GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas (February 2, 2017) – An opening game starting nearly three hours late and ending at 12:35 a.m. was bound to include some ups and downs. Fortunately for No.6 Lubbock Christian University, it was Brent Stewart reaching on an error and scoring on an error in the bottom of the 12th inning for a walk-off 6-5 win over East Central (Okla.) to open the 2017 season at Div. II AirHogs Classic at AirHogs Stadium.
The downs were two teams combining for six errors and allowing six unearned runs on the field and combining to go 4-for-20 with runners in scoring position. The positives, in the same defensive breath, was LCU matching a program single-game record with five double plays turned.
LCU matched a program record previously completed Mar. 19, 2016 (vs. St. Mary's) and on Apr. 4, 2006 against Wayland Baptist with their five double plays. It also matched a Heartland Conference single game record completed three prior times (twice by LCU).
The contest included a series of lead and momentum changes. LCU struck first with a Brandon Rixtriple leading to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Trevor Huie led off the fourth inning with a double for the Tigers and they would go on to take advantage of a Chaps error with a pair of unearned runs before an around-the-horn double play ended the inning with LCU trailing 2-1. Stewart produced one of three hits in the fifth inning to tie the game at 2-2 before a three-run seventh inning. Chase Simmons and Logan Nethercot each singled in the seventh inning and LCU scored three unanswered runs off a Tigers error for a 5-2 lead. The Tigers came back with a run in the eighth inning and a pair in the ninth inning. LCU was fortunate to turn a double play in the ninth inning to keep the game tied 5-5.
In the 12th inning, Ryan Rogers followed an error with a single and it set up Simmons, who reached on an error and allowed Stewart to score the walk-off run.
The win was credited to Collin Fraley, who pitched a scoreless 12th in relief. He was one of five Chaps pitchers used. Ricky Contreras started and allowed two runs, none earned, off four hits in seven innings. Jake Wellington suffered the loss for the Tigers. He pitched five innings in relief.
LCU improved to 1-0 with the win and they are 11-3 all-time in season openers under head coach Nathan Blackwood. It was their first meeting against East Central since 1985 and LCU is 5-0 all-time against the Tigers. ECU fell to 0-1. The Chaps remain at AirHogs Stadium Friday for a 7 p.m. contest against Missouri Western.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
2-1 – LCU went 2-1 last season in extra inning games.
2 – Rix, Nethercot, Simmons and Tony Reyes each had two hits for LCU. Nethercot led LCU with two RBI.
4-for-19 – Each team was 4-of-19 with runners on base.
11 – LCU produced 11 hits, with Rix's triple marking the only extra-base hit.
3:04 – The game lasted 3:04 in 12 innings. The game (originally scheduled for 7 p.m.) did not start until 9:30 because of prior games played at AirHogs Stadium.