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Lafayette falls to Saltillo in Game 1 of 1-5A series

Following their loss to Saltillo on Tuesday, Lafayette baseball head coach John Walker said his team needed to do some soul searching.

In the first game of this week’s pivotal Region 1-5A three-game series, Saltillo used two big innings to defeat the Commodores 14-3 at W.V. Brewer Field. The result left Walker wondering what his team needs after suffering their first region loss on the season.

“We’ve got a little bit of a problem kind of controlling the emotional side, not necessarily allowing the game to get too big, but the nervous energy pregame, ” Walker said. “We don’t handle that well. It’s happened several times this year in big games. I think the anxiety and maybe the bigness of the situation did us in from the get go. Credit Saltillo, man they jumped all over us.”

Saltillo scored five runs in the fourth inning to break the game open, taking a 6-0 lead. The Tigers (12-6, 3-1 1-5A) scored five more runs in the sixth innings to break the game open.

In two of the first three innings, the Tigers got the first two runners on base, but Lafayette starter Wilson Varner managed to dance around the trouble and limit the damage. Varner was unable to do so in the fourth inning, loading the bases with the first three batters he faced.

Varner worked six innings, giving up 11 runs, nine of them earned, off 13 hits while striking out five Saltillo batters and did not issue a walk. The Commodore defense behind Varner recorded one of their two errors on the night with him on the mound.

“Wilson Varner is good. He his really, really good,” Walker said. “He gave us the chance to minimize some innings and we didn’t make defensive plays or whatever the case was. He competes in the zone and he’s close 50 innings (pitched) and he’s walked one guy this year. So, that gives you a chance every single night, but we’ve got to catch the ball behind him and we did not do that tonight.”

At the plate, Lafayette (11-8, 3-1) was unable to take advantage of some early chances to keep within distance of Saltillo. The Commodores scored three runs in the sixth to make it 11-3 at the time and finished with six hits on the night.

The Commodores left seven men on base and had struggles on the base paths. In the second inning, Lafayette had the bases loaded with two outs and had the chance to tie the game at 1-all after the pitch by Saltillo’s Drake Douglas bounced to the backstop but designated hitter Radley Hill did not get a good jump at third and did not attempt to score.

Douglas kept the bases clear of Commodores until the fifth inning, when Lafayette stranded a runner at second.

“(Douglas) did a great job on the mound,” Walker said. “We missed some pitches to hit and we took some good pitches to hit and did not have a good approach at the plate, and did not have a great plan. That’s on me as much as it is the hitters. We just didn’t have a great plan against them and it showed.”

This season, Lafayette is playing all three of their region opponents in week-long three-game series. Having the ability to avenge a loss, or tack on another win over the same region opponent in the same week provides the opportunity for Lafayette to bounce back quickly.

This year’s format for region play also allows Walker to know exactly where his team stands after the three games in relation to the rest of the region. Following this week’s series with Saltillo, Lafayette wraps up 1-5A play with a series against Center Hill next week.

“It gives it a feel of when the series is over you kind of know where you stand and you kind of know what’s got to happen the next week,” Walker said. The bottom line is we got an opportunity Friday night to go over there and get even.”

Lafayette travels to Saltillo on Friday for Game 2 of the series, with a first pitch set for 7 p.m. The series will return to Lafayette on Saturday for Game 3 at 7 p.m.