LINDALE -- Free from sharing a baseball district with the Class 6A powerhouses of the northern Houston suburbs for the first time in a decade, the Lufkin Panthers appear to be falling in love with their new home.

That was made abundantly clear in Friday night's 15-1, five-inning rout of Lindale, which kept Lufkin (13-2, 4-0) all alone in first place in District 16-5A. The Panthers have now outscored four of its new league counterparts, 42-1.

Not only did Lufkin become the only school north of 2,000 students in its new district after last February's UIL realignment, the Panthers were finally clear a murder's row of league opponents.

"In the district that we were in, there were no weak sisters," said Lufkin coach Jason Stanley. "Every year there were two or three teams ranked in the top 10. You're talking about The Woodlands, Oak Ridge, College Park, etc. Any time you play teams of that caliber, you have to show up and play real good every night or you get embarrassed. Because one through nine, they can all hit and they're all rolling out Division I pitchers, every one of them are.

"I think us going through the fire has really helped us; this team is not going to take anybody lightly."

Lufkin certainly did not underestimate Lindale (7-4, 2-2), a proud East Texas program that entered Friday's matchup a game behind the Panthers in the standings.

After coming up empty in the first inning despite loading the bases with no outs, Lufkin's offense came alive with 15 runs and 13 hits over the next four innings, including a seven-run outburst in the top of the fifth against the back end of Lindale's bullpen.

The run support was more than enough for senior left-hander and University of Houston signee Trey Cumbie, who overcame sporadic wildness by striking out 11 and allowing just a run on two hits in five innings.

It was the 12th time in 15 games this season the Lufkin pitching staff, which also features Mississippi State signee Parker Ford, has allowed one run or fewer.

"All these guys know that with the pitchers that we have, if we can get them three, four, five, six runs, we have a good chance against anyone," Stanley said.

Cumbie, a four-year varsity baseball starter and two-year letterman at quarterback on the football team, issued an uncharacteristic five walks and needed 91 pitches to clear five innings.

His coach wasn't overly concerned.

"He kinda had trouble with the mound, but I talked to him and that's one of those deals where it's mind over matter; you've got to adjust to it," Stanley said of Cumbie, who was touched for just his second earned run all season on a Stephen Clemmons RBI single in the bottom of the fifth.

"Trey's been pitching for me on the varsity for four years, so he's pretty seasoned. He's seen just about anything that you can see."

Cumbie was also among the many Lufkin standouts at the plate, reaching base in all four plate appearances. He was 3-for-3 with a triple and two RBIs, and his courtesy runner ended up scoring all four times he was utilized.

"He had the highest batting average in district last year; he's pretty multi-talented," Stanley said. "He pitches, he can play outfield for you and do a good job, and can swing the bat."

Every Lufkin player in the starting lineup collected at least one hit, and the only one who didn't -- Zach Thompson -- walked three times and scored three runs. Luke Rowler, Blake Lazarine, Dylan Murphy, Cumbie, and Jerry McCarty had two RBIs apiece.

Lindale starting pitcher Chase Brown escaped a bases-loaded jam in the top of the first by getting a pair of pop ups and a strikeout in succession, and he almost wriggled free once more in the second inning.

With runners at the corners and two outs, Brown got Lufkin's Austin Requena to swing and miss out of the zone for a strikeout, but the pitch in the dirt got away from Lindale's catcher, allowing the first Panthers runner to score and the inning to continue. Haylen Green's RBI single to right field one batter pushed the lead to 2-0 after two.

Lufkin continued its knack for two-out runs with three of them in the third, the big blow coming on Rowler's bloop two-run double to shallow left.

The Panthers tacked on four more extra-base hits and 10 runs over the next two innings, coasting to victory. And just like that, the golden opportunity missed in the first inning was a distant memory.

"Baseball's a funny game, it happens sometimes," Stanley said. "I've got a lot of seniors and they've been around and they know not to panic, especially with the guys that we can put on the mound."

Lufkin is off Tuesday, but returns to action Thursday when it travels to state-ranked Corsicana.

"I'm pleased so far," Stanley said. "The kids are playing hard and we've been pitching well. But this game's over now, and we have a bye, then we have to go get ready for Corsicana."

Lindale hopes to rebound Tuesday at Nacogdoches.

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Lufkin 15, Lindale 1 (5 innings)

District 16-5A Baseball
At Lindale ISD Baseball Complex

Lufkin              023    37    --    15   13    1
Lindale            000    01    --      1     2    4

Pitchers and catchers
  • Lufkin: Trey Cumbie and Tyler Abney
  • Lindale: Chase Brown, Cody Rozell (3), Graham White (5), Dalton Sanchez (5) and Gage Walters

 

WP -- Cumbie
LP -- Brown

 

Doubles
  • Lufkin: Dylan Murphy (2), Blake Lazarine, Luke Rowler

 

Triples
  • Lufkin: Cumbie