By Will Johnson
LOVELADY – The Lovelady Lions came from behind and then held off the Grapeland Sandies to win on Thursday evening by a score of 9-8. The Lovelady victory over Grapeland brought the District 21-2A season to a close for both teams and capped off an unblemished district record for the Lions.
It was Senior Night in Lovelady as the Lions honored their graduating seniors in a pregame ceremony. Once the festivities concluded, the visiting Sandies came to bat and tried their best to ruin Senior Night and the Lions’ undefeated district record.
Lee Holsey was on the mound for Lovelady and struggled with his control in the early innings. Holsey got Riley Chipman to ground into a 6-3 force to lead off the first and then walked Case Boyd and Parker Wilson.
Dustin Ackley popped up for the second out of the inning and Holsey looked as if he might work his way out of the jam. However, he walked Josh “Bear” Ackley to load the bases and when Tanner Prasatik doubled to right, Boyd, Wilson and Ackley rounded the bases to score. Prasatik also scored later in the inning and before the Lions even came to bat they were looking at a 4-0 deficit.
The Lions cut into the Sandies lead in the bottom of the inning as they roughed up Grapeland pitcher Parker Wilson for three runs.
Chad Fulgham grounded out to open the Lions’ at-bat. Blake Johnson was up next and reached first after he was hit by a pitch.
Hunter Murray grounded into a fielder’s choice for the second out of the inning, but took second on a steal and made it to third on an infield single form Holsey.
An errant throw on a steal attempt by Holsey allowed Murray to trot home with the Lions’ first run and after Alex McKnight walked, the Lions had runners at the corners.
Treyton Wilson came in to run for McKnight and when Brett Huester lined a 0-1 pitch into the gap for a double, both Holsey and Wilson crossed the plate to make the score 4-3.
Wilson retired Taylor Womack to end the first inning and both he and Holsey settled down in the second to hold the opposing line-ups in check. .
As the third inning got underway, Holsey walked Wilson to lead things off. Coach Tommy Parker had seen enough, lifted Holsey and brought Murray in as relief. The move paid off as Murray struck out D. Ackley, J. Ackley and Prasatik to get out of the inning.
In the bottom of the third, Murray the game with one swing of the bat. On Wilson’s first pitch of the inning, Murray turned on it and deposited the ball over the left field fence for a solo homerun to even the game at four.
The Lions weren’t through, however. Holsey walked and came around to score to give the Lions their first lead of the game. Huester and Jay Robinson also crossed the plate on Fulgham’s two out double and after three complete, the Lions led 7-4.
Murray retired the side in order to start the fourth and when Lovelady came to bat, the Lions tacked on a run. Grapeland made a pitching change as J. Ackley went from behind the plate to the mound and Wilson moved behind the plate.
Murray walked to open the inning and Daniel Cook came in as a courtesy runner. Holsey followed with a single to center and both runners moved up a base on a passed ball. McKnight grounded into a 1-3 force while Huester grounded into a 3-1 force. On the Huester ground-out, however, Cook was able to score from third to make the score 8-4 in favor of the Lions.
In the fifth inning, the Lions made another pitching change and brought in Fulgham. The move almost backfired as the Lions let the Sandies creep back into the game.
Chipman led off the fifth with a walk and promptly stole second. Boyd followed with a single to center which moved Chipman to third. After Wilson popped up, D. Ackley lined a Fulgham pitch into left field to push Chipman across the plate and move Boyd to second. J. Ackley was hit by a pitch to load the bases and when Fulgham hit Prasatik, Boyd came into score as D. Ackley moved to third. An infield single from Rick Frauenberger plated D. Ackley and made the score 8-7.
Fulgham managed to settle down after that and struck out Blake Howard and Cameron Mixon to end the inning.
The Lions added a run to their lead in the bottom of the fifth and it turned out they would need it. J. Ackley walked Slade Smith to start things, but picked him off at first. Jay Robinson also drew a walk and stole second to move into scoring position.
A double from Fulgham drove in Robinson from third to make the score 9-7 before J. Ackley could record the third out and send the game into the sixth inning.
The Sandies wouldn’t go quietly in the sixth. Fulgham coaxed Chipman to hit into a force at first and then walked Boyd. Wilson hit into a fielder’s choice to catch Boyd at second, but was quick enough to get down the line and avoid the double play.
Wilson’s hustle paid off on the next pitch when D. Ackley hit one deep to left field that bounced off the middle of the fence for a double which scored Wilson from first to make the score 9-8.
That was as close as the Sandies would get, however, as Fulgham worked a 1-2-3 seventh inning to close out the game and hand the Lions a 9-8 win.
The two teams are both headed to the postseason where Lovelady will take on the Douglass Indians in a best-of-three series scheduled to begin on Friday, May 5 in Lovelady at 7 p.m. Game two will be held in Douglass on Saturday, May 6 beginning at 1 p.m. and game three, if necessary, will begin 30 minutes after the conclusion of game two.
Grapeland will face the Alto Yellow Jackets in a best-of-three series scheduled to begin on Friday, May 5 in Westwood at 7 p.m. Game two will be also held in Westwood on Saturday, May 6 beginning at 11 a.m. and game three, if necessary, will begin 30 minutes after the conclusion of game two.
Will Johnson may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.