By Will Johnson
MADISONVILLE – The Lovelady Lions are in a 1-0 hole after they lost the first game of a best-of-three Regional Quarterfinal series to the Groveton Indians by a score of 6-2 on Thursday night.
The game started well for the lions as Chad Fulgham was on the bump for Lovelady. Fulgham retired the first two batters he faced but then gave up a single to Groveton’s Glenn Thornton.
Two pitches later, however, Fulgham picked off Thornton at first to end the inning.
The Indians sent Haden Terry to the mound and Terry walked the first batter he faced – Fulgham – to open the bottom of the first. Blake Johnson was up next and drilled a pitch into right field.
It appeared, at first, the ball would drop in for a hit but right fielder Caleb Yarbrough played it well and tracked down Johnson’s liner for the first out. Fulgham was running on the pitch and was doubled up at first by Yarbrough.
After Terry walked Hunter Murray, he got Lee Holsey to chase a pitch for strike three to bring the frame to a close.
In the second inning, Fulgham once again retired the first two batters he faced. He then gave up a walk to Trey Hance who took second on a pick-off attempt. The error was all for naught, however, as Fulgham struck out Yarbrough to retire the side.
The Lions drew first blood in the heated rivalry in their half of the second. Alex McKnight fanned to lead off the inning but was followed by Slade Smith who reached first on a throwing error.
Brett Huester was up next and hit into a 5-4 fielder’s choice, but motored down the first base line to beat the double play attempt. Jay Robinson followed Huester in the batting order and made it safely to first on the second Groveton error of the inning.
On the play, Huester took third and when Logan Lowery slapped the first pitch he saw from Terry into center field, Huester scored to give the Lions a 1-0 lead.
The Lovelady lead didn’t last long as the Indians scored two in the top of the third to take a 2-1 lead. Spencer Pope led off with an infield single and was sacrificed to second by Saul Chavez.
Chance Coker was up next and laid down a bunt that was misplayed by the Lovelady infield and allowed Chavez to score. After Terry singled and Thornton flied out to left, Cody Fairchild connected for a double to right which plated Coker and gave the Indians a 2-1 lead.
Terry opened the bottom of the third by hitting Blake Johnson with a pitch. He then got Murray and Holsey to hit into back-to-back ground outs before striking out McKnight to end the inning.
When the Lions took the field in the fourth, Slade Smith was on the mound for Lovelady. Smith gave up a lead-off double to Hance who took third on a Yarbrough sacrifice. Pope grounded out but on the play, Hance scored to make it 3-1.
Smith hit the next batter he faced – Saul Chavez – and then yielded a triple to Coker which pushed Chavez across the dish. Following the triple, Holsey came in from third to relieve Smith and struck out Terry to end the Groveton half of the fourth.
Terry appeared to be getting stronger as the game wore on. He struck out Taylor Womack and Huester to open the bottom half of the fourth. After an infield single from Robinson, Terry coaxed Lowery to fly out to right to close out the fourth.
Both Holsey and Terry worked a 1-2-3 fifth inning to move the game into the sixth and then Holsey struck out the side to bring the Lions up to bat.
Lovelady managed to cut the lead to two in the bottom of the sixth. After Holsey popped up into shallow right field for the first out, McKnight drew a walk off of Terry. Treyton Wilson came in as a courtesy runner for the catcher and moved to second on Womack’s infield single.
A wild pitch from Terry moved the runners up a base and when Huester grounded into a 4-3 out at first, Wilson scored to cut the lead to 4-2.
Unfortunately, that was as close as the Lions would get as the Indians tacked on two more runs in the top of the seventh while Thornton came on in relief in the bottom of the seventh, retired Lovelady in order and preserved the 6-2 win for Groveton.
Game two was scheduled for Friday afternoon, but as of press time, the score was not available.
Will Johnson may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.