By Phil Albert
Special to The Daily
Lovejoy baseball coach Craig Chatman briefly took off his cap after the Wildcats took a 9-6 win over visiting Forest Park Friday evening in a very important Region 4A-AAAA contest.
"I'd pull the rest of my hair out, but you can see I don't have much left already," he joked following the region win on Senior Night.
Lovejoy (9-9, 7-3) clinched no worse than third place in the subregion and an automatic region playoff position, while Forest Park (5-16, 5-6) still remains in contention for the fourth-place position in the subregion.
George Bowman pitched two innings of relief, striking out five batters, to earn the save as Kyle Lacy notched the victory. Lacy pitched five innings, allowing seven hits and six runs, striking out eight batters and walking five.
Lacy was unlucky as Forest Park jumped on him for four runs in the first two innings, as the Panthers took a 4-0 lead.
Lovejoy answered back with two runs in the third inning before registering its first hit as a team. The Wildcats broke the game open with five runs in the fourth against losing pitcher Darren Hollemon, who was in trouble on the mound all night.
The Panthers touched Lacy for two runs in the fifth before chasing Lacy from the mound with two walks in the sixth. But the Panther bats had no answer for Bowman.
Showing off a blend of pitches (fastball, curveball and slider), Bowman struck out three with the bases loaded and added two more strikeouts in the seventh. Still, he criticized himself for a high fastball.
"I'm my worst critic," he admits. "I just love the game. I always want to do my best. If I make a mistake, I don't want to do it again."
Bowman would pound his fist and jump up around the mound with each out posted. He realizes he can still get better. He's also working on a split-fingered pitch.
"I haven't had the guts to try it out there yet," he admitted.
RBI hits by Chris Malone and Rashad Jones gave Forest Park an early lead. An RBI double by Kevin Duncan and a flyout by Cody McKinney gave the Panthers a 4-0 lead.
Hollemon walked the first two Lovejoy batters he faced in the first inning but pitched out of the jam. The Wildcats loaded the bases in the second but could not get the key hit.
But Lovejoy put two runners across home plate in the third on a flyout by Lavarius Tucker and an error. Later, a single by Evan Whitlock became the Wildcats' first hit on the night. The Wildcats finally got to Hollemon in the fourth. Two hits and a walk loaded the bases with no outs. David Wilkins singled to center, scoring two runs and Wilkins took second on the throw home. Avery Austin then singled to right, scoring two more runs, and Austin wound up at third as his hit was misplayed for a two-base error. Austin then scored on an error.
A two-run double by Malone cut the margin to 7-6 in the fifth inning. Malone, who finished the night with two doubles and three RBIs, would strike out in the sixth inning threat against Bowman.
Lovejoy tallied two runs in the sixth, including an RBI double by Tucker.
Chatman sees a scenario where the Wildcats still have a chance of catching first-place Griffin and Jonesboro to win the region, but he knows it's a long shot.
"I'll shave my head if that happens," he joked.