LUBBOCK, Texas (LCU Press Release May 3, 2014) – A two-out two-run single by Brett Wilhelm in the bottom of the eighth inning regained the lead for No.8 Lubbock Christian University, and they ended University of Texas of the Permian Basin’s Heartland Conference Tournament berth hopes with a 5-4 victory to complete a conference series sweep and their 2014 season Saturday afternoon at Hays Field.
LCU entered the eighth inning clinging to a 3-1 lead after starting pitcher Jack Mabe left following seven innings on the mound and holding UTPB to one run off seven hits. UTPB sent eight batters to the plate in the eighth inning. Trey Cochran sparked the rally with a lead-off double off relief pitcher Sam Fry. Brian Brademan would hit an RBI-single later in the inning and Daniel Andrade followed with a double down the left field line to tie the game at 3-3. With the bases loaded and one out, Colin Kowal hit a chopper right to Chaps third baseman Joel Lutz, who touched third base for the force, but his low throw to first base was not dug out by Brandon Wilson and the lead run counted. Heading to the bottom of the eighth inning trailing 4-3, LCU’s Wigberto Nevarez led off with a walk then advanced to third base on a fortunate double by Hunter McFall. The double by McFall appeared to be a deep fly ball, but Kowal, the centerfielder, took an errant angle and misjudged the flight of the ball. The ball ended up one-hoping to the centerfield fence placing the tying run at third base and the lead run at second base. Jesse Pintado and Stephen Withrow were unable to advance runners, as each grounded out to the corner infielders to set up a two-out at-bat for Wilhelm. He had come off the bench and had hit into a double play in his first at-bat, but redeemed himself with a single to a very open right-centerfield gap to score Nevarez and McFall.
Levi Westerlund came out of the bullpen for his first save opportunity of the year. He allowed a one-out single but responded by striking out Ty Morgan and forcing Ryan Arrick into grounding out to seal the win. Westerlund became the fifth different Chaps pitcher to claim a save this season. Fry was credited with the win for his first of the season (1-2).
The Chaps opened the game continuing some trends that developed in the opening two games of the series. For a third straight game in the series, LCU’s first three batters reached base in the bottom of the first inning. Lutz plated their first run with a sacrifice fly. Brett Kauten would make it 2-0 in the first inning by scoring on a wild pitch. LCU scored nine runs in the first inning in the series. LCU made it 3-0 in the third inning with a solo home run by Wilson for his ninth homer of the season. UTPB, who entered the series only allowing 14 runs in the third inning this season, allowed eight runs to the Chaps in the third inning this series.
Cochran, who finished the game 4-for-5, put UTPB on the board in the fifth inning with a two-out single through the right side. Falcons top reliever Brad Paramapoonya took the loss (7-3) allowing two runs off six hits in three innings of work. Starter Lance Fairchild went five innings and allowed three runs off six hits.
McFall went 2-for-4 for LCU and he extended his streak to 23 consecutive games with a hit in games he started. He also closed the season with multi-hit performances in seven of his last eight games he started. Tanner Rainey (2-for-5) and Kauten (2-for-5) each had multi-hit contests for LCU.
With Newman defeating Arkansas-Fort Smith Saturday, UTPB would have clinched the fourth and final seed of the Heartland Conference Tournament with a win. The loss ends their season at 23-27 overall and 14-16 in conference.
LCU knew their fate, as they are ineligible for postseason play as part of their transition to full NCAA Div. II status. Their season closes with a conference best record of 26-4 and an overall record of 39-10. The Chaps finished the season 24-4 at home and went 30-3 overall in their final 33 games of the season. They also went 35-0 in games they led after the sixth inning and they scored at least five runs in the final 22 games of the season.
Saturday was Senior Day and 10 Chaps were recognized prior to the game. Tim Carlson, Sam Fry, Brett Kauten, Joel Lutz, Jack Mabe, Ethan Murphy, Jarret Porter, Wigberto Nevarez, Tanner Rainey and Brandon Wilson were each recognized. Seven of LCU’s 11 hits in the game were by individuals playing in their final game. The tabbed “Big Three” of Lutz, Nevarez and Wilson will be missed in the LCU line-up. The trio accounted for 196 hits (35% of the team’s hits), 153 RBI (44% of the team’s RBI) and 33 home runs (75% of the team’s homers). Wilson concludes his LCU career with a .424 batting average, which enters the LCU record books as the second best career hitting mark in program history behind Keith Hart’s career mark of .473.
Despite their departure, the Chap will have high hopes for next season. The top two leaders in batting average (Withrow / .391, McFall / .388) will return, along with starters Pintado, Wade Stramp and Wilhelm. Pintado co-led the team in hits with 68. On the mound, ERA leader Westerlund (1.77 ERA, 3-1), wins leader Brig Gerlich (11-0), appearances leader Dalton Silva (5-1, 3.16 ERA) and saves leader Glen Warrick (five saves, 1.27 ERA) are returning.