LU Baseball drops opener to #22 Missouri St
BEAUMONT, Texas – In what was otherwise a strong performance by Lamar University against a nationally-ranked team, the Cardinals struggled in the second inning Friday in their first game of the season, an 11-2 loss to #22 Missouri State.
"That's not the way you want to open your season, but there were some encouraging things tonight," said head coach Will Davis. "Jace struck out seven batters in four innings, which just goes to show you what kind of stuff he has. I think that bodes really well for the future for him. The result isn't great, but I don't think the final score was indicative of what type of game this was."
The game was scoreless through the first with the Bears stranding a lead-off double on third thanks to two strikeouts by Jace Campbell and Lamar stranding Robin Adames after he reached on an error and stole second with two outs.
Two pitches into the second inning, what looked like a routine foul ball snuck just inside the leftfield "Hey Culligan Man" foul pole, breaking open the scoring for Missouri State. Campbell responded immediately with his third strikeout of the afternoon but walked the next batter, Logan Geha. A single through the right side allowed Geha to reach third, and a walk of Matt Brown loaded the bases. Back-to-back walks with thee bases loaded gave Missouri State a 3-0 lead, and that lead widened even further on a wild pitch with two outs. The ball shot past catcher Chad McKinney, who raced back to try to throw to Campbell at home before the runner could score. McKinney's throw sailed over the head of Campbell onto the mound, where Payton Roberston was just able to corral it. Two runs scored in the confusion, giving Missouri State a five-run advantage heading into the bottom of the second inning.
Chad Fleischman drew a walk to lead off the second and advanced twice on singles by Mike Leal and Chad McKinney. Though he hit into the double play, Cole Secrest drove home his first Cardinal run in the next at-bat. After two, Missouri State led 5-1.
"I'm really happy with the way we competed against [Dylan Coleman]," said Davis. "He was hitting 100 mph in the first inning and he'll be a first round draft pick. We won't face a better arm for the entire year, so I'm really happy with the way our offense played."
Campbell quickly brushed off the second inning, sitting down the final six Bears he faced over the next two innings, striking out four. He finished his evening with seven strikeouts in just four innings and three earned runs. He was relieved to open the fifth by Garrett Walker, who made his Big Red debut.
"After the big inning I just had to bounce back and hunt zeroes, trying to give my team a win," said Campbell. "Control was a big issue tonight. I was rushing getting the ball out of my glove, and timing was a big issue. It was a big inning, but seven strikeouts will help me going forward. I think it just comes back to my off-speed pitches. My split and my slider were working tonight, and I think that'll be a strength for me this year."
Both pitching staffs maintained control of the game until the top of the seventh inning, when bad luck struck the Cardinals again. With two outs and runners on second and third, Drew Millas hit a line drive towards third base. It struck the base as Fleischman was trying to make the play, careening wildly into left field. The Bears' runners took advantage of the situation, scoring from second and third. After another single put runners on first and second, freshman right-hander Marcus Olivarez relieved Walker and forced a fly out, ending the threat. Cole Secrest smacked a two-out single to left in the bottom of the inning but was stranded, and after seven Missouri State held a 7-1 advantage.
"You hate to lose like that on opening night, but with two long games ahead of us this weekend, once we were down 7-1 I just didn't want to burn up our top bullpen guys," said Davis. "It was good to get Marcus out there as a freshman. He gave up a few runs, but he was hitting 91-93 and that shows what he can be in the future. I think that was important going forward."
Missouri State scored four more runs in the eighth on the strength of four hits, including two doubles, taking an 11-1 lead into the ninth inning. Fleischman sparked a bit of a comeback in the bottom of the ninth with a lead-off double, and was pushed across by Secrest. The freshman finished the night with two hits and both of Lamar's RBIs in his collegiate debut, proving he deserved to be the lone freshman on the 25-member Bobby Bragan Slugger of the Year watch list.
"We really threw several of our freshman hitters to the wolves, facing a guy who could be on a Big League field pretty soon," concluded Davis. "Secrest got a couple of good hits and Chase Kemp got a nice single, and these guys performed well against a guy who was really on tonight."
Cardinal fans won't have long to wait to catch Lamar's attempt at vengeance with the Bears; Lamar and #22 Missouri State face each other again Saturday at 10 a.m., pending inclement weather. Left-hander Noah Sills is scheduled to face the Bears' righty Ty Buckner. Stay tuned to LamarCardinals.com and @Lamar_Baseball on Twitter for all updates on the Cardinal Classic and the rest of the 2018 season.