As the skies darkened and clouds rolled in, Cedar and Juan Diego did everything they could to bring rays of light to propel them into the championship bracket of the 3A state baseball tournament.
With a clutch pitching arm and one swing of his bat, Chandler Lamberton put an end to the drama and pushed the Soaring Eagle one step closer to another 3A crown.
Lamberton looped a single into short left field that scored Justin Kummer with the winning run with two out in the bottom of the ninth inning as Juan Diego rallied to beat the Redmen, 3-2 on its home field.
After throwing four strong innings in relief of left-handed starter Alex Baeza to earn the victory, Lamberton knew his role with the game on the line against Cedar pitcher Kayden Lunt.
“I knew (Lunt) was throwing curve balls because he was tired,” the senior said. “I was waiting for them. Hit one down the line foul, but knew the next one was coming, so I was ready.”
Kummer got the winning rally started for Juan Diego when he singled to center, but Ryan Medina couldn’t get a bunt down and struck out. Josh Kirch followed with a groundout that took a high bounce and allowed Kummer to move up.
That brought up Lamberton, who got his bat on the Lunt pitch just enough to get the ball into short left field. Kummer slid and barely beat the relay throw to the plate, setting off a dog pile of happy Soaring Eagle players near the pitcher’s mound as a light rain grew steadier.
“It was heart and determination,” Juan Diego coach Troy Davis said of his team’s effort. “Things weren’t looking good through six innings, but to tie it up with that double was clutch.”
Cedar had built an early lead with a run in the second that scored on a passed ball and they added another in the third on a two-out RBI single by Dallas Jolley that plated Rykker Tom for a 2-0 edge.
Lunt was more than stellar in keeping Juan Diego off the board, but his defense did its part, too, especially in the fourth when a runner got to third with nobody out but was left stranded.
But the escape ability ran out in the sixth. Ryan Hughes and Pudge Davis reached with base hits before Kummer plated them both with his double into the left-field corner that knotted the game and took fans on an emotional roller coaster over the final three innings.
Cedar got a runner to second base in the top of the seventh, but Lunt kept Juan Diego from building a winning rally in the bottom half by picking Joe Strandgard off at first base after he reached on an infield hit, then struck out Kalyn Kimmel to send the game into extra innings.
After both sides went down quietly in the eighth, Trey Esplin and Rykker Tom drew walks with one out, but Lamberton settled down and retired Brock Esplin and Brecken Lewis on fielder’s choice groundouts.
“We had lots of opportunities to score runs, but we pressed a little bit at the plate, tried to do a little too much,” Cedar coach Eric Fieldsted said. “The mission is harder now, but we’ve got guys who will battle, step up and play hard every inning of every game. There’s no quit in us.”
Cedar started its day with a two-inning offensive explosion that led to a 13-1 victory in five innings over Juab. Despite falling behind early after giving up a solo home run to the Wasps’ Kell Marsh, Cedar pitcher Brecken Lewis settled down and allowed only one more hit the rest of the way.
The Redmen would put the game away quickly with six runs in the second inning and seven more in the third. Tom and Lunt each had two-run singles in the second, while Jolley and Weston Bettridge added RBI singles in the third.