When I hopped on a Metrolink towards Busch Stadium on Sunday, I could feel the added excitement and energy in the air. The Cardinals could clinch their division with a win, and win they did, hammering their arch rival Chicago Cubs 9-0 to win the National League Central.
But waiting for the Cardinal celebrations on the field and in the clubhouse with MLB branded bottles of beer and champagne to finish were our own Lewis and Clark Trailblazers baseball team. The Trailblazers are in the heat of their “Fall Ball” schedule, which is essentially the collegiate level’s equivalent to MLB Spring Training. They faced the Statesmen of Lincoln Trail College, and had quite the act to follow.
The fall schedule for college baseball isn’t “of record”, but it’s a good opportunity for Randy Martz to see what kind of team he has heading into the 2020 baseball regular season. Much like MLB Spring Training, in these games pitchers and position players are cycled more, allowing some players who might be on the outside of the lineup looking in a chance to prove themselves in competitive innings.
Despite the scrimmage nature of Fall Ball, you could tell from the stands that this one mattered more. It’s not every day you get to play under the lights at Busch Stadium, hell, most will never have the privilege to say they have. Wanting to make an impression on the near thousand that stayed after the Cardinals celebrations, both teams were playing a tight game, limiting big hits, runners mostly coming from walks.
L&C was on the scoreboard in the first inning, knocking in their leadoff man who walked to start the game. Returning hurler Connor Pinsker pitched the first inning, giving up one base hit and recording two strikeouts in the process. Other Trailblazer pitchers were not quite as clinical, but were effective at containing the Lincoln Trail lineup, for the most part.
Defensive mistakes tend to make or break games at the collegiate level, and they definitely tended to break the game for the Trailblazers. An L&C throwing error in the third gave Trail a run to tie the game at 1-1, and another infield throwing error in the sixth inning gave the Statesmen their second run. A wild pitch immediately following tied the game again, this time at 3-3 after the Trailblazer offense had pushed two runs across in the fifth inning.
The game was still deadlocked, 3-3, when defensive mishaps reared their ugly head again for L&C, this time in the form of left fielder Quinton Smith tripping as he ran for a fly ball, which dropped in for a triple that gave Lincoln Trail the lead. The Statesmen would also score that runner on a single, giving them a two run advantage late in the ballgame.
Not settled there, Trail added another in their half of the eighth inning, and forced the Trailblazers into needing heroics to pull out the victory. Heroics didn’t come unfortunately, and L&C suffered a loss under the lights at Busch Stadium.
Despite errors and wild pitches telling the story of the game for Lewis and Clark, a couple plays at shortstop by Yeison Serrata drew ooohs and ahhhhs from the crowd in attendance at Busch Stadium, including a diving play and throw to first that prompted the PA announcer to deem the play “Ozzie like”. A comparison many shortstops would be honored by, especially when playing at the home of the Cardinals, the team Ozzie Smith spent the majority of his Hall of Fame career with.
This may be the end of the MLB regular season, but just starts the process of college teams getting ready for next spring’s campaign. For more information on L&C baseball, and all Lewis and Clark athletics, visit: LC.edu/athletics.