Lance, late rally boosts Cardinals to win

BEAUMONT, Texas – Carson Lance was phenomenal on the mound and Lamar University’s offense validated his win Thursday night when the Cardinals rallied in the eighth inning to down Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 4-2 at Vincent-Beck Stadium in Southland Conference baseball action. 

Lance (5-4) set career highs in innings pitched and strikeouts when the junior-transfer dialed up a complete game with just five hits allowed and 11 strikeouts, the most since Will Hibbs punched out 14 batters against McNeese on April 15, 2016.

“Carson had a really good feel for his breaking ball. He was able to throw it for a strike, which has been his struggle all year,” said head coach Will Davis. “He hasn’t been a big strikeout guy for us, but today he was. The biggest thing was the he had no walks, which is impressive.

“We really needed him to step up for us, and he did,” he said. “We couldn’t have asked for more.”

Lance retired his last 18 batters and 21 of his final 22. The lone base runner in the final seven innings for the Islanders’ (13-21, 5-8) was cleanup hitter Dalton Stark, who doubled be was stranded there. He struck out the side in order in the third inning, and recorded at least one strikeout in every inning from there – including the final out of the game.

He used two strikeouts to get out of the fourth inning with Stark on second. In the sixth and seventh, he used two ground balls and a punch out in each. He struck out two in the eighth with a liner to second baseman Cole Coker, and finished the game with a ground ball to shortstop Payton Robertson, fly out to Reid Russell in left and punched out Stark to end it.

Corpus Christi’s starter Dustin Lacaze was dialed in on the hill as well. He kept the Cardinal order at bay until he was pulled in the eighth inning. Only one Lamar base runner was able to get into scoring position in the first seven innings, Cole Coker, and that was in the fifth inning.

Russell was one of the heroes in the break-through eighth inning, in which the Cardinals scored all four of their runs. He and Trey Silver each came through with bases-loaded singles that scored all four runs. Lacaze started the eighth inning on the hill, but plunked Bryndan Arredondo with a pitch and gave up a single to Grant DeVore two batters later. He was pulled as Cutter McDowell and the top of the LU order were due up in what would be the fourth time around for him.

McDowell reached on a single up the middle that loaded the bags for reigning Southland Conference Hitter of the Year Russell. Russell took a 2-2 count pitch and dropped it into left field and chased home Cole Girouard – pinch runner – and DeVore. With two outs, Chad Fleischman loaded the bags when he drew a walk for Silver’s single into right center that sent home McDowell and Russell.

“We need a win like that. We haven’t really had a win like that. Most of our wins have been going away,” said Davis. “We’ve had some walk-offs, but they were tied at the time and the pressure is different in that situation. We had good at-bat after good at-bat, which was great to see.

“This is probably my favorite win this season,” he said. “To be down like that and finally break through so late. It’s a win that can really turn a season around.”

Lance’s two runs allowed were both in the second inning, and both were hard-luck runs. He gave up back-to-back singles and Luke Marbach (lead runner) took third on a fly out to deep center field. Itchy Burts squared around for the safety squeeze, but he hit it right to Lance, who tossed it home for the second out.

With two outs and runners taking off an anything, Lukas Hermanson poked a ball to shallow center, which allowed Dawson Yates to score and Burts to make it third. Burts scored when Hermanson took off for second on a steal attempt and was tagged out in a run down, but Burts touched the plate prior to the tag.

Chad Romere (1-1) took the loss for the Islanders on ⅔ of an inning pitched. He gave up the third and fourth runs with three hits and a walk.

The Cardinals churned out a seven-hit effort in the contest, and outhit the Islanders by two. McDowell continued his hot play with a 2-of-3 day. Russell, Silvers, Coker, Arredondo and DeVore accounted for the other five.

The Cardinals will try to take the series Friday night when Jimmy Johnson (2-4, 3.23 earned run average) squares off with Cole Carter (3-4, 6.45) at 6 p.m. from Vincent-Beck Stadium. The series finale is slated for Saturday at 2 p.m.