Cardinals slip into third-place tie

Published 6:09 pm Monday, May 16, 2016

Lamar sports information

BEAUMONT – Greg Belton closed out the first game and earned a save and then turned around to start the second game for a win Sunday when he and Sam Houston State spoiled Jim Gilligan’s last series to coach at Vincent-Beck Stadium and Senior Day with 9-4 and 7-4 wins over the Lamar baseball team in Southland Conference action.

Both losses gave the series to Sam Houston after LU took game one.

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The first game was picked up in the fourth inning after weather suspended it from Saturday afternoon. The Bearkats (33-19, 21-6 Southland Conference) started the day up 7-3 and was able to close it out scoring one more run than LU did in the final 5 1/2 innings.

Both teams put new pitchers on the mound, and good signs were shown out of LU’s (32-17, 17-10 Southland) Jayson McKinley, who hurled five innings with two runs allowed, but one bad pitch resulted in both runs. He hit the first batter in Andrew Fregia, and two batters later Robie Rojas belted a one-out triple to left field that scored Fregia. Jaxxon Grisham was able to score Rojas on a groundout.

From there McKinley went on to strike out four batters in four innings, and only allowed two base runners, stranded both at first base.

Belton matched McKinley with four scoreless innings of work for a save, his 10th of the season. He allowed only two hits and walked two more. Hayden Nixon started on the hill for the Bearkats and gave up a bases-loaded walk to Robin Adames for the Cards’ lone run in the resumed contest.

Belton (4-1) started the second game, his fourth start of the year, and held LU scoreless for the first three innings until Reid Russell popped his 16th homer of the season — which put him in a three-way tie for second place at Big Red for long balls in a season.  Belton finished that inning and then worked a perfect fifth for the win.

The Cardinals notched a couple of more runs on Jordan Cannon in the sixth and eighth innings. Bryndan Arredondo knocked in Jake Nash, who reached on a fielder’s choice and advanced on a single from Russell.

In the eighth, Stijn van der Meer and Jake Nash led off the inning with singles, and Cutter McDowell knocked in van der Meer on a double to right center field; Nash took third base. Russell stepped to the plate and picked up his second RBI of the game, 58th of the season, with a sacrifice fly to center field. 

A three-run bomb in the first inning by Fregia set the tone for the second game. He took Fernando Martinez (2-3) deep on a two-out, two-strike shot over the left field wall that scored Mac Odom and Lance Miles. RBI doubles from Taylor Beene in the second and fourth innings made it 5-0, Bearkats.

Beene collected his third RBI in the sixth inning on a single to central and Bryce Johnson added another on a double to right in the same inning.

Martinez pitched three innings and gave up four runs on five hits. Brett Brown allowed a run on three hits and two innings and Jimmy Johnson surrendered two runs on four hits in three. Travis Moore took the hill in the ninth and worked a perfect inning.

Russell finished both games combined 4 for 8 with three RBI and three runs scored. Both he and van der Meer (4-of-7) each had two hits in both games. The Cardinal offense had 11 hits in the first game and 8 in the second. Combined they accounted for 31 hits in the weekend, six less than the Bearkats.

The loss puts the Cardinals into a tie with Northwestern State for third place, and makes LU the fourth seed in the Southland Conference Tournament with one series left to play and try to improve.  The final series of the regular season will be at a steaming-hot Stephen F. Austin team, in a series that starts at 6:30 Thursday afternoon.