Lambert scored 10 runs in the final two frames at the plate to runaway with the series sweep of rival South Forsyth in a 14-5 win Monday at War Eagle Field. With the victory and North Forsyth's 10-0 result over Northview, the Longhorns walked off the field having clinched the Region 6-AAAAAA title—the third in a row for the once nationally ranked powerhouse.
By now many of the players on Lambert's team have become accustomed to the success, evident in their rather subdued celebration once the contest concluded, but with a first-round playoff exit still on their minds there's little room for wavering focus.
That's why head coach Rick Howard made sure to point out four team errors and plenty of passed balls that came with Monday's lopsided result.
“We lost our focus on some things and quit playing our style,” Howard said. “So there's things to work on. We have to make sure we clean everything up before the playoffs, because those things will come back to bite you.”
The Longhorns (19-5, 15-1) got home runs from Kyle McCann and Will Gabbert in the first and sixth innings, respectively. McCann's solo shot gave Lambert the early 1-0 lead, which grew to 3-0 in the second when a few unfortunate catcher interferences put runners on for Parker Scruggs, who singled two runs home.
South (12-12, 6-10) made the score 4-2 in the bottom of the fifth when Michael Cunningham came home on a wild throw and Alex Andronica singled home Matty Bapst. But the War Eagles gave up four more runs in the top of the sixth on a bases-loaded walk, a Josh McAllister single, a McCann sacrifice and a throwing error.
Gabbert's two-run homer in the following frame set the tone for a five-run inning, while South managed three runs in its final appearance, including a Max Schmal RBI-single that scored Andronica.
After a closer result (5-1 loss) on Friday, South head coach Russ Bayer was disappointed his team let the game get away from it at home.
“It's tough to put into words. It definitely wasn't our best ball game. We had opportunities, and truthfully they gave us chances to get back into the game and we didn't capitalize,” Bayer said. Considering his team scored the final three runs of the game, there were positives to take away.
“I'm proud of how the seniors battled,” Bayer said. “We really talked to the younger guys about having pride in the way you play. We've got some great seniors who have dedicated themselves to this program. I hope the last two games they leave on a positive note, and also the future of our program is important, so we want to finish strong.”
Lambert starting pitcher Cole Varner pitched five innings, allowing five hits, no walks and striking out six batters. South's Alec Kliphouse gave up six hits and two walks against three strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings.
McCann finished 2 for 5 with three RBI and two runs scored, while Jake Tomelevage had a two-RBI double. Griffin Jarrett also doubled, while Mickelson scored three runs to lead the team.