The early offense of the Gunter Tigers proved to be too much for the Bulldogs to overcome as Howe dropped both games in the Class 2A, Region II Bi-district series in Frisco over the May 4 weekend.
The Tigers put crooked numbers on the board in the first inning of each game, while their pitching made it stand as Gunter moved on in the 2013 playoffs.
For Howe, a season with numerous highs ended a bit too soon.
“You just can’t fall behind like that,” Howe head coach Jason Brogdon said. “The first innings killed us bad.”
Howe was blanked by Gunter, 11-0, in the first of two games. After Howe had scored in the top half of the first in game one, Gunter came back with a five-spot in the bottom half of the frame, and the Bulldogs couldn’t answer.
In game two, on a blustery Saturday at Deeter Smothermon Field, the Tigers scored six runs in the first inning to get off to another hot start. A three-run home run by Dakota Hunter and a two-RBI single by Dan Fisher, were the big shots in the inning.
Lucas Hampton retired the first three Bulldog batters in order before a single to right by Garrett Fulenchek gave Howe some hope. It was quickly dashed as Fulenchek’s courtesy runner, Kevin Covington, was picked off at first before back-to-back strikeouts by Hampton shut down the frame.
An infield hit by Quinton Harris in the third and Ryan Haines’ lead off hit in the fourth were the only other Howe hits in the contest. Fulenchek was intentionally walked with one out after the Haines hit, but two more K’s by Hampton ended that threat.
An injury to Bulldog catcher Zach Blevins forced some lineup shuffling in the later innings. After Blevins had to leave the game with an apparent injury, Haines was called on to move behind the plate from his center field position. Later, after Josh Griffin relieved Fulenchek on the mound, the junior moved behind the plate for the final frame.
In the Friday night opener, Howe had a couple of late chances but could score only once in the final two innings. After loading the bases with none out, Fulenchek scored Howe’s second run of the game.
A one-out double by J.C.Watson gave the Bulldogs some hope in the seventh and with two outs, Haines legged out an infield hit that moved Watson to third. Gunter got the final out without further damage to take a 1-0 lead and set the stage for the Saturday sweep.
With freshmen and sophomores dotting the Howe lineup, there are lots of bright spots for the future. Catcher Zach Blevins and middle infielders Easton Ross and Fulenchek return, along with pitchers Josh Griffin, Griffin Underwood and Fulenchek.
The Bulldogs senior’s are Cody Thurman, J.C. Watson and Ryan Haines, and all turned in impressive performances in the 2013 season.