Lambert’s baseball team hadn’t faced much adversity this spring en route to a perfect regular season record, and the beginning of the Class AAAAAA state tournament was no exception.
But after three straight playoff wins that were abridged by the mercy rule, the Longhorns finally fell into a deficit too big to overcome.
Shortly after demolishing Mill Creek, 12-0, in Game 1, the Hawks stormed back and took the second game 6-5. A seventh inning comeback by Lambert fell just short, as the Hawks evened the series in dramatic fashion.
Mill Creek starter Russell Klein got the win in Game 2, tossing six strong innings to force a Game 3, which will be played Thursday at 5:55 p.m.
“[Our loss] was all due to their pitching,” Lambert head coach Jamie Corr said. “[Klein] did a great job of mixing in fastballs and breaking balls keeping us off balance. He really had us fooled for quite a few innings.”
Sophomore Seth Beer was far and away the best player on the field, hitting three home runs to go along with a double and a highlight-reel diving catch. His first two homers of the day came in the third inning of Game 1, as the Longhorns quickly built a double-digit lead it would not relinquish.
Jake Chickowski and Kyle McCann went yard for Lambert, as well. Jeremy Johnson reached base on four of eight at-bats, scoring three times.
“I felt like I was seeing the ball pretty well,” Beer said. “I really just try to put it in the back of my mind that I just had to put the bat on the ball.”
In addition to a dominant offense, Lambert was able to cruise in Game 1 thanks to stellar pitching from Dylan Biumi. The senior righty earned a complete game shutout in the abbreviated contest, surrendering just four hits—all of which were singles.
JD Dutka got the nod in Game 2, though he wasn’t as sharp as he’s been of late, as five runs were charged to his name in 4 1/3 innings of work.
“Biumi did a great job going the distance for us tonight, which is big in a three-game set,” Corr said. “But in Game 2, some uncharacteristic walks came back to bite us.”
After Thomas Kubiak struggled in relief of Dutka, Turner Scruggs took the mound and provided some much-needed stability. Scruggs faced the minimum number of hitters in 1 2/3 innings. The sophomore, who entered the game with runners on second and third with one out in the sixth, got the first batter he saw to line into a double play.
Scruggs’ clutch pitching kept Mill Creek’s lead at 6-4, which was certainly surmountable for an offense as potent as Lambert’s.
Klein was given the chance to close the game out but was pulled after hitting Jeremy Johnson to lead off the seventh. Andrew Wise came on to earn the save for Mill Creek, but shutting the door on Lambert didn’t come easily.
The first batter Wise faced was Dutka, who reached on an error that sent Johnson to third — putting the winning run at the plate. Beer, who was the ideal player to have up in this scenario, drove an outside pitch to deep left, though it came up just shy of the fence.
Johnson tagged up and scored, but Chickowski and Tucker Maxwell flew out in successive at-bats to end the game.
This was not the ideal time for Lambert to lose its first game of the year, but a win on Thursday would render this setback meaningless. Should the Longhorns win, they’ll move on to face Luella.
“An undefeated season is never, ever going to be our goal,” Corr said. “Our goal is to come out and compete for a state title. We have a great opportunity to be able to do that.”