and scored a run. Alex Ashby, who was named to the All-Tournament Team following the end of the event, went two-for-five with a stolen base and two runs scored. Ju’Juan Franklin was also two-for-five with a RBI and a run scored. Nick Brunet went two-for-five with two RBI. Jacob Fowler, who came off the bench during the contest, went two-for-three with a RBI. Adrian Aguilar continued to be a ball magnet, going one-for-three at the plate with a double but was hit by pitch three times, stole a base, and scored twice. Keelyn Johnson went one-for-five with a RBI and a run scored. Dylan David, also a mid-game substitute, went one-for-two with a RBI.

Brooks Southall (7-3) took the hard luck loss as he threw the first 6.1 innings and gave up 11 hits and eight runs, just three of them earned, didn’t walk any batters, and struck out eight. Chase Gardner had a tough outing in relief as he faced three batters and gave up singles to all three, allowing one run, which was earned. Trip Flotte came in and threw a stellar 2.2 innings to close things out as he faced nine batters and allowed just one hit and no runs with no walks and struck out five of those nine hitters.

The Wildcats close their first season in the NAIA and Red River Athletic Conference with a 32-17 record overall, having finished with a 22-11 record in conference which was tied for third in the standings.

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