With warm temperatures and a near night-time start, a large crowd assembled at Merchants Park in Lamar for a highly anticipated non-conference match-up featuring two very good teams. The Savages, #2 in the CHSAA poll and #2 in the RPI for Class 3A this week, taking on the #5 RPI team from Class 4A, the Pueblo County Hornets.
The contest turned into an old-fashioned pitching duel as each team struggled to string a rally together. Lamar senior Dalton Chandler and County senior Darion Martinez each were exceptional on the mound.
The Savage offense looked to attack early in the count against Martinez, but only had one hit to show for it through three innings. Meanwhile, Chandler used his blazing fastball to great effect early on, striking out the first five hitters he faced and overall keeping the Hornets quiet.
With one out in the bottom of the 4th, it was Chandler who singled to left and then advanced to second base on a fielding error by Tyler Miller. Courtesy runner Austin Sneller came on and later advanced to third on a passed ball. That’s where he stood when senior Colton Eberhardt stepped to the plate with two outs.
Now pitching with a slim lead, Chandler buckled down after his pitch count was up to 79 through four innings. He pounded the zone and retired the side 1-2-3 in the fifth and sixth innings, allowing himself an opportunity to pitch into the seventh.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Savages loaded the bases with no outs, but Martinez came close to pitching out of it with no damage. Junior Kameron Farmer, in his only at bat of the night, hit a sacrifice fly to right which scored senior Andres Guevara and gave Lamar a 2-0 lead.
At 104 pitches, Chandler started the seventh and Miller thought he had an extra base hit to start a rally for the Hornets. But…
Chandler then recorded one more out and reached the pitch count limit. He had pitched 6 2/3 hitless innings. Senior Lucas Watson came on for a one-out save, and shook off a single by Jace Fillmore by striking out the next hitter, Martinez to end the game and preserve the 2-0 win.
Chandler turned in perhaps his finest effort on the mound for the Savages, and there have been some great ones. He struck out 15 Hornets and he still has not allowed a hit this season in 16 2/3 innings.
Lamar improved to 9-1 overall and Pueblo County dropped to 9-3. The Savages are slated to play their first Tri-Peaks East doubleheader of the season on Saturday at Rye. First pitch of game one is set for 11:00 am.