With a four-game winning streak heading into this weekend’s Lake Country Conference Tournament, Lone Grove set one goal: to win the tournament.
As part of the streak, the Longhorns (13-2) defeated Plainview for the second time this season with an 11-3 victory on Saturday as part of the Ardmore/Lone Grove Showcase.
Senior center fielder Tanner Vernon relished his team’s victory over its rival. He was not satisfied with Lone Grove’s showing. He said he believed that the Longhorns should’ve played for the showcase championship because Lone Grove defeated Ada, the champions of the tournament.
Lone Grove (13-2) coach Jake Melton said his team’s goal is to win the conference tournament.
“I think we’re pretty prepared,” he said. “We’ve been pretty solid for the most part. We’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing and playing it one pitch at a time, basically.”
Those goals are tempered by a shorter-term focus.
“We take it one game at a time. We don’t think about the future or the past,” Melton said. “We’re in the present, we’re in that ball game. We’re not trying to think (about) the future. You’ve got to be in the moment, so that’s where we try to stay.”
Offensively, Melton emphasizes productive outs. The Longhorns struggled with that in the early stages of their game against Wynnewood.
“Our pitch selection has not been great,” Melton said after that game. “We can’t pop up that much, basically.”
Nonetheless, Grant Harmon, Vernon and Aaron Hamilton all feature on-base percentages greater than .500.
Once Lone Grove base runners reach first, a significant portion of the game plan is to put pressure on the defense. The Longhorns have stolen 70 bases — and been caught only four times. That’s a success rate of .946. Lone Grove’s season high is 10 stolen bases against Wynnewood. The Longhorns also stole nine bags against Pauls Valley.
Harmon, the lead-off hitter, paces the team with a .457 batting average and 30 runs scored.
Pitching is a more sustainable way to have success and Lone Grove has great depth. Harmon leads the team with 40 strikeouts and a 2.33 earned run average — among pitchers who have thrown more than 10 innings.
Johnny Garrison threw a perfect game on Friday against Wynnewood. Justice Runke no-hit Valliant on March 18. Cody Geurin, who started the junior varsity game against Ringling on Monday, could pitch on the varsity squad if necessary, Melton said.
“We have a lot of pitching depth,” Melton said. “A lot of guys have gone out there and thrown innings this year. We’ve got Grant (Harmon), Aaron Hamilton, Runke, C.J. Harrell, Dillon Atkinson and Garrison. Cody Gentry could throw on the varsity if he needed to.
“Our kids work hard to try to be better pitchers. The more pitchers you have, the better you’re going to be.”
The Longhorns will face the winner between Dickson and Comanche at 4 p.m. today in Madill at the LCC Tournament.