April 19, 2009
Tyquan Lucious has made clutch and game-winning shots for the West Lowndes High School boys basketball team.
But nothing Lucious has done on the basketball court compares to what he did Saturday night on the diamond.
The sophomore right-hander pitched his first career no-hitter to lead West Lowndes to an 11-0 victory against Mount Olive in the deciding game of the best-of-three first-round Class 1A state playoff series.
D.Q. Farmer, Demetrius Malone, and Trevor Stowers each had two RBIs earlier in the day to help West Lowndes earn a 9-3 victory in game two to help set up the clincher.
The victories marked a quick turnaround for West Lowndes, which lost game one 2-1 in the eight innings Friday at Mount Olive. The Panthers made the three and a half hour trip home without much conversation knowing they couldn''t afford another game where they "went through the motions."
Thanks to a suddenly hot lineup and the pitching of Devin Malone and Lucious, the Panthers changed their ways just in time.
"It was real long," West Lowndes coach Todd Stanley said of the bus ride home Friday night. "We got in about midnight, and there wasn''t a whole lot to say. I told them it was coming because we had a bad practice Thursday and went through the motions. We went down there Friday and did the same thing."
The performance left Stanley wondering if his players would respond. He received an encouraging sign Saturday morning from seniors Farmer, Clark McCollum, and Devin Malone that made him feel a little better. They told him "don''t worry about it, we have got it."
The Panthers then took care of business.
A two-run single by Demetrius Malone in the third inning of game two tied the score at 2 and got the Panthers rolling. Farmer added a double, triple, two RBIs, and scored three runs, Devin Malone had a triple and scored two runs, McCollum scored two runs, and Trevor Stowers had two RBIs to force game three.
Lucious knew he was going to start on the mount and didn''t disappoint. He retired the first 13 he faced before issuing back-to-back walks that ruined the perfect game. But he recorded his sixth strikeout and induced a comebacker to end the game.
The only hard hit ball came in the fourth when Devin Malone snared a line drive to center field.
Lucious said it didn''t bother him that the fate of his team''s season rested on his shoulders. He said he never would have imagined he would be perfect into the fifth.
Still, he put the thoughts of the no-hitter out of his mind to get the final two outs and help the team erase the memory of Friday night.
"We played sloppy," Lucious said. "We had to adjust to the field. Then we weren''t hitting. We got our minds focused last night (on the bus ride home)."
Stanley wasn''t sure how Lucious would fare in a pressure situation. He should have known better.
"He is about our most efficient pitcher," Stanley said. "He just needs a little confidence. I was proud of the way he came out and dominated. He throws strikes and he always gives you a chance."
Farmer knew early on Lucious was going to deliver. He agreed his teammate looked just as smooth on the mound as he does on the basketball court.
"He was locked in from the word go," Farmer said. "I liked the way he came out and used the fastball and the curveball. I knew it was going to be hard to solve him."
With game three scoreless in the third, Ryan Stowers singled. With one out, Farmer smacked a flyball to left field that went foul to make the count 1-1. He was well out in front of a changeup and fell behind 1-2.
A fan in the stands shouted to Farmer, "You''re swinging late." Farmer said he heard the comment but knew he had missed an offspeed pitch and wasn''t going to change his approach. He continued to look fastball and had a feeling he would see that pitch again after a waste pitch made the count 2-2.
Farmer did and promptly ripped the ball to left field for a double that scored Stowers.
"That double really got my confidence back up," Farmer said. "My teammates finally found confidence in me again. I just tried to come out and be a leader in the third game because we had to win to get to the next round."
West Lowndes tacked on five more runs in the third and added five more runs on five hits, including doubles by Fredrico Moody and Lucious, that helped set up the 10-run mercy rule.
Stanley said Farmer''s hit in the third provided the spark the Panthers needed. It''s something he has come to expect from a senior leader who sets the tone for the team.
"I texted him last night and said to him, ''Son, you have to be a leader. The kids respond to you,'' " Stanley said. "They feed off him. He has been struggling the past two weeks. When he gets going it seems to make everything better."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.