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Jonesboro, Lovejoy meet in ‘important’ region contest

Photo by Derrick Mahone
Jonesboro coach Dan Maehlman says he is looking for his team to eliminate some of its errors as they head into a key Region 4-AAAA game today at Lovejoy.

Photo by Derrick Mahone Jonesboro coach Dan Maehlman says he is looking for his team to eliminate some of its errors as they head into a key Region 4-AAAA game today at Lovejoy.

Jonesboro at Lovejoy

Time: 5:30 p.m.

Records: Jonesboro 14-2 overall and 11-1 in region; Lovejoy 14-3, 13-0

Starting pitchers: Jonesboro, Darian Austin; Lovejoy, Xavier Anthony.

Scouting report: Lovejoy is coming off an 11-day layoff since its last game before last week’s spring break. Jonesboro has lost in the regular season to Lovejoy in football, basketball and the earlier meeting in baseball this school year. Jonesboro outfielder Cameron Sutton has received several college football offers in the last two weeks from Div. I schools.

Before Jonesboro center fielder Cameron Sutton could answer the question, he needed some clarification and confirmation from his teammates and coaches.

When asked how important is today’s game at Lovejoy, Sutton first posed a question to everyone within earshot of the dugout during practice.

“Is the Lovejoy game for the region championship?” he asked.

It is sort of a yes and no answer. Today’s game will not decide the region championship, but it could go a long way in determining the seeding for the state playoffs.

“This game is very important,” the junior said. “This could be for the region championship. We got to come out and play our brand of baseball.”

And that is something that Cardinals coach Dan Maehlman has been waiting on all season.

Despite its 14-2 overall record and 11-1 mark in Region 4-AAAA, Maehlman has yet to be impressed with the way his team has played.

“It’s been like one game and an inning where I felt good about the way we have played,” Maehlman said inbetween infield practice on Tuesday. “At this point right now, we are not ready to go into the playoffs. Those teams that will be in the playoffs don’t make the types of errors we are making after 16 games. We have nine games left to clean that up.”

For the Cardinals, it starts today with the 5:30 p.m. contest against Lovejoy, which is leading the region with a 13-0 record. Lovejoy won the earlier contest 10-3 in the first meeting between the county rivals on March 22.

“We are going to see them at their best,” Lovejoy coach Craig Chatman said. “It is a pretty important game. We would like to get a little separation between us and them as we head into the final weeks of the season.”

Maehlman wasn’t at the earlier meeting after being selected to coach in an all-star basketball game. But he got a full report from players, parents and his assistant coaches of the game.

“My phone was blowing up after the game,” he said. “Not taking anything away from Lovejoy, but my kids thought we were just going to walk into the park and win. Lovejoy treated it like a home game and played with a lot more intensity. I think my kids will be fired up and ready to play.”

Since that loss, Jonesboro has won six straight games and 14 of its last 15 heading into today’s rematch. Lovejoy hasn’t played since March 31 when it had its 14-game winning streak snapped with a 11-2 loss to Stockbridge.

“You are always concerned about your team regardless if you are coming off a long break,” Chatman said. “We have done everything possible to stay sharp and in game-shape. I think this game will refresh us.”

Prior to last week’s spring break, Lovejoy had played eight games in 14 days.

“I think the break was good for us,” Chatman said. “I know [Jonesboro] will be ready to go against us.”

So far this school year, Lovejoy has dominated Jonesboro in competition.

The Wildcats defeated Jonesboro in football for the team’s only regular season loss. Lovejoy defeated the Cardinals in the only regular season basketball matchup, but Jonesboro got its revenge in the state playoffs to advance to the semifinals.

Those two regular season wins in football and basketball proved to be the region championship clincher.

“They have had our number,” Sutton said. “They are a tough team that fights to the end.”