Mere minutes apart, the Lovejoy baseball and softball teams saw their momentous playoff runs go up in smoke.
Both had a familiar tinge to them as well, with the Leopards and Lady Leopards falling at the hands of Hallsville in a pair of two-game sweeps.
Lovejoy baseball, which matched its deepest playoff run in program history by advancing to the regional semifinals, dropped ballgames of 9-8 and 5-2, while the Lady Leopards, appearing in the regional finals for the first time since 2015, lost games of 3-1 and 17-4 to Hallsville.
On the baseball diamond, Lovejoy succumbed to a role reversal after a year spent thriving in close quarters. The Leopards entered the regional semifinals with a 16-6 record in games decided by three runs or less before dropping two in a row under those same circumstances against the Bobcats.
Lovejoy’s 9-8 setback in Game 1 came in extra-inning, walk-off fashion in a contest the Leopards positioned themselves to win. After rallying with four runs in the top of the seventh inning to tie the game at 6-6 — anchored by a three-run double by Matthew Mainord — Lovejoy grabbed an 8-6 lead in the eighth on a two-run double by Trent Rucker.
Hallsville countered with three runs scored with two outs in the bottom of that inning, stringing together three consecutive hits that included a two-run double by Matt Houston to plate the tying and winning runs.
As Lovejoy initially got up off the mat with a 1-0 lead to open Game 2, courtesy of an RBI double from Mainord, the Bobcats took control of the ballgame with four runs scored in the top of the sixth inning.
Once again, Hallsville’s scoring surge came with two outs in the inning — a frame where the Lovejoy defense did itself no favors by committing an error just before the outburst that would have ended the inning altogether.
That proved costly in a ballgame where the Leopards managed to outhit Hallsville 8-6 but left 10 runners on base in a three-run loss. Across the two-game series, Lovejoy’s Kolby Branch went 4-of-9, Kyle Branch went 4-of-6 and Mainord hit 3-of-7 with four RBIs.
The timely hit eluded the Lady Leopards to begin their series with Hallsville in the Region II-5A finals. Lovejoy matched the Lady Bobcats with six hits apiece in Game 1 but found itself playing catch-up all night — at last denting the scoreboard in the sixth inning behind an RBI triple from Sydney Bardwell to trim the gap to 3-1.
Hannah Harvey and Jade Owens staked Lovejoy to a more encouraging start the following night in Game 2, logging back-to-back RBIs that boosted the Lady Leopards to a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first inning.
Hallsville didn’t wait long to respond, scoring seven unanswered runs for an 8-2 lead that Lovejoy was unable to threaten. Kennedi DeBoer scored a run off a Lady Bobcat error in the bottom of the fourth inning and Harvey singled in Bailey Bradshaw in the fifth before Hallsville put the game out of reach with six runs in the top of the sixth inning to fuel the run-rule verdict.
The Lady Leopards surrendered 17 hits in their season finale, countering with seven. Harvey was responsible for two of those, as well as two RBIs, and had three hits for the series.
Owens managed to hold the Lady Bobcats in check for much of Game 1, allowing three runs on six hits in six innings pitched, but had a tougher go in Game 2 with 13 runs allowed on 13 hits in just four innings.
Lovejoy’s softball team ends its season at 31-12-1 overall, while the Leopards posted a 30-10 record. Lovejoy’s baseball team paved its road to the regional semifinals with playoff series wins over Frisco Reedy, Hillcrest and Prosper Rock Hill, while the softball team defeated Frisco Wakeland, Carrollton Creekview, Frisco Heritage and Sulphur Springs on their way to the regional finals.