LUBBOCK, Texas (March 29, 2014) – A trio of unearned runs in the top of the ninth inning proved to be costly for No.14 Lubbock Christian University, as LCU’s rally in the bottom of the ninth inning came up short in a 9-7 loss to No.9 St.Mary’s University Saturday afternoon in a Heartland Conference contest at Hays Field.
Leading 6-4 after the eighth inning, the Rattlers opened the ninth inning with Brooks Orton reaching on an error at second base. He would eventually score, and a two-out two-run single to left field by Al Gonzalez, off reliever Jarret Porter, extended the Rattlers lead to 9-4. LCU stormed back in the bottom of the ninth inning. Rattlers closer Adrian Garcia walked four batters in the ninth inning. Tanner Rainey scored on a wild pitch and Wigberto Nevarez grounded out to score Jesse Pintado to cut the deficit to 9-6. Joel Lutz followed with an RBI-single and a walk to Stephen Withrow loaded the bases for Brett Wilhelm with LCU trailing 9-7. Wilhelm would strikeout looking and the Chaps would fall.
Rattlers starting pitcher Mario Maldonado held LCU to two runs (one earned) off four hits in seven innings of work. A solo home run for Wigberto Nevarez in the sixth inning and a sacrifice fly Wilhelm in the seventh inning were the Chaps only runs off Maldonado. The runs cut into the Rattlers 6-0 lead in which they opened the game with. Joe Hermsen hit a double down the left field line in the first inning for the game’s first run, and they made it 2-0 in the second inning with a lead-off solo home run by Gonzalez. The Rattlers extended the lead with a three-run fifth inning with four hits, including a double by Orton, to place the lead to 5-0. LCU scored five runs over the final two innings. Hunter McFall’s double and a single by Withrow led to a two-run eighth inning and cut the Rattlers lead to 6-4.
Garcia had only allowed one earned run over 11 prior appearances, but LCU got to him with five earned runs over his two-inning appearance. He did get the most important out to preserve the win for Maldonado (2-1). Levi Westerlund suffered his first loss (2-1), allowing one earned run off three hits in three innings pitched. Jack Mabe made a relief outing for LCU and allowed four runs off six hits in five innings of work. Gonzalez led St. Mary’s with three RBI off a 2-for-3 performance at the plate. Drake Roberts led the Rattlers with three hits. Nevarez led LCU with two runs-batted-in. Only four of the Rattlers runs were earned, as LCU committed four errors in the game.
The loss ended LCU’s six-game win streak and it kept the Chaps for sweeping the conference series. It was also LCU’s first loss to a top-10 ranked opponent this season (5-1). LCU dropped to 23-9 overall and 13-3 in conference. The Rattlers ended a three-game conference losing streak and improved to 10-5 in conference (23-10 overall). LCU heads on the road next week and opens a three-game conference series Apr. 4 at Rogers State in Claremore, Okla.