Instead, the Lions turned a two-game loss into a three-game victory as they rallied to win the AA title at Westminster’s Harry Lloyd Stadium last Monday.
Lovett (29-10) scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh and added another run in the eighth to come from behind and win 4-3 to tie the series at 1, then clinched the title with a 5-2 win in the third and deciding contest.
Westminster (27-10) entered the day with a 1-0 advantage in the series after beating the Lions 2-1 in the opening game May 25.
“That’s a great team over there,” Lovett coach Lance Oubs said about the Wildcats. “[Westminster] coach [Russell] Wrenn has done a great job with their guys and it’s unfortunate that anybody had to lose a series as hard-fought as this one.
“We talked about it when we got here [last Monday], about pushing it to a game three. We talked about it quite often through the season. As long as you have a strike — no matter what the score is — you have a chance.”
It’s the first state title since 2009 for Lovett, which has made it to at least the semifinals the last six years in a row.
Trailing 3-1 with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning of game two, Lovett stormed back — with a single by Tyler Shiflett scoring Nick Cancelliere and Grant Haley hitting a single to score Shiflett to tie the game at 3 and send it into extra innings.
James Topping provided the decisive blow for the Lions in the bottom of the eighth as he singled to score Jackson Lourie for the winning run to even the series at 1 and send it to a third game.
Starter Pearce Howell left the game after 21/3 innings with a blister on his finger, but Robbie Baker picked up the slack to go the rest of the way — retiring the last 11 hitters he faced.
Lovett came out swinging in the deciding contest with three runs in the top of the first. Brant Wells doubled to score Haley and Sean Reagan, while Willie Candler — pinch running for Wells — scored on a single by Cancelliere.
The Lions added another run in the second when Aaron Schunk singled to score Mitchell Marino and produced one more in the seventh as Candler — pinch running for Lourie — scored after Shiflett was walked with the bases loaded.
Mitch Stallings — Lovett’s starter in game one — pitched his second complete game in three days in the third contest, allowing only five hits and throwing seven strikeouts to take the title-clinching win.
“At the end of the game, I was pretty tired,” Stallings said. “When I was throwing the ball before the game, I felt pretty good. I felt like I had to go out there and throw strikes and the defense would do the rest of the job for me, which they did. They played great.”
For Westminster’s Wrenn, it was a memorable series between the two archrivals.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our group,” Wrenn said. “We lost to an excellent team in Lovett and the weekend was just incredible. Unbelievable environment, with both teams playing great baseball. I am thankful our boys got to experience it and I feel fortunate to have been lucky enough to serve these boys this spring.”