Quitman High fell to Converse 7-2 in the semi-final round of the LHSAA Class B state baseball tournament played last Wednesday at McMurry Park in Sulphur, LA. For 6 ½ innings Quitman out hit Converse 6-5 and played to a 2-2 tie. Unfortunately, this was all after the district 4B champion Wildcats opened the game by sending 11 batters to the plate and getting five hits and five runs.
With the loss the top ranked Wolverines saw their season draw to a close with a 17-13 record. Converse improved to 20-7 and advanced to play Choudrant in the state title game where they fell to the now back-to-back Class B state champion Aggies.
In retrospect, the game was over before it had really even began and it can be traced back to what transpired on Converse’s second at bat of the game. It turned out to be the difference in the Wolverines having their spirits buoyed to seeing their hopes of playing in the championship game take a downward spiral.
“When that play happened I had a sinking feeling that things just weren’t going to go our way,” said Lockhart.
What he was referring to was the bunt attempt by Converse after the leadoff batter had walked to reach first to open the game. Quitman hurler, Ty Simonelli threw a perfectly executed pitch, which in that situation is up high. As desired the ball was weakly popped up toward third. The runner on first had taken off on contact and for a second it looked like the Wolverines would get an easy double play but with the third baseman charging in as he is supposed to do when a batter squares around, the ball had just enough juice on it to go over his head and fall harmlessly to the ground on the edge of the outfield.
“It was a poorly executed bunt by the batter but as I watched that bunt sail over our third baseman’s head, I had a sinking feeling that things just weren’t going to go our way, recalled Lockhart.
Instead of Converse having two outs and no one on, they had two runners on base and no outs. As a good team does, Converse capitalized on the break and three hits and two walks later five runs had crossed the plate before the second out of the inning was made.
“That play was the difference in the game,” reflect Lockhart. “It changed the whole mentality of our pitching and defense.
To Quitman’s credit they regrouped after the rough start and played Converse even the rest of the way but the damage done was simply too much to overcome. Lockhart praised his team on how they competed.
“Our guys have nothing to hang their head about,” said Lockhart. “They played hard to the very end and I am very proud of their effort.”
After playing what was easily the strongest schedule of any team in Class B and one of the toughest in the state regardless of classification, Quitman entered the state tournament ranked #1 in Class B even though they had compiled a record (15-12) of just three more wins than losses.
“At the beginning of the year, I honestly wasn’t sure we would win many games,” reflected Lockhart, who has now taken to the state tournament in two of the last three years it was played. “When I was making up the schedule, I tried to fill it with as many defending state champions and semi-finalist from every class I could. I wanted every game to be one that we would have to play well in order to win.”
It was a brutal gauntlet that before district play began found Quitman with an 8-11 record but thanks to the strength of schedule, ranked #4 in the Class B. Playing the tough teams proved to be a good strategy for the Wolverines though as evidenced by their 3-0 win over Choudrant in the their district 2B opener. Quitman would go on to win seven of their next nine games to vault into the top spot in Class B.
“We hit one stretch that was pretty tough and it had me wondering how we would be mentally once we hit district play,” said Lockhart. “To their credit our guys never flinched and approached every game as just the next game. Looking back, playing in those tough games all year is what I believe helped us win our first two playoff games, which were close and against very good teams.”
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