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Eagles rally from 5-run deficit to earn split with No. 9 Lubbock Christian

OC senior Caleb Price went 4-for-5 as the Eagles beat Lubbock Christian in the second game of a doubleheader Friday.
OC senior Caleb Price went 4-for-5 as the Eagles beat Lubbock Christian in the second game of a doubleheader Friday.

OKLAHOMA CITY (April 18, 2014) – No. 9-ranked Lubbock Christian (Texas) was every bit as good as advertised and the Chaparrals came close to steamrolling Oklahoma Christian on Friday at Dobson Field.

The Chaparrals won the opening game of Heartland Conference doubleheader 6-1 and zoomed to an early five-run lead in the second game. But OC bounced back – thanks in good part to Caleb Price’s hitting and Eddie Broll’s relief pitching – and rallied for a 10-9 win.

LCU (31-10, 22-4) and OC (26-13, 14-9) will play the series’ decisive game on Saturday at 1 p.m. LCU entered the series leading the Heartland by two games in the loss column over second-place St. Edward’s (Texas), while OC was in fourth place, a game behind St. Mary’s (Texas) in the loss column.

LCU was 22-2 in its previous 24 games and had won eight straight before losing the second game of the doubleheader to the Eagles. LCU traditionally has dominated the series against OC, with a 53-14 all-time mark.

“It would definitely be exciting to take another one off these guys, but we definitely have our work cut out for us,” OC coach Lonny Cobble said. “They’re a really good ball club. They’re kind of like a pro team. Those guys just stand up and bang the ball around the yard. So for our guys to get a win against those guys, I think it goes a long way for our program.”

In the opener, OC – ranked No. 7 in the NCAA Division II South Central Region rankings (with LCU at No. 3) – took a 1-0 lead in the third inning, as Cory Eastwood singled and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by A.J. Florence. For a long time, it looked like OC starter Brandon Pierce (7-3) would make that lead stand up, as he struck out eight batters in six innings and mostly was dominant.

But Joel Lutz turned the game around with a two-run homer over the left-field wall with two outs in the sixth and Wigberto Nevarez followed with a solo shot to left field. Hunter McFall then doubled and scored on an error and all of a sudden the Chaparrals led 4-1. They added a pair of runs in the seventh.

LCU pitcher Brig Gerlich (9-0) went the distance and allowed only three hits.

The Chaparrals jumped on OC’s second-game starter, Luke Sandoval, for two runs in the third and took a 4-1 lead on a two-run homer by Nevarez in the fourth. Sean Murphy answered with a two-run homer – his first of the season – in the bottom of the fourth to pull OC within 4-3, but LCU added four more runs in the fifth, with Hunter McFall recording the big blow, a two-run double to left field. That made it 8-3.

OC again had an answer. Price, who went 4-for-5 with two RBIs, doubled home a run and scored during a three-run fifth off LCU starter Tim Carlson.

Both teams went to their bullpens after that, with decidedly different results. OC’s Zach Loomis (3-2) allowed two hits in 1 2/3 scoreless innings, then Broll faced the minimum six batters during his two-inning stint, buying time for OC to rally on offense.

“Eddie Broll has been coming out of the bullpen all year and getting the job done for us,” Cobble said.

The Eagles fared well against LCU reliever Jarret Porter (3-3), taking a 9-8 lead with a three-run sixth, with Jordan Lopez and Price each contributing an RBI single. OC added what proved to be an important insurance run in the seventh when A.J. Florence was hit by a pitch, went to third base on a single by Lopez and scored when the throw from LCU right fielder Stephen Withrow hit the bag and caromed away.

“Price has been steady for us all year,” Cobble said. “He’s a senior. He stepped up and made a good (defensive) play in the outfield and drove in some runs in crucial situations for us. I’m proud of the leadership we’re getting from our seniors.”

The Chaparrals rallied briefly against OC closer Dillon Endecott, as Brandon Wilson reached on a leadoff infield single and Joel Lutz did the same on a bad-hop single to left field. An error on the latter play allowed Wilson to score to make it 10-9, but Endecott retired the next three batters, with Price making a sliding catch in right field to end the game.

Endecott recorded his eighth save, one off the single-season OC record set last season by Chris Burgess.