TULSA, Okla. - It was a must-win situation for the Lamar baseball team on Friday night, and as is often the case in such games, it wouldn't come easy. In the end, it was an ill-timed Oral Roberts fielding error that allowed the Cards to slip through, grabbing a 5-4 10-inning victory at J.L. Johnson Stadium.
The Cards (30-23, 15-14 Southland) moved back into a tie for the eighth and final spot in next week's conference tournament. Combined with Central Arkansas' 11-8 decision over New Orleans on Friday night, Saturday's meeting between ORU and LU now represents an elimination game of sorts as the winner will clinch a berth into the Southland Tournament, and the loser will see its season come to an end.
After coming out on the losing side of a 12-inning nail-biter on Thursday, it turned into yet another tense playoff atmosphere in Tulsa. As it was the night prior, fate seemed to be on the side of the hosts late, as Emmanuel Forcier hit a game-tying two-out two-run homer to extend the game in the bottom of the ninth.
However, the 10th would work out in the Cards' favor as Brandon Provost singled through the left side and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Jacoby Middleton followed up with a single through the other side of the infield, and an error by ORU right fielder Tyler Boss allowed Provost to cross home plate to put LU on top for good.
Both Provost and Middleton finished the night 2-for-5 with a score, and as a team, LU was out-hit 12-10.
It was also a two-run homer that got action started on Friday night as Sam Bumpers bounced back from a tough outing Thursday to break the game open in the third with his team-leading sixth four-bagger of the season.
However, the Golden Eagle line-up was able to get back on track early in the fifth as LU starter David Carver issued a walk and allowed a single to open the bottom half of the frame. Will Hibbs, Saturday's scheduled starter, came on in relief and surrendered a game-tying single to Boss before striking out back-to-back hitters to get out of the inning.
Carver finished the night with a pair of earned runs on four hits and four walks. Hibbs went on to face the minimum over the ensuing three innings, and sat the first two hitters of the ninth down before giving up the homer. The 6-foot-7 right-hander ended with eight hits allowed and eight strikeouts over the game's final six innings, improving to 5-3 on the season.
In a game that was chock full of momentum swings late, Justin Eckols supplied the first, belting a two-out two-run double to left in the eighth inning to give the Cards what ultimately became a temporary 4-2 lead.
Eckols ended the game 2-for-4 at the plate.
After going ahead once more in the top of the 10th, it would get a bit nervy again in the bottom half as two-out singles from Audie Afenir and Anthony Sequeira put the go-ahead run on second. Fortunately for the Cards, Hibbs was able to induce a groundout from Brandon Healy to bring the game to a close.
The Red and White will return to J.L. Johnson Field for Saturday's season-deciding rubber game, and first pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.