Entering the second round of the Class AAAAAA playoffs, Lambert’s baseball team had yet to experience a single loss. Twenty-four hours later, it was facing elimination.
After splitting Wednesday’s double header against Mill Creek, the Longhorns fell behind in the second inning of Thursday’s decisive rubber match, and suddenly they had their backs up against the wall.
But they didn’t panic, nor did they allow that deficit to spiral into anything worse. Instead, they remained calm and went about their business the same way they did 29 times this spring.
And quickly, the Hawks’ lead dissolved.
The Longhorns inevitably broke through in the third inning, scoring four runs on four singles, two walks and an error, allowing them to take a lead they would not surrender. Lambert went on to win 7-4, punching a ticket to the third round of the state tournament. They’ll square off against Luella in another best-of-three set beginning on Tuesday.
“What a great series to show our boys’ resiliency,” said Lambert head coach Jamie Corr. “Coming out and winning Game 1, dropping Game 2 and immediately getting behind three early in this game. We never panicked, stayed poised and fought until the end.
“We have a lot of confidence in our ability to throw strikes and make routine plays. We did a good job of getting timely hits today using the whole field.”
Contrary to what they’ve displayed most of the year, the Longhorns’ offense didn’t produce on Thursday by crushing home runs and extra base hits. Rather, it piled up singles—10 in total—and strung enough hits together to outscore the Hawks.
JD Dutka led the way offensively with two hits and three RBIs. Ian Kimbrell had two hits of his own, as did Jake Chickowski.
“Our hitting is a credit to [Mill Creek’s] pitching,” Corr said. “All of their pitchers did a great job commanding the outside of the plate. Our hitters just did an equally good job of taking what they gave us and serving the ball into the opposite field.”
“They were playing us deep to the fence,” said Chickowski, “so we just tried to work singles. It worked.”
Lambert received a solid pitching performance from sophomore Seth Beer, who went six innings, allowing five hits and no earned runs. The only runs Mill Creek scored came off a Beau Brundage single that got past centerfielder Tucker Maxwell, allowing Brundage and the two base runners to cross the plate.
Turner Scruggs, who looked good in relief a day prior, earned the save with a 1-2-3 seventh inning.
“Seth got stronger as the game went on, and Turner came on and was a bulldog, and attacked the zone,” said Corr.
While a team never likes to lose, the Longhorns said they took Wednesday’s setback and spun it into a positive.
“It opened our eyes,” Chickowski said of Lambert’s lone defeat. “We now know what we’re up against, and we know how tough we have to be.”