The Lamar Community College Runnin' Lopes began conference play over the weeend with a double-header against Northeastern Junior College on Saturday. Heading into the weekend, despite a skid over the weekend before, the team was 12-4 and had really executed things fairly well on both offense and defense. Conference play can be really interesting, filled with both excitement and chaos. Saturday's double-header did not disappoint.
The first game of the day was a pitching duel from LCC's Darin Cook and NJC's Graham Cahill. Northeastern took an early lead in the first inning. Luke Mondt singled to keep the inning alive with two outs, followed by a double from JT Patterson. Mondt scored on the double, and Patterson was able to score after a tough pick at first could not be made on a fine play from Ayden Karraker.
The 'Lopes were able to tie the game in the top of the fourth. Owen Reynolds led the inning off with a double, and after a throwing error scored Reynolds, Kennedy Badgett moved up to second base. Karraker also doubled, scoring Badgett and tying the game.
Neither team scored another run until the seventh inning when Lamar broke the tie. Scott Savage was hit by a Northeastern pitch, and Josh Crites sacrificed himself with a bunt to move Savage into scoring position. Sam Scarborough singled into left-field, scoring Savage and giving the 'Lopes the lead.
Another lead gave the bullpen another chance for a save. NJC's offense was not ready to give the 'Lopes their first conference win of the season, though. Two walks and two outs later, the 'Lopes found themselves with two runners on. JT Patterson came to the plate, and with a 1-2 count, unloaded on a LCC pitch, which carried throughout the thin air over the centerfield wall for a walk-off three-run homerun to end the game.
Game two was also a nail-biter that gave everyone in the ballpark anxiety. NJC opened the scoring in inning number two with three straight hits. LCC scored in the top of the third after a solo homerun from Jack Stamper gave the Lopes some life. They were able to score again in the fourth when Karraker scored on a Reynolds' single. Northeastern tied the game in bottom of the fifth with a sacrifice fly to deep centerfield.
After both teams failed to score in the sixth and seventh innings, the Lopes were threatening in the eighth. Scarborough opened the inning with a single, followed by a hit-by-pitch, and a bunt where no one was thrown out to load the bases. Reynolds grounded into a fielder's choice, leaving the bases loaded. After ball one was thrown to Luis Ortiz, he squared up a fastball which carried to deep right-centerfield and caught at the wall. Karraker tagged up and scored easily. But, Badgett was called out on the play when he failed to tag up correctly, and the run did not count.
Northeastern failed to score in the eighth, and the ninth inning gave the 'Lopes another opportunity to push across a run. They did just that, after Stamper reached on an error, and then scored on another error a few batters later. In the bottom of the inning, the Plainsmen had a scoring threat of their own. Two runners reached base and moved into scoring position and second and third with Patterson at the plate, the hero from game one. However, Andrew Coverly was able to strike him out, ending the game and giving the 'Lopes a close and hard-fought victory.
The 'Lopes are 1-1 in conference play and 13-5 overall. They will face another conference opponent in Trinidad State on Wednesday in a nine-inning game scheduled to be played in Trinidad at 1:00 pm. They will also play Adams State's JV squad over the weekend for four non-conference games beginning at 1:00 pm on Saturday.