ABILENE -- Lamar scored five runs in the fifth inning Friday night as the Cardinals knocked off ACU, 6-4, in the opening game of a Southland Conference baseball series at Crutcher Scott Field.
The win pushes Lamar to 16-14 overall and 3-7 in the Southland, while the Wildcats fall to 12-14 and 2-2. The teams will continue their series Saturday at 2 p.m. with the final game of the series set for 1 p.m. Sunday.
The teams battled through four scoreless innings, although ACU pitchers Joe Gawrieh -- who got his first start and gave up just three hits in three scoreless innings -- and Ty Walker worked out of constant Lamar -- which left 12 runners on base in the game -- left the bases loaded in the first, two on in the second, one on in the third and two on in the fourth without scoring.
ACU's luck ran out in the fifth, however, as the team's third pitcher of the night -- Stuart Patke, who came in for one inning -- ran into trouble. After getting leadoff man Reed Seeley on a strikeout, he gave up a single to Sam Bumpers, walk to Kevin Santana and a single to Brandon Provost to load the bases. Kyle Markum then singled to right field to drive in a run before Jacoby Middleton -- who was 3 for 5 on the night -- drove in a pair of runs with a single to make it 3-0.
After a walk to Mason Salazar re-loaded the bases, Patke hit the No. 9 hitter in the lineup (Justin Eckols) to drive in a run to make it 4-0. Leadoff man Jude Vidrine then drove in Middleton with a sacrifice fly to centerfield for the final run of the inning.
After the fifth inning, however, only five more Cardinals reached base as the relief contingent of Austin Lambright, Austin Wakefield, Nick Palacios and Ladgie Zotyka combined to allow just three hits and one run over the final four innings. Those four pitcherso didn't allow a walk and combined to strike out six batters, including three by Palacios, who struck out the side in the eighth.
ACU scratched back into the game in the sixth with a pair of runs crossing the plate. With one out and runners at first and second, Seth Spivey tripled to right field to drive in Colton Hall and Tyler Eager to make it 5-2.
In the ninth inning, Brandon Grudzielanek reached on a two-out infield single and then scored on a triple to right field by Gunnar Buhner. Emil Litterer then followed with an RBI double to left field to bring the tying run to the plate in the form of pinch-hitter Jordan Forrester. But Lamar's Lance Warren -- who pitched the final three innings to pick up the save -- got Forrester to fly out to left field to end the game.