By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
With a first-pitch temperature in the low 40s, it was hard to say whether Maryville or Lafayette would have a good day offensively.
But once the Irish (9-3) got their first hit in the second inning, they scored three runs on four hits in the third inning and kept tacking on insurance in a 9-1 win over Maryville in the first round of the Pony Express Tournament at the Bartlett Park Baseball Field Monday.
All told, Lafayette outhit Maryville 10-1.
"When we got that first run across, it kind of gave me that cushion to know that my team is really helping me out there," said Lafayette senior and starting pitcher Zach Langley. "Once we started rallying a couple more hits and started hitting a lot more, it really just gave me leeway. Like, 'this is my game. I have to work with my counts. If they're going to hit for me, I'm going to pitch for them.'"
Langley had two hits and two RBIs himself at the plate, while striking out four batters over six innings on the mound.
The Irish got their first run across in the first inning when senior Dayne Koch reached first on an error. After stealing second, Koch reached third on a sacrifice groundout and then scored on a sac fly from Brayden Luikart.
Luikart went 2-for-4 at the plate himself, including a single-shot home run in the third inning. The Oklahoma baseball commit finished with two runs scored and two RBIs.
Junior Xavion Page was very productive, going 3-for-4 with a double and two runs scored.
"It was a good game," Page said. "We came, we brought energy. It was a good fight, I think."
Maryville (6-5) got its only hit in the second inning, but had multiple base runners in five of the seven innings, thanks to a number of free passes and errors from Lafayette's defense.
The Irish committed three errors in the field, and Langley walked three batters and hit four more, giving Maryville some free passes.
Yet, the Spoofhounds stranded eight baserunners and Lafayette overcame its own mistakes to secure a solid victory.
"We kind of went back and watched some video of ourselves and really just said, 'Here's a moment where you make an error, it's baseball, you flush it and move on,'" Lafayette head coach Matt Jansen said. "Hopefully, we're to the point where we can do that automatically as a team."
Leading 5-1 after the fourth inning, the Irish tacked on two more runs in both the 5th and 6th innings. Senior Jayden Little then relieved Langley on the mound in the top of the seventh, and put Maryville down in order on 11 pitches to close out the win.
Lafayette, winners of three straight, now face one of their biggest challenges of the season Wednesday when they take on Platte County (11-2) in the tournament semifinals at Phil Welch Stadium.
The Pirates defeated Chillicothe 12-10 on Monday afternoon.
Having already faced teams like Excelsior Springs, Fort Osage and Pleasant Hill, Jansen and his team embrace the opportunity to play bigger, out-of-conference schools.
"We want to play the big dogs," said Jansen. "We're always getting everyone's best shot. Embrace the target as we say. We want to play a highly competitive game, and we know we'll get that with Platte County. We're excited for the challenge, and hopefully we can come out and execute our game plan."
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