By MacKenzie Bates
For the Forsyth County News
Lambert’s baseball team has endured a brutal out-of-region schedule so far this year. The Longhorns have played the likes of Parkview, Blessed Trinity (twice), Hillgrove, and Mill Creek.
“When you look at our record and the team’s we’ve played, we felt like we were in games, but we lost our focus,” Lambert head coach Rick Howard said. “Our region is pretty tough.”
But it was all for getting them battle-hardened for Region 5-7A play, which the Longhorns got off to a good start in on Thursday. Daniel Fischer threw five strong innings, giving up one run on five hits and striking out six as Lambert defeated Forsyth Central, 2-1.
“Tonight, we maintained that focus. Our guys have to go pitch-by-pitch and not get caught up in what’s going on around them,” Howard added.
The game was supposed to be played at Central, but poor field conditions moved the game to Lambert.
Lambert got on the board in the first inning after Jonathan Hemings reached on an error, allowing Garrett Hollenbeck to cross the plate.
Central got its lone run of the game in the bottom of the inning on a fielder’s choice by Greg Tasos that scored Chase Hillenbrand.
The Longhorns (3-9, 1-0 Region 5-7A) pushed ahead for good in the third frame. After a leadoff double by Nate Gabbert, Hollenbeck recorded his second hit of the game two batters later on a single to right field.
Fischer did the rest. He retired nine of the next 11 batters he faced. The other two batters reached base only to be caught in rundowns that ended the third and fourth innings.
“The two picks were huge,” Howard said. “We made plays behind our pitchers. They were routine plays, but we also made some tough plays as well.”
David Mapes came on in relief for Fischer. He pitched two scoreless innings, giving up one hit and striking out two Bulldogs.
“Our pitching was outstanding,” Howard said. “Daniel threw a great game and (David) Mapes came in and did a great job. When guys throw like that, it gives you a chance to win ballgames.”
Lambert’s Parker Brosius and Hollenbeck both went 2-for-3 at the plate.
Central’s pitchers doled out a solid game. Starter Jacob Ryan threw six innings, giving up two runs on five hits while striking out seven Longhorns. Will Robbins struck out the side in the seventh inning.
“Our pitchers did a great job, too,” Bulldogs head coach Kevin McCollum said. “They threw strikes and did everything we asked them to do. We’ve got to find a way to get it done defensively and scratch our more than one, two, three, four runs a game.”
McCollum said his team had trouble stringing together a few hits to push across runs. Central left four runners on base, with three in scoring position.
“(Fischer) did a good job keeping pitches on the outer half of the plate, and we just refused to take it the other way,” McCollum said. “We tried to do too much with it … We got caught with the bat on our shoulders and in those situations you have to battle.”
Brady Hall and Mitchell Gross each had two hits for the Bulldogs (4-4, 0-1).
The two teams will be back at Lambert on Monday.