Lions Bow Out of Playoffs

By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

MADISONVILLE – If not for a 3-run first inning, the Lovelady Lions and Groveton Indians might still be playing.

Unfortunately for the Lovelady Lions, the Groveton Indians scored the only runs of Game Two to win the game by a score of 3-0 and sweep the Lions in the best-of-three series by a count of 2-0.

The timely hits and explosive offense shown by Lovelady throughout the season did not make the trip to Madisonville as Groveton pitchers managed to quiet the Lions’ roar in both games.

In Game One, Haden Terry threw six innings and Glenn Thornton came on for an inning of relief as the Indians took control of the series with a 6-2 win.

Game two saw Thornton back on the mound for Groveton and he wasted little time recording the first two outs of the game as both Chad Fulgham and Blake Johnson grounded out to second base on 1-0 counts.

Hunter Murray was the third batter faced by Thornton in the first and while he worked Thornton to a full count, the Indians’ pitcher coaxed Murray to ground into a 6-3 force to end the Lovelady half of the first.

Chad Fulgham was on the mound for Lovelady and also recorded two quick outs. Chance Coker popped up the first pitch he saw to left fielder Logan Lowery and then Fulgham then struck out Haden Terry on three pitches.

Thornton was up next and singled to left. Cody Fairchild followed Thornton in the batting order with a single to right which moved Thornton to second. A walk to Antony Chavez loaded the bases for Blake Hollis who lined a Fulgham pitch into center field which scored both Thornton and Fairchild.

Chavez moved to third on the play and also crossed the dish after Trey Hance slapped a shot into left to make the score 3-0. Fulgham collected himself, however, and caught Spencer Pope looking at a called third strike to end the first inning.

In the second, Thornton struck out Lee Holsey and Alex McKnight before he forced Brett Huester to ground out to second.

Fulgham gave up a lead-off single to Saul Chavez to start off the bottom of the second before he struck out Coker and retired Terry on a grounder to third. After Thornton walked, Fairchild flied out to Taylor Womack in centerfield to bring the second inning to a close.

As the game move into the top of the third, the Lions threatened to cut into the Groveton lead. Jay Robinson led off with a single to left and moved into scoring position when he swiped second base.

Womack followed Robinson in the batting order and hit a rocket towards the middle of the infield that was snagged for an out.

Robinson thought the ball was going to get through and had taken off for third, but was doubled up at second for out number two.

Lowery followed Womack in the batting order and reached first on an error. That was as far as he got however, as Fulgham grounded into a 6-3 force to end the top half of the third.

When Fulgham returned to the mound in the third inning, he had a fairly easy go of it. He retired A. Chavez on a fly ball to center, got Blake Hollis to pop up to left, gave up a single to Yarbrough and then got Pope to ground out to end the inning.

Lovelady threatened again in the top of the fourth. After Johnson struck out to open the inning, Murray walked, stole second and moved to third on a passed ball during Holsey’s at-bat. He was stranded there, however, after Holsey fanned and McKnight hit into a 6-3 force at first.

The Lions made a pitching change in the bottom of the fourth as Murray came on in relief and promptly retired the side in order. Murray caught S. Chavez looking at a called third strike, forced Coker to pop up to second and recorded his second K of the inning when Terry couldn’t catch up to his heater.

Thornton was still on the mound when the Lions came to bat in the fifth. Huester grounded out on the first pitch he saw in the fifth but Robinson collected his second hit of the game on an infield single.

He stole second on a 1-1 pitch to move into scoring position but was left there after Womack and Lowery struck out.

Murray ran into some trouble in the bottom of the inning after he opened with a strike out of Thornton. An error allowed Fairchild to reach first safely and he moved to third on a double from A. Chavez.

The Lovelady ace managed to get out of the one out jam he faced when he struck out Hollis and got Hance to ground into a 4-3 force.

The Lions threatened again in the top of the sixth. Fulgham led off with a single and stole second. Johnson sacrificed him to third and the Lions appeared to be in business. It wasn’t meant to be, however.

Murray popped to shallow right and Fulgham tagged up at third. Caleb Yarbrough came up throwing and gunned down Fulgham at the plate to end the inning.

After Murray held the Indians in check in the bottom of the sixth, Thornton retired the Lions in order in the top of the seventh to end the game, giving Groveton the 3-0 win as well as the 2-0 series victory.

Following the game, Coach Tommy Parker discussed the series.

“We knew they were good. They have pitching, they play really good defense and they put the ball in play. They have a really good shot to go to Round Rock (site of the Class 2A state baseball championship,)” the coach said.

On his decision to start Fulgham in Game Two, Parker said Hunter Murray was a little under the weather and he didn’t feel comfortable starting him.

“We got down three in the first inning but Chad (Fulgham) did a good job holding them down. We thought maybe something good would happen if Hunter could shut them down in the last three innings and sure enough, he did. It just didn’t happen for us – offensively – in either game. We only scored two runs in 14 innings of baseball. We have to tip our caps to them. They’re good, they’re real good,” he said.

“We struggled at the plate. Last night, we only got three or four hits and the seven, eight and nine hitters made the major contributions. We just went cold. I’ve heard it all my life – good pitching stops good hitting – and this was a pretty good indicator. We just didn’t get it done,” Parker explained.

Will Johnson may be reached via e-mail at [email protected].

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