Graves tosses no-hitter as Tigers sweep E.A. Cox

Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Zach Graves (3) winds up and throws a perfect strike during the LMS’ pitcher's no-hit performance Monday night versus E.A. Cox.
Tribune photos by Mike Inglsbee

Lewisburg Middle School welcomed E.A. Cox to Marshall County on Monday night for a double-header as the Tigers played its fourth game in five days and looked to win a sixth game in a row, following a seven-run loss to Forrest on February 24.

The first game of the twin bill turned into the Zach Graves show as the Tiger ace threw a complete game no hitter, struck out 10 batters, and drove home the winning run in the first inning as LMS won a tight 2-1 decision at the Jonathan D. Hollingsworth Memorial Babe Ruth Field.

"Obviously our pitching was stout tonight like it has been all season," Tiger coach Beau Hardison, who has lost just two games in two seasons as head coach said. "We still haven't played to our potential yet, but our pitching has definitely been our strong point."

"I think we play down to our competition," Hardison added. "The teams that aren't very good we play down, the teams that are good we play better. This was also our fourth game in five days, so we're kind of tired. We've had several guys that have been sick. So we're kind of run down to say the least."

The Tigers started out with hot bats as J.W. Beasley led off with a base hit before Christian Stacey followed with a hit to advance to Beasley to third.

Beasley scored on a pass ball before Graves stepped up and drove Stacey home with the only Tiger RBI of the game to end the first inning with a 2-0 lead.

LMS shortstop Blake Mooreland (24) catches a pop-up during the Cougars third inning at-bat.

The Tigers threatened again in the third inning when Beasley reached on a single before Laird Johnsey came through with a double to put runners on second and third with two outs.

Caleb McElhaney took the next at bat to a full-count, but ultimately went down on a pop foul to the E.A. Cox catcher and the Cougars got out of the inning with no damage done.

Graves suffered through some control issues in the fourth inning as the first batter went down on strikeouts, but made it to first base on a passed ball. The runner made it to second on a stolen base and to third on a sac bunt on the next at-bat.

Carson Cheek takes a big swing during the Tigers second inning at-bat versus E.A. Cox.

The runner on third went down on a fielder's choice on the next hit, but Scruggs stole third base and stole home to trim the lead down to 2-1 before Graves struck out the final batter of the inning as the Tigers clung to a one-run one lead.

The Cougars last at-bat started out with a walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt.

The next batter struck out but reached on a passed ball, putting runners on the corners with one out.

LMS coach Beau Hardison gathers his players at the mound during a pivotal fifth inning stretch in the Tigers’ win over E.A. Cox on Monday.

The situation led to Hardison making a trip to the mound to talk strategy with the Tiger players.

"That was really more for the whole team because they had a guy on first and third and we thought maybe they would try to leave early on first and try to get into a rundown so the guy on third could score and tie the game," Hardison explained. "So we just kind of talked about our defensive situation and what we were going to do if that happened."

Graves struck out the next batter and forced the final hitter of the game into a groundout and the Tigers escaped with a hard fought 2-1 win.

"We'd like to get some more hits," Hardison said about the next game. "Score a few more runs but really the same game plan."

Hardison got his wish as the Tigers pounded the Cougars 17-1 in the second contest to extend the winning streak to seven games.