CLEBURNE, TX (LCU Athletics) - Lubbock Christian dropped a 5-3 decision to Arkansas-Fort Smith Friday afternoon, ending their run at the Heartland Conference Tournament.
The Chaps, who are now 35-15 overall this season, continued to struggle in the postseason tournament, where they have just three wins all time. The loss to the Lions (27-18) was their first against that opponent since 5/12/17, when they dropped a 14-inning game, also in the Heartland Tournament.
UAFS almost took the lead in the first inning, putting runners at second and third with just one out, but LCU starting pitcher Ricky Contreras got back-to-back swinging strikeouts to end the threat. The strikeouts started a string of nine straight batters retired for Contreras, who made his fourth-ever start at the Heartland Conference Tournament.
During his streak, the Chaps gave him a lead, drawing first blood for the second straight game. It was the top of the fourth when LCU scored the run, as Hill Alexander hit a one-out single up the middle, followed by an Andrew Pratt walk and Keaton Greenwalt reaching base on an error by the pitcher, who fielded his bunt. Will Clark then walked to push in a run, but Andres Negron ended the threat by grounding into a double play.
The Lions responded in the third with a leadoff single and walk of their own before scoring their own first run of the game on an LCU error. A sacrifice fly and a groundout RBI gave them the lead heading into the second half of the game.
Lubbock Christian got one back in the fifth on a single from James Hardberger, a sacrifice bunt from Eddy Vasquez and an RBI single from Braden Hayward.
The score held there at 3-2 for the next three innings, before UAFS added insurance in the bottom of the eighth. The Lions went looking for just one run, sacrificing their leadoff batter Logan Allen over to second. UAFS ended up getting an extra run, however, beating a throw to the plate on a sacrifice fly to give them a 5-3 lead with LCU just three outs away from elimination.
The Chaps made it interesting, trying for a two-out rally when Vasquez walked and then scored on a double from Chase Whetsel, and they looked to keep the rally alive when Braden Hayward lifted a ball into the right center field gap next. The wind kept the ball up just enough, however, and UAFS center fielder Travis Young made a diving stab at the ball to end the threat.
NEXT UP LCU will now await its NCAA postseason fate, as the South Central Regional teams will be released Sunday night during the selection show.