Panthers-Lovelady series postponed to today

By JOSEPH ELERSON | News-Telegram Sports Writer

May 25, 2007 - BULLARD - For the third straight series, the North Hopkins Panthers have battled the elements and faced another postponement due to the weather.

The Panthers were trailing 10-3 to the Lovelady Lions in the top of the fifth inning in Game 1 of their Class A, Region III semifinal series at Brook Hill School Thursday night.

The game, which is the first of a best-of-three-series, is scheduled to be completed at 3 p.m. today. Game 2 is scheduled for 30 minutes after Game 1, with Game 3 to follow if necessary. It was originally rescheduled for today in Bullard, but the field is still too wet to play after a downpour last night.

"The game plan is to finish Game 1 and then go into Game 2 and 3 and get them all in today," said NHHS head coach Brian Bymaster.

The series opener will be restarted where it was interrupted - Lovelady had the bases loaded with two outs and the No. 7, 8 and 9 hitters coming to the plate in the top of the fifth inning.

"That is baseball and that is why we play a best-of-three as the best team will emerge," Bymaster said. "I will hand it to Lovelady because they came ready to play and they are a decent team. I thought that we were evenly matched and the bottom line is that right now they are outplaying us."

In the top of the first inning, NH starting pitcher Bradley Ball worked out of a bases-loaded jam. Colton Larue led off the inning with a double, and following a hit batter, Jacob Howard popped up to third and Larue advanced to third on a passed ball. Richard Gunnels then walked and Ball induced a fielder's choice from D.J. Joyner and a pop-up to short by Johnathan Paxton to end the inning.

In the second inning, Lovelady put together a two-out rally as Travis Bitner reached with a single, Larue was then hit by a pitch and both players advanced on a double steal. Michael Rich then walked and with the bases loaded, Howard walked to score Bitner. Richard Gunnels then cleared the bases with a single. Gunnels was then caught in a run down as Lorenzo Rivera threw down to Rickey Willis who threw to Jy'Darius Hawkins to end the inning with a 3-0 deficit.

Lovelady added another run in the third as Joyner led off with a triple and with two outs, Case Gunnels gave Lovelady a 4-0 lead with a single. In the fourth, the Lions added another run on a sacrifice fly by Richard Gunnels.

North Hopkins found its offense in the bottom of the fourth with three runs as A.D. Ramirez reached on a fielder's choice and then Rivera put runners on first and second with a single. Steven Crocker cleared the bases with a two-run double, Hawkins then singled and Clements drove in Crocker for the 5-3 deficit.

In the fifth, Lovelady scored five runs off Clements - who was in relief of Ball - on four straight singles by Trent Joyner, Case Gunnels, Bitner and an RBI single by Larue. Rich was then hit by a pitch, scoring Gunnels. With two outs, Richard Gunnels sent a deep fly ball to center field that bounced off the lip of outfielder Jeremy Dixon allowing Larue and Rich to both score.

"I guess the game plan was that he (Ball) was going to throw four innings anyway and if we were up then we would go to A.D. to close it out," Bymaster said. "If we were behind, we were going to bring Dustin in and he did a good job. We just were not able to make plays behind him and that is why we are down seven runs right now.

"This series gives you one game where you can goof up and then come back in Games 2 and 3 and play ball," the coach said. "We are not out of this and these guys have never quit.

Bymaster said if the Panthers fall in Game 1, the momentum will definitely be on Lovelady's side the remainder of the series.

"It is going to make it harder and these guys never quit and we are going to see what happens in Games 2 and 3," he said. "Their guy has thrown a good game and he has only thrown five innings so if they come back and close with him then they burn him. They are going to have to rely on their relief pitchers and ours have thrown good so far, so I still have faith in them."

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