Lakers extend win streak to six games

Camdenton changed the narrative Monday night in Eldon.

In a game that initially began on March 16 as the season opener for the Lakers, the visitors walked off the field that day trailing 3-0 after two innings before rain interrupted the rest of the game. Fast forward 53 days later, and things were looking a little different as Camdenton walked away with a 20-4 win over the Mustangs.

“It was kind of a reminder of the previous two years where Eldon really shut the door on us in the opening game. On our way home, we talked about how this felt really similar to the previous years and how things need to change,” Camdenton coach Bryce Durnin said of that rainy day back in March. “Then, we roll off six wins in a row and put ourselves in a lot better position than we had the last two years. Now towards the end of the season, I think this is six in a row for us and we got them at the right time.”

The Laker bats certainly allowed the good times to continue as the team put together 20 hits from nine different players and nine different players recorded at least one RBI. After adding a single run in the third, Camdenton busted the game wide open with eight runs in the fourth and 12 more in the sixth to leave no doubt. Quality at-bats up and down the lineup gave Eldon no relief.

“We started out the year pretty strong and kind of got into a slump. I think the key to finding that again was going hard in practice absolutely all the time,” said Camdenton’s Andrew DiBello who recorded three hits and four RBIs. “We’ve taken batting practice real serious in improving our at-bats and the way we see pitches... We’ve been on kind of a roll, playing as a team and staying hot and I’m hoping we can stay hot.”

And while practice has certainly helped, a little technology seems to have proven beneficial as well. Durnin said he prints off stats for his players and the stats reveal quite a bit about each batter’s trips to the plate in terms of their discipline and the kinds of pitches they decide to go after.

“I’ve just been printing it out, handing it to them and having them look at it and talk about it. These last two weeks, I feel like it has really paid off,” the coach noted. “They are talking about it in the dugout between innings, when they are not hitting and when we are hitting at practice. It is something we are thinking about.”

Dylan Thompson did the most damage for Camdenton as he led the team with four hits and five RBIs, but the hitting was contagious. Brandon Pasley turned in three hits, Garrett Stamper added three RBIs and three other players finished the day with two hits and two RBIs. As enjoyable as it can be to be productive, each player may be just as glad to see their own teammates come through as well.

“It has been kind of fun and Austin Carter has just come along,” Camdenton’s Paxton DeLaurent said. “He was batting .200 and now he might be near .300. He is like 10 for his last 12 and that has probably been the most fun thing seeing him as a senior in his last year just getting hot at the right time.”

The pitching was just as solid for Camdenton, too, as Stamper worked four innings and allowed just a single run on one hit while walking two and striking out six. It was a good sign for the hurler who is scheduled to be the starter when district play begins on Saturday.

“We’ll see what we got, know that he is capable of doing it and our team is really confident when they know he is going out there,” Durnin said. “It is just about matching that with offense like what you saw today and the last two weeks and seeing what happens.”

Meanwhile, there were not very many easy outs for a trio of Eldon pitchers in Austin Pipes, Landon Wall and Zach Graham as they combined to allow 18 earned runs while walking 10 batters and striking out two. After initially holding a 3-0 lead, the Mustangs quickly found out that nothing could be taken for granted.

“We’ve been through it all this year. The majority of our games we have not been upbeat,” Eldon coach Chad Hinds said. “We get mentally out of it in the first couple of innings and just have not been really tough.

“When you give up that many walks and errors and let them hit the ball like they did, it is going to be a two-touchdown lead at the end of the game,” the coach added. “We came out today in a suspended game thinking being up 3-0, they were going to hand it over to us and they came out raking. We got down on ourselves and one thing led to another.”

Corbin Harrison, Tate Warny, Drew Rodriguez, Charlie Mays, Fisher Snelling and Braydy Hill all produced hits for Eldon, but the team only saw RBIs from Rodriguez, Mays and Snelling.

“If one thing does not go right, it seems like everything goes wrong,” Hinds said of the pitching and offensive woes. “We just did not have it today so we have to figure it out.”

The good news is that Eldon (4-12, 4-3 Tri-County Conference) will get a chance to get back on track before districts as it ends the regular season with a home game against Iberia on Thursday at 5 p.m., before taking on Buffalo in the first round of districts on Saturday in Marshfield at 1 p.m.

“We are in a little bind, but hopefully we can come out against Iberia and play a Class 2 school pretty tough,” Hinds stated.

“Like I’ve been preaching all year, stay mentally tough and be head-strong. You have to come to the park and be willing and ready to play your hearts out and right now we are not doing it. My message would be to play the game like it is your last because Saturday very well could be.”

Camdenton (16-9, 3-6 Ozark Conference) was scheduled to host Versailles Tuesday in the regular season finale and up next is the first round of districts where the Lakers will host Jefferson City on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. DiBello said going forward, it just has to be a continuation of the things that made a 6-game winning streak possible.

“We are on a hot streak right now and we have to hang onto it and go into this game confidently. We are playing a great team and I think they won state last year, but we can’t let that get in our heads,” he said. “We have to go at them like we’ve been going at every one of these teams hitting the bal and playing solid defense. If we play as a team, we are going to be ok.”