LONE GROVE — Sulphur pushed across two runs in the top of the sixth on an Allie Saunders single, and the Bulldogs were able to hang on for a 2-1 victory over the Lone Grove Longhorns in a Lake Country Conference matchup involving two highly-ranked teams.
Sulphur, ranked No. 3 in Class 3A, improved to 13-1 overall and 3-0 in conference play. Lone Grove, ranked No. 10 in Class 4A, fell to 9-3, 2-1.
Both teams got solid pitching performances inside the circle, with Saunders picking up the win and Lone Grove's Madi Baughman taking the loss. Saunders gave up seven hits and issued two walks. Baughman allowed four hits, fanned five and surrendered two free passes.
The difference in the game was in the Longhorns' inability to push runners around to score. Lone Grove stranded at least one runner in each of the seven innings and 11 for the game. That was what Longhorns coach Jimmy Miller pointed to as a key.
"We left too many people on base, and especially in scoring position," Miller said. "We hit the ball well, and we continued to put people aboard, but when we could not get them across the plate, we left the door open for Sulphur. We kept shooting ourselves in the foot, and we just had so many feet."
Lone Grove took the lead in the bottom of the first when leadoff batter Haley McCutchen beat out an infield single and took second on a sacrifice bunt by Cheyenna Stepp. Raley Long lined a 2-2 pitch by Saunders up the middle to score McCutchen.
The teams headed to the sixth with the Longhorns clinging to the 1-0 lead. Sulphur's Sarah Shores worked a 3-2 count into a walk to lead things off for the Bulldogs, and Baughman hit leadoff batter Harlee Griffis.
A sacrifice bunt by Haley White moved the runners to second and third. Baughman got Reilly Williams to pop up in the infield, and it looked as if Lone Grove was about to weather the two-walk curse to start the inning.
But Saunders hit a bloop single to shallow left that scored both Shores and Griffis to give Sulphur the 2-1 lead.
"That walk to start the inning followed by the hit-by-pitch were huge," Sulphur coach Heath Gilbert said. "We kept them from scoring over and over, and I thought we would run out of time. But the key for us was when Allie (Saunders) was able to just put the ball in play. The ball just fell right for us."
Lone Grove put two aboard in the bottom of the sixth, including a single by McCutchen. The Bulldogs, however, managed to dodge another bullet when Stepp grounded to second to end the inning.
Page 2 of 2 - "The one thing we did not want was Haley coming up to start the seventh," Gilbert said. "She is likely the best player in this conference, and we knew if she got on to start the inning, we could have some problems.
"Even though we did not hit the ball well, we got the timely hitting we needed. And that helped us remain undefeated in conference play."
Saunders was 1-for-3 with two RBIs and Hali Gilbert had two hits for the Bulldogs. Haley McCutchen was 2-for-4 and Harley McCutchen doubled for the Longhorns.
Sulphur 2, Lone Grove 1
Sulphur 000 002 0 — 2 4 3
L. Grove 100 000 0 — 1 7 1
Allie Saunders and Hali Gilbert, Madi Baughman and Lynzi Taylor. W — Saunders. L — Baughman.
2B — Lone Grove: Ashton Johnson, Harley McCutchen.