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Russell’s two jacks not enough as Fairfield beats Lamar

Lamar sports information

BEAUMONT — Lamar had everything it needed in the bottom of the ninth – of an unusual game at Vincent-Beck Stadium – but slugger Reid Russell’s towering fly ball found the glove of an outfielder, and it handed the Cardinals their first loss of the season, a 7-6 defeat to Fairfield (Conn.) in non-conference baseball action.

With Cutter McDowell and Trey Silvers at first and second bases, Russell – who crushed two home runs to left field on Friday – smacked a one-ball, two-strike pitch to deep center field that Drew Arciuolo was able to get under to end the game. The Cardinals (4-1) jumped out to quick 2-0 lead in the first inning on a two-run shot from Russell, his first, but after a weird sixth inning the Cardinals were forced to play catch-up.

With two runners on and no outs in the sixth, Mac Crispino squared around for a late sacrifice bunt. With LU second baseman Grant DeVore charging to cover first, Bryndan Arredondo grabbed the ball and threw down to first for the out, but the first base umpire swung in front of DeVore and caused him to trip before he could catch the throw. The ball rolled into right field foul territory and allowed the lead runners to score and Crispino to sit at third. Crispino scored on a sacrifice fly to center that gave Fairfield (1-0) its first lead.

Lamar answered with another to tie it again in the bottom of the sixth when Silvers scored on a single to center field from Robin Adames. He scored from second base after he reached on a walk and advanced on a wild pitch.

Fairfield added another in the seventh and two more in the eighth, but Russell erased it all with his second homer over the left field wall. His bomb scored pinch hitter Chaneng Varela and McDowell, each who reached on singles.

The winning run of the game was scored by Fairfield’s — which reached the NCAA Regionals and won the MAAC title a season ago — top returning hitter Michael Conti. He reached on a single and advanced on the throw, of a play that Russell threw Tyler Gambardella out at the plate, and scored on a double down the right field line by Kevin Radziewicz.

“Both teams showed a lot of grit today, and you have to take your cap of to [Fairfield]. They never quit and kept scratching and clawing,” said head coach Will Davis. “I couldn’t be prouder of our guys. If that’s what it takes to beat us, then I’m very excited about our team.

“We never quit, all the way down to our last man. We’re not ever going to quit,” he said. “It was a tough loss that hurt because it was one we could’ve had. We’ll regroup and try again tomorrow.”

Russell finished the night with two hits in three at-bats. The senior All-American had five runs batted in, drew two walks and scored two runs. Arredondo joined him with two hits in three at-bats, and also had a walk. The Cardinals as a team recorded nine hits, and seven of them came in the last three innings.

“We all know what Reid can do. He’s even taken a step forward. The at-bats are so much better than last year,” said Davis. “I don’t know if he’ll hit 18 home runs, but I do know he’ll have a better overall year from a team aspect. There is nobody I’d rather have up than him.”

McDowell continued his scoring pace and already has eight runs through five games. He was 1-of-4 with a walk and two runs. Varela – who was only in for two plate appearances – also notched two singles.

Tanner Driskill pitched into the seventh inning and surrendered four runs, but only one was earned. He allowed seven hits, struck out six Stags and walked none. The only run he was charged with was a leadoff triple from Tim Zeng – which got him pulled from the contest.

Galen Andrews relieved him and nearly worked out of the jam with the leadoff triple. He struck out the next batter and had Arciuolo on a full count before he was able to lift a sacrifice fly to right. Brett Brown pitched two-thirds of an inning with a hit and two punchouts.

The tough loss was issued to Jimmy Johnson (0-1) on one inning of work with two hits and a run allowed.

After Russell bit Fairfield starter John Signore with the long ball in the first, the right-hander settled in and went without allowing a hit until the sixth frame.  Mike Bonaiuto (1-0) took the win on two innings of stressful relief. He allowed six hits and three runs.

Carson Lance (1-0, 4.25 ERA) takes the ball in the first game of today’s doubleheader, and will face lefty Ryan O’Connor. Jace Campbell (0-0, 0.00) will see action in the second game against RHP Kyle Dube. The twin bill is set to begin at 1 p.m. at Vincent-Beck Stadium.