BEAUMONT, Texas – A sixth inning pinch-hit grand slam off the bat of Mike Leal gave the Lamar University baseball squad its first lead of the night and supplied all it needed when the Cardinals downed Rice 10-4 at Vincent-Beck Stadium Tuesday night in non-conference action.
Down 4-2 at the start of the sixth frame, sophomore Robin Adames and senior Bryndan Arredondo started in the inning with back-to-back singles for Lamar (8-5). Adames’ was through the right side and Arredondo’s to left field. Two batters later and after a wild pitch, freshman Payton Robertson drew a full-count walk that loaded them.
In the ninth hole, pinch hitter Leal – who was 1-for-5 as a pinch hitter at the start of the game – blasted his first career home run pushing a three ball, one strike pitch over the right field wall.
“Mike was so good in the fall and spring, and that is why he earned an opening day start. He got off to slow start, but I had all the confidence in him that he would be able get a ball in play,” said head coach Will Davis. “Today with the wind and a 3-1 count, I thought to myself this could be special. That was a huge hit that got us going.”
Adames tried to start a seventh inning rally with a double to the right field wall, but Rice was able to contain it. The Cardinals came back strong in the eighth inning with another four-spot.
Robertson was plunked by a pitch with one out in that frame, and Brendan Satran singled to put men on first and second. Cutter McDowell punched a single to center that scored Robertson, and freshman Cole Coker lined one to left to chase home Satran.
After Rice pitcher Brent Schwarz recorded an out, the Owls brought in Roel Garcia to face Reid Russell, who drew a four-pitch walk. Adames had the big blow of that inning with a two-run single that got passed second baseman Addison Moss – who was shielded by Russell heading to the second base bag.
“We made some lineup changes. Payton and Cole had some great at-bats, and of course our usual suspects had some great at-bats too,” said Davis. “No lead is ever safe, so I was glad to get those runs.”
Rice jumped out to a 4-1 lead after the third inning, on the backs of two two-run innings. A triple in the first frame led to two runs and back-to-back extra base hits in the third provided the same. LU responded with a run in the bottom of the first on Trey Silver’s RBI-single through the right side. He sent home McDowell, who led off the inning with a walk.
McDowell has been LU’s leadoff hitter in eight games, he’s reached in his first plate appearance in five of them. He’s drawn a free pass in his first plate appearance in three of his last four.
In the fifth inning, the freshmen in the lineup combined to score a run. Robertson led off the frame with a single up the middle, and with a two-out double to right center, Coker scored him.
“(Coker and Robertson) have big play ability. I think they’ve waited their turn,” said Davis. “Not just the plays they can make in the field, but the at-bats they have. It’s nice to know that we have a few guys in the program like that for the next few years.”
The two combined to go 3-of-6 (.500) with four runs scored, three by Payton, and two runs batted in.
Adames – who pushed his reached base streak to a career-best 21 games Tuesday – was 3-for-5 with two RBI and a run scored. The Cardinals collected 11 hits and drew seven walks in the contest; they only struck out five times.
Much like it did in its first midweek game of 2017, LU tossed several pitchers. Senior Brett Brown started a line of seven pitchers with an inning pitched. He gave up two runs on two hits. Freshman Nathan Gabryszwski came on in the second and worked a perfect frame, and had two outs in the third before he gave a couple of runs.
Ryan Cawthon hurled an inning with a walk allowed, and Ryan Johnson took over for him in his first career outing. Brent Janak (1-0) grabbed the win on a perfect frame with a strikeout. Galen Andrews pitched two innings and Jimmy Johnson closed it out with one.
“I think we have been able to learn some things,” said Davis. “On nights like this when your staff is thin and you don’t have a midweek starter, that is when you have guys rise to the occasion. Guys like Ryan Cawthon and Brent Janak. I thought it was great to see Ryan Johnson to get out there. Galen pitched in the clutch after some tough calls.”
Zach Esquivel started for the Owls, and was chased on 4.2 innings. He allowed two runs on three hits and four walks. Nick Orewiler (0-1) was tagged with the loss on Leal’s grand slam.
The Owls’ offensive unit picked up eight hits, walked four times and struck out four times.
The Cardinals now head into a big series at Sam Houston State, which opens Southland Conference play. It’s the second of three-straight road series that also features Southeastern Louisiana. The first pitch of the series with the Bearkats is slated for 6:30 p.m. Friday at Don Sanders Stadium.