By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

LOVELADY – The Lovelady Lions used a nine run second inning to put away the Normangee Panthers by a score of 15-2 and remain unbeaten in District 21-2A action.

While the final certainly doesn’t indicate it, the Panthers had their chances to make it a completely different ballgame beginning in the first inning.

Hunter Murray was on the mound for the Lions and gave up a lead-off single to Cobey Powell to open the game. An error in the outfield allowed Powell to take second on the hit and when Evan Pate drew a walk off of Murray, the Panthers had runners at first and second with no outs.

Ryan Pate hit into a 1-3 fielder’s choice but moved the base runners to second and third, with only one away. It was at this point Murray seemed to find his control as he struck out the next two Panthers on six total pitches to end the Normangee threat.

When the Lions came in from the field, they wasted little time in taking the lead. Powell was on the mound for the Panthers and struck out lead-off batter Chad Fulgham.

Blake Johnson followed with a walk and moved to second when Powell issued a free pass to Murray. Johnson and Murray moved up a base on Alex McKnight’s single to center and Johnson scampered home with the game’s first run when Powell uncorked a wild pitch.

Powell managed to settle down and got the next two hitters he faced to end the inning and hold the Lions to only the one run.

After Murray struck out the side in the top of the second, the wheels fell off for Normangee. The Lions crossed the dish nine times and by the time the inning was over, the Lions had put the game out of reach.

Taylor Womack led off and reached on an error. Logan Lowery singled on a skimmer through the infield and when Daniel Cook was hit by a pitch, Lovelady had the bases loaded.

Fulgham followed with a shot to short that was mishandled for an error and allowed both Womack and Lower to cross the dish. On the play, Cook motored into third.

Johnson was up next and hit a single through the infield to score Cook and move Fulgham to third. An error on Normangee’s first baseman allowed Murray to safely reach and re-load the bases with the score now 4-0.

McKnight struck out but that only paused the Lions’ scoring onslaught for a moment. After Powell walked Brett Huester to push Fulgham across the plate, Powell was given the hook.

Jacob Schmidt came in as a relief pitcher but was unable to contain the Lovelady run production. Slade Smith roped Schmidt’s second pitch into center field to score Johnson and Murray and move Huester to second on the play.

Womack came to bat for the second time in the inning and singled to left to drive in Huester, moved Smith to third and made the score 8-0. Lowery also came to the plate for the second time in the second. He reached on an error which brought in Smith and moved Womack to third.

Schmidt caught Cook swinging at strike three but Fulgham followed Cook with a hard hit ball up the middle to score Womack and make the score 10-0.

After what seemed like a two hour inning – and trailing by a score of 10-0 – Normangee finally retired the Lions on Johnson’s pop-up to center.

After Murray retired the side in order during the top of the third, the Lovelady pitcher led off the bottom of the inning with a solo homerun to the opposite field to make the score 11-0.

Lovelady added two more runs in the inning to bring their lead to a whopping 13-0 and the Panthers were forced to go to their bullpen once again. Schmidt was pulled and Evan Pate was brought in.

The Lions tacked on two more runs in the top of the fourth to make the score 15-0 before Normangee finally broke through for two of their own in the top of the fifth. However, it was too little, too late as the game was called in the bottom of the fifth because of the mercy rule.

Hunter Murray picked up the win in four innings of work. He gave up four hits, struck out eight and walked one. Slade Smith pitched an inning in relief and gave up two unearned runs with one K and two walks.

Cobey Powell took the loss for the Panthers. He pitched 1.1 innings and gave up eight runs (one earned) on three hits. He struck out three and walked three. Jacob Schmidt pitched 0.2 innings and gave up five runs (one earned) on five hits with one K and a walk. Evan Pate closed out the game for the Panthers with two innings pitched. He gave up two runs on three hits and struck out one.

At the plate, Normangee was led by Cobey Powell who was 2-3 with a run scored. Lovelady was led by Taylor Womack who was 2-4 with a RBI and Hunter Murray who was 2-3 with two RBI and three runs scored.

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.