Abt uses arm, not bat, to save Lamar’s 8-7 victory over No. 25 Baylor

Published 10:22 pm Sunday, March 4, 2012

Jeff Abt came in from left field Sunday night to tie the bow around Jim Gilligan’s 1,200th victory as Lamar University’s head baseball coach.

Abt, the Cardinals’ leading hitter, demonstrated his pitching prowess by blowing a called third strike past Baylor centerfielder Logan Vick to preserve Lamar’s 8-7 victory over the 25th-ranked Bears in the finale of the 2012 Baylor Classic.

After sporting a 6-0 lead at the game’s midway point, the Cardinals had to hang on for dear life as the Bears chipped away with two runs in the fifth inning, two more in the sixth, a single run in the seventh and their final two in the eighth.

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Freshman reliever Vernnon Maxwell got off to an impressive start in the bottom of the ninth inning by recording two quick outs on a lineout and a grounder back to the mound, but he got into trouble by hitting Max Muncy and Josh Ludy to give the Bears runners on first and second and to cause Gilligan to make the pitching change.

The pitching appearance was the first for Abt since last season.

Abt delivered an RBI single, and Cameron Campbell boomed a two-run triple and Thomas Henk a two-run home run as the Cardinals got off to a blazing start by scoring five first-inning runs.

Campbell’s fifth-inning sacrifice fly boosted the lead to 6-0, but it slowly diminished over the closing innings. The victory was the Cardinals’ second in as many days over Baylor, and it left all three teams at 2-2 in the tournament.

Earlier Sunday, UC-Irvine, which routed Lamar 17-0 in Friday’s tournament opener, managed a 4-1 victory over the Cardinals.  

The Cardinals batted around in getting off to their fast start in the first inning that was highlighted by a two-run triple by Campbell and a two-run home run by Henk. Abt and David Harris added singles to the four-hit inning against Bear starting pitcher Brad Kuntz.

Harris lofted a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to centerfield in the fifth inning to increase the Cardinals’ lead to 6-0. Seth Dornak was hit by a pitch to open the inning, and Garret Autrey followed with a single to centerfield. Campbell moved the runners up with a sacrifice bunt, and Henk drew a base on balls to load the bases.

After going scoreless for 13 innings against Lamar pitching over two games, the Bears broke the ice with two runs in the fifth inning. Right-hander Shane Hamaker, who yielded only one hit during the first four innings, walked Michael Howard to lead off the fifth, and he raced all of the way to third base on Jake Miller’s infield hit.

Howard scored as Josh Turley grounded into a double play. Lawton Langford then drew a base on balls and advanced to second base on a wild pitch. Nathan Orf drove him in with a single to centerfield.

The Cardinals got one of those runs back when Darian Johnson scored on a bases-loaded balk in the sixth, but the Bears crept to within 7-4 by putting up two runs in the bottom half of the inning.

The Bears then narrowed their deficit to 7-5 in the seventh inning when Muncy’s RBI single to right field chased Lamar reliever Ben Coram from the mound. Maxwell came on, however, to induce an inning-ending groundout from Logan Vick.

Jude Vidrine, who opened the inning with a single, scored from third base on a wild pitch to give the Cardinals a little more cushion at 8-5 in the eighth.

The Cardinals outhit the Anteaters 7-6 in Sunday’s first game but they still didn’t outscore them. The Cardinals did manage to score a run, however, and they received 5 2/3 innings of scoreless relief pitching from John Gilligan and Machon Trimm.

Abt led off the Cardinals’ fourth inning with a single to right centerfield, and he moved around to third base on a groundout by Dornak and a single to center by Autrey. Brad Picha’s sacrifice fly plated the run.

Crosby Slaught held the Cardinals to three hits over the first five innings to earn his first victory of the season, and Phillip Ferragamo mopped up with four scoreless innings to pick up his first save. Freshman right-hander Collin Chapman of Leander was the loser after giving up six hits and four runs in 2 1/3 innings.

The Cardinals will meet Louisiana Tech at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Ruston, La. before entering a three-game Southland Conference series at Central Arkansas Friday night.