NACOGDOCHES, TX (Press Release)- Needing a victory to essentially put the finishing touches on a spot in the Southland Conference Tournament, the Stephen F. Austin baseball team instead fell twice to a hard-hitting Lamar squad in a Friday doubleheader at Jaycees Field.
Even though they dropped those two tilts, the 'Jacks (27-27, 14-15 SLC) still reside in eighth place in the league standings heading into Saturday afternoon's climactic 1:00 p.m. regular season finale that has the potential to decide SFA's postseason fate.
GAME ONE: Lamar 10, Stephen F. Austin 9
A wild first game that saw four lead changes was ultimately defined by the timely hitting of the lower half of Lamar's lineup and the struggles the 'Jacks had in turning runners on base into runs.
The 'Jacks stranded 10 men on the base paths in the loss and witnessed eight-hole hitter Robin Adames go 4-for-4 with a pair of home runs and four RBI.
Upon the conclusion of the first three innings, SFA had constructed a lead of 5-1 for starting pitcher Patrick Ledet to work with before the visitors set off on their first of two comebacks to earn the triumph.
It appeared as though Kyle Thornell had bashed his team-leading 12th home run of the season in the home half of the first, but Lamar center fielder Brendan Satran scaled the fence in left-center to rob Thornell of the long ball and limit him to a sacrifice fly instead.
Up 1-0 in the third, SFA received one RBI apiece from Conner Fikes, Eric DeJesus, Tyler Boxwell and Matthew Dickey in the four-hit, four-run frame to take a 5-1 lead. The 'Jacks sent eight men to the dish in that frame.
Lamar crept within two runs in the fourth after Robin Adames continued his assault on the 'Jacks pitching with a two-out, two-run shot. In the fifth, Bryndan Arredondo chased Ledet off the mound with a two-out, bases-clearing double that pushed the Cardinals in front by a 6-5 score.
Adames homered again to begin the sixth and Lamar continued to up its lead when Cutter McDowell's two-out RBI double put the 'Jacks in an 8-5 hole.
Unwilling to back down, SFA battled back by putting a four-spot on the board in the home sixth to reclaim a 9-8 advantage. McMullen drilled an RBI single before Michener delivered a sacrifice fly that scored Thornell and trimmed the 'Jacks deficit to 8-7. In a daring display of baserunning, McMullen stole home while Lamar relief pitcher Travis Moore was in the midst of his windup to knot matters at eight. The inning culminated with an RBI single by pinch hitter Clark Kahawaii to put SFA on top 9-8.
Austin Hagy took over and the junior tossed a one, two, three seventh before getting pulled in favor of Tyler Starks with one out in the top of the eighth. The freshman was greeted rudely by the Cardinals as Justin Nash punched an RBI single through the infield before McDowell's RBI groundout allowed the game-winning run to cross home plate.
SFA could muster just one hit apiece in the eighth and ninth innings, giving Starks the tough-luck loss.
Tyler Kendrick and McMullen were 3-for-5 at the plate in the setback and Nick Ramos also finished with a pair of hits for SFA. Moore registered the win for Lamar and Fernando Martinez pitched a scoreless ninth to claim his third save of 2016.
GAME TWO: Lamar 13, Stephen F. Austin 6
Employing the long ball as their primary weapon of choice, the Cardinals clobbered six home runs - including Jacoby Middleton's go-ahead, three-run shot in the top of the fifth that broke a 5-5 deadlock – to finish off a 2-0 day and capture the series.
Turning to the number two man in their pitching rotation in Erik Nouis, the 'Jacks saw their starter get tagged for five runs in just 1.1 frames before the junior got the quick hook. Lamar captured a 1-0 lead via a Bryndan Arredondo RBI single with two outs in the first and extended their advantage to 5-0 in a five-hit second.
Brendan Satran launched a solo home run, Jake Nash hit an RBI double and Cutter McDowell wrapped up Lamar's four-run second inning with a two-run round-tripper off of Nouis. With that, senior Austin Smith took the ball from SFA's starting arm and stymied the Cardinals' with his sidewinder delivery for a short time.
During that span, the 'Jacks took advantage of Lamar's power outage at the plate to battle back and knot things up. Designated hitter Zach Valenzuela broke up the shutout with his two-out RBI double in the third before the home squad sent all nine men to the dish in the fourth and knocked Lamar ace Will Hibbs out of the tilt.
The heart of the SFA's order started up the rally, as McMullen reached on a sharp one-out single that was followed by a four-pitch walk to Fikes. Zac Michener shot an RBI single to center in the very next at-bat and Clark Kahawaii clobbered a two-out, two-run double past a diving Reid Russell in left field.
Matthew Dickey capped SFA's comeback by reaching on a two-out error that allowed Kahawaii to touch home plate.
From the point where he took over for Nouis until he fanned Russell to lead off the fifth,Austin Smith retired nine of the 10 Lamar batters he encountered, but that streak of effectiveness came to a screeching halt when the final-year man gave up a double and a single prior to Middleton's three-run blast. That homer gave the senior the loss, putting his 2016 pitching record at 0-1.
Down 8-5, SFA was hard-pressed to get anything going against Lamar reliever Jayson McKinley (3-2) who surrendered just four hits and an unearned run in his winning 5.1 inning relief showing. Nick Ramos helped the 'Jacks close to within 8-6 when his sacrifice fly in the sixth scored Kahawaii for the second time, but Lamar put the game out or reach when Russell and Silvers hammered back-to-back two-out home runs off of Austin Hagy in the eighth to push the Cardinals' edge to 11-6.
Satran closed the scoring by blasting a two-run homer to left-center – his second of the game – in the ninth on a 2-1 offering from Anthony Soriano.