By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
Strong hitting up and down the lineup, paired with solid pitching and eight Benton errors, led to Lafayette (13-6) scoring a 16-3 win in five innings over the Cardinals on Tuesday afternoon at Bartlett Park.
The Irish scored three runs in the top of the first, four more in the second and led 8-0 by the middle of the third.
It was a satisfying start to the week for a Lafayette team coming off of a disappointing 4th place finish in the Chillicothe tournament over the weekend.
"We prepared really well," Lafayette head coach Matt Jansen said. "Our guys bought in. We came out with good approach and preparation and really tried to play our game and get back to where we were."
Benton got on the board in the bottom of the 3rd, thanks to a three-run home run to left field by Jackson Kanacsky.
The Irish punched right back with three runs in the top of the fourth inning. Now trailing 11-3, Benton (9-11) loaded the bases after an error and a pair of walks.
With two outs, the Irish sent senior and Oklahoma commit Brayden Luikart to the mound, and he got the final out in five quick pitches.
After a five-run top of the fifth by Lafayette's offense, Luikart proceeded to put Benton down in order in the bottom of the fifth. Luikart threw only 16 pitches and struck out three of his four batters faced.
Senior Zach Langley made the start on the mound for Lafayette, lasting 2.1 innings. Davin Guess pitched 1.1 innings of middle relief. Collectively, the Irish held Benton to just three hits.
"We were going to use our bullets right here and really go after what we want," Jansen said. "We wanted to be in a position where we could bring Brayden in, and it really shut the door."
Offensively, Lafayette stayed hot throughout the game, tallying 11 total hits. They also benefited from eight Benton errors.
Senior Dayne Koch went 2-for-4 at the plate with two RBIs and four runs scored. Junior Cade King went 2-for-3 with a double and two runs scored.
Senior Jayden Little blew the game clear open Tuesday with a three-run homer to left center, which gave the Irish a 13-run lead and gave the Highland Community College commit his sixth homer of the season.
"I came into today, looking to make a better and bigger impact on this game," Little said. "I just happened to help my team with a homerun. That's how it happens sometimes."
With only three games left in the regular season and districts just 10 days away, Lafayette is poised to break through when it matters most. Especially after the 4th place finish in Chillicothe and a runner-up finish in the Pony Express tournament.
"We just come in and work hard every day," Little said. "Just play to the best of our ability. Whenever we play the best we can, there aren't too many teams around here that can hang with us, and that just feels good to know that."
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