LONE GROVE — A strong performance on the mound from Justice Ruhnke and several highlight-reel worthy plays in the field led the Longhorns to an 8-0 win over Sulphur on Tuesday.
“We just had to come out with confidence in what we do,” Ruhnke said. “We’ve been hitting the ball really well lately.”
The Longhorns (17-6) have stayed busy with a wooden bat festival in Texas over the weekend and a trip to face Class 4A’s No. 1-ranked Tuttle on Monday.
“We saw the best pitcher we’ve seen all year (Monday), and it helped us out,” Lone Grove coach Jake Melton said. “Iowa Park, at Krum, was really good, and Sulphur is a really good team.”
Lone Grove struggled in a 7-1 loss against Tuttle.
“If you want to get better, you’ve got to play better teams,” Ruhnke said. “That’s what we’ve been doing lately.”
On Tuesday, patience at the plate with the bases loaded resulted in a walk off in the most literal way possible: a walk.
Ruhnke struck out four over five innings, and Grant Harmon led the Longhorns at the plate with three RBIs on three hits.
Melton had high praise for his team’s effort in the field.
“We’re lucky we got a good pitching performance from Ruhnke today,” Melton said. “Tanner Vernon is a great center fielder, he can go get it. He’s fast and has good instinct. Aaron Hamilton is a great defensive third baseman.”
Lone Grove went up 2-0 in the first inning on an RBI ground out from Hamilton and a line drive to right field that scored Vernon.
Sulphur’s Ryan Rackley took a hard grounder off the palm of his glove at third to get the force out and threw out Ruhnke at first to end the inning.
In the third inning, Lone Grove’s Terry Rowe laid down a bunt and raced to first to load the bases. A Harmon double down the third base foul line scored two runs, and Vernon was walked to load the bases again.
Dillon Atkinson capped off the inning with another RBI double that dropped in front of Sulphur’s charging right fielder for a 6-0 Longhorns lead.
Lone Grove committed two base running errors that kept it from enacting the run-rule earlier than the fifth inning.
“We didn’t run the bases very well, we’ve got to get better,” Melton said.
Christian Harrell was hit by a pitch, followed by a Ryan Good walk to start the fifth. Much like his third inning bunt, Rowe placed the ball in a difficult spot and Sulphur opted for the force out at third but couldn’t make a clean exchange allowing Lone Grove to load the bases.
Harmon hit a towering fly ball to right-center field that went over the Bulldogs’ right fielder to make it 7-0 Lone Grove.
Vernon ended the game by run-rule with his bases-loaded walk.
The Longhorns travel to Comanche on Thursday.