After Drew Southern’s deep fly ball to center fell into Parker Brosius’ glove, the Lambert baseball team moved into a position that most teams in the county would be satisfied with: 3-2 in Region 5-7A play, tied for the spot just behind a Milton team that could be considered a state title threat.
The Longhorns’ 5-4 win over West Forsyth on Monday was the continuation of a strong stretch for the Longhorns, who have already matched last year’s total of region wins.
And Lambert still isn’t quite there, as Howard will admit. The Longhorns’ 2-10 schedule through non-region play was evidence of that, and even in victory, there are plenty of aspects of the team’s game that aren’t completely clear.
“I don’t know that we are defined yet,” Howard said. “I think we’re still trying to figure that one out.”
Lambert has more new contributors than now, both in the lineup and the rotation, and through the trying non-region stretch and now into more meaningful games, Howard has kept the benchmarks simple and manageable: run the bases well, play smart defense, execute in potentially productive situations.
They did all those things well at various point on Monday. Lambert’s first runs came from a two-out rally in the first inning, when Nate Gabbert and Braden Bamburowski hit back-to-back RBI singles – both to the opposite field – to give the Longhorns a 2-0 lead. The advantage became 3-0 when Gabbert’s alertness and aggressiveness on the basepaths allowed him to score on a botched throw from catcher to pitcher.
Lambert also benefitted on Monday from a solid outing from sophomore lefthander Braden Bamburowski, one of the region’s most intriguing young arms. The 6-foot-3 Bamburowski showed easy velocity and an effective breaking ball in his start, in which he went 5 1/3 innings, allowed four hits and struck out eight. His control flagged at times, as he also had four walks and hit a batter, but the limited amount of hard contact Bamburowski allowed helped him work through it.
West didn’t get too far away, scoring two runs in the third, one in the sixth and another in the seventh, as well as putting a runner on second with two outs in the final frame, but Lambert continued to produce, off Nate Gabbert’s RBI double in the third and Chase Mangum’s run-scoring fielder’s choice in the sixth.
The Longhorns also gained momentum from a rally-extinguishing trick play in the sixth, when pitcher Matthew Esz teamed up with Gabbert at shortstop and Ben Asher at second to catch a runner off at second.
“It let us reset and let us finish out that inning strong,” Bamburowski said of the play.
Lambert has now beaten three fellow region opponents, and in a race shaping up to be very fluid behind Milton, that places the Longhorns well in contention for a state playoff spot. But they aren’t dreaming too big yet.
“I don’t we’re going to know anything until probably the last Friday,” Howard said. “Because I think so many people bring so many different things, and we’re all going through some growing.”
The Longhorns’ record is now 5-12, 3-2, while West fell to 5-8, 1-4.