Lambert’s baseball team has developed a habit this year of shortening its games, doing so by closing the fifth inning with double-digit leads and forcing the mercy rule. So it came as no surprise that the Longhorns, who finished the regular season with a perfect 26-0 record, continued that kind of dominance in the opening round of the playoffs.
Taking on Dacula to start the Class AAAAAA tournament, Lambert’s bats were as alive as ever, sweeping Friday’s double header, 15-3 and 16-3, to advance to the next round.
True to form, the Longhorns triggered the mercy rule in each contest, playing only 10 total innings.
“I thought we did a good job of attacking the ball,” said Lambert head coach Jamie Corr. “We laid off all their off-speed stuff and did a good job hitting the ball when they had to throw it in the zone.”
Lambert took Game 1 on a rare fifth inning walk-off grand slam from sophomore Tucker Maxwell, who launched the first pitch he saw over the right field fence.
“Coach told me to jump on him early and I saw him throw a first pitch fastball,” Maxwell explained. “I just kind of hit it.”
Shortly thereafter, Maxwell returned to the plate for his first at-bat of Game 2, one again with the bases juiced. While he was unable to hit another ball out of the park, he did find a gap in right-center and cleared the bases — leading the Longhorns to a six-run first.
JD Dutka went yard for the Longhorns, as well, knocking a solo shot in the first inning of Game 1 to wash out Dacula’s lone, short-lived lead of the night. The side-armer also started Game 2, surrendering just three runs and three hits in four innings.
Dutka, who has evolved into one of Lambert’s most efficient and consistent hurlers, had all of his pitches working for him. His control of the plate was as good as it’s been all year as he seldom fell behind in the count and issued just one walk.
On the mound for Game 1 was Dylan Biumi, who also went four innings and gave up three runs. The senior righty gave up just one extra-base hit — a home run to Falcon catcher Austin Collins.
Sophomore Turner Scruggs and senior Kyle Smith pitched the fifth innings of Games 1 and 2, respectively, neither of whom allowed a hit nor a run.
“(Biumi) did a great job getting out there and relying on his defense,” said Corr. “He didn’t have a lot of punch outs today, but he didn’t need them because he had a lot of guys playing hard behind him.
The Falcons, who were severely overmatched, shot themselves in the foot on far too many occasions. Their plethora of mistakes—including three balks and a walk with the bases loaded—prevented any semblance of a comeback and made winning all the more easier for Lambert, who scored 31 runs on just 19 hits.
“We ran the bases hard and put guys in motion, put pressure on them,” said Corr. “Unfortunately for them we were running hard and were about to capitalize. Then, (after those mistakes) we were able to deliver big hits.”
Lambert, on the other hand, made very few mental blunders and tallied just one error all night. Though Longhorn pitchers only struck out nine batters, their staunch fielding frequently stymied Dacula’s offense, which never found its rhythm.
“I always feel good with the defense we have behind us,” Dutka said. “We played well all year, so I’m not even worried about the next round.
“We’re feeling good; I think we’re ready (for Round 2).”
Lambert will return to action on Wednesday for a best-of-three set against Mill Creek (19-9), who swept Roswell on Friday, who comes in having won 14 of its last 15.