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Cardinals play long ball, rally to defeat UTRGV, clinch postseason spot

Lamar stands alone in second place in the WAC Southwest Division standings.

BEAUMONT, Texas — After being held scoreless for the first five innings, Lamar University put up four runs in the eighth – behind long balls from Matthew McDonald (his second in as many days) and Ethan Ruiz – to rally for a 5-2 victory over UT Rio Grande Valley Saturday at Vincent-Beck Stadium.


In addition to evening up the series, the Cardinals (29-18/14-9 WAC) also qualified for the WAC Championship tournament later this month in Mesa, Ariz., due to their victory combined with Stephen F. Austin’s loss.


The Cardinals scored their four runs on nine hits but committed two errors. UTRGV finished the day with two runs on seven hits. In addition to the home runs from McDonald (5) and Ruiz (3), senior Chase Kemp got the Cardinals on the scoreboard with a solo blast in the sixth – his sixth of the year. Seven different Cardinals got a hit as McDonald finished the day 3-for-3.


Senior Adam Wheaton held the Vaqueros at bay until the offense could going. Wheaton pitched 7.1 innings Saturday to pick up the win (8-2), while allowing just two runs – one earned – on six hits with five strikeouts. Classmate Jack Dallas came on to pitch the final 1.1 striking out one for the save (10). Cardinals officially used three pitchers with Jacob Ellis facing one batter and recording an out.


Jesus Aldaz started for UTRGV and was strong early but ran into trouble in the seventh. He took the loss going 6.1 giving up three runs on seven hits.


The game was scoreless heading into the fifth but the Vaqueros cracked the scoreboard first with two runs – one earned – in their half of the inning. Big Red managed to answer back with a solo shot from Kemp in the sixth.


After getting a run on the scoreboard, Wheaton and the Cardinals’ defense went back to work in the seventh. The Vaqueros got a runner aboard but it amounted to nothing as Wheaton posted three innings where he sat UTRGV down in order and two more where allowed just a runner.


The Cardinals took command of the game in the seventh behind McDonald’s leadoff blast. McDonald’s homer Friday came on an 0-2 pitch, but he didn’t wait as long Saturday crushing Aldaz’s 1-0 offering. Two batters later, Josh Blankenship doubled to left center. The Cardinals took the lead moments later on a single from Kirkland Banks scoring Ben MacNaughton who came into pinch run. The final exclamation point came off the bat of Ruiz who took a 3-2 pitch which just barely got over the wall, and the outstretch glove of the leftfielder, to take a four-run lead.


Big Red’s bullpen took care of the rest shutting the door for the team’s 29th win of the season.


The Cardinals look even up the season series Sunday when they close things out against UTRGV at 1 p.m. from Vincent-Beck Stadium.