March 25, 2006
Riverside, Calif. - LMU battled back from an early 8-0 deficit to make a ballgame out of Saturday's game one at UC Riverside. The Lions (11-17) chipped away at the Highlanders' (12-9) lead by hanging runs in four different innings, but came up just short and fell 10-7 to start the three-game series.
UCR took a quick 8-0 lead by the bottom of the second, with three of those runs going down in the scorebook as unearned after a three-run home run off the bat of first baseman Kyle Barratt.
The Lions answered in the top of the third, scoring three runs to pull the Lions back within five. Kyle Mura reached first on an error by shortstop Jaime Pedroza and advanced on a single by Casey Gordon. Freshman left fielder Brett Mendoza then made it runners on second and third with a sacrifice bunt. That would set up the two-run double by A.J. LaMonda. Erik Johnson's groundout drove in the third run of the inning to make it 8-3.
LMU added a single run in the fifth inning when LaMonda hit one over the 330' sign in right field. It was the junior's second home run of the season.
But the real spark for the Lions came with two outs in the sixth, when Eric Farris stole home to make put LMU within three at 8-5. Farris had put up the only hit of the inning and advanced to second on a throwing error by catcher Jeff Dunbar. After advancing to third on a groundout, Farris used his speed to beat the pitch by starter James Simmons home.
While the Lions were battling back at the plate, LMU starter Andy Beal (2-5) settled things down in the third inning, retiring six of seven batters through the fourth, including four on strikeouts. He finished working 5.1 innings, equaling his career high six strikeouts.
UCR added single runs in the sixth and eighth innings, but the LMU comeback bid was still alive after the Lions added two of their own in the eighth. Johnson extended his team-best hitting streak to 11 straight games with his leadoff single. Brian Wilson then reached on a hard hit ball through the right side that was ruled an error. Farris scored Johnson with a sacrifice fly to left, just before Nik Garcia's Texas-leaguer brought in Wilson. Garcia had entered the game at third base in the fifth.
Trailing 10-7 in the top of the ninth, LMU continued to fight, putting their first two batters on after a walk and a hit batter by closer Daniel Stange. But Stange would rebound to retire the next three batters and halt the comeback bid. Stange earned his sixth save of the season.
Simmons, the Big West's leader in ERA, improved to 5-1 on the season after allowing two earned runs on 10 LMU hits. In his 7.2 innings of work, he managed to strikeout just one Lion batter.
Center fielder Brett Bigler led the offensive charge for UCR, going 4-for-4 on the day.
LaMonda and Gordon each finished 2-for-4 for the Lions, with LaMonda adding three RBI. Both of his hits were for extra bases.
The Lions and Highlanders will conclude the three-game series with a doubleheader Sunday. First pitch is slated for 1:00 p.m., with the second game following. Gametracker will not be available for Sunday's doubleheader, but fans can follow all of the action as it happens by listening to the live audio broadcast on Lions' All-Access at www.LMULions.com.