Instead, Groover was called up to the varsity squad just in time of the season-opener, and he’s proven a very useful member of coach Brian Sabo’s team.
On Tuesday, Groover turned in his most memorable performance of his young career, tossing a complete-game no-hitter as the Lakers swept the visiting Trojans, 3-2 and 4-0.
“I had confidence in my pitches, and I knew that if I had confidence, I could get it done,” Groover said. “I threw mostly fastballs, with a few curves to keep them thinking.”
For more photos from Tuesday's game, click here.
Unlike in the majors, where pitchers working on no-hitters are typically ignored by their teammates, Groover’s teammates encouraged him as the end of the game neared.
“I mentioned it to a few of them,” he said.
Groover hit a rough stretch to start the seventh, when he threw six straight balls to start the inning.
“Dillon’s got good command, throws strikes, and he always has a smile on his face,” Lakers’ coach Brian Sabo said. “He has fun out there.
“In a couple earlier games, once he got around 90, 100 pitches, he started losing control.”
Lakers’ pitching coach Brian Peets went out to settle Groover down.
“I told him I’d like to see him finish a game, and if he let another guy on, we were bringing (Brian) Chappel in,” Peats said.
Sabo was relieved he didn’t have to pull Groover without letting him finish out the no-hitter.
The Lakers managed eight hits off Fruitport starter John Sullivan.
Spring Lake’s J.P. Batts’ RBI single drove in Michael Zietlow for a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning.
The Lakers added a pair in the fifth as Carter Bench and Zietlow reached base and scored on passed balls. In the sixth, Michael Dillingham singled, moved around the bases and scored on a wild pitch.
“We had some heads-up base running and took advantage of some opportunities,” Sabo said.
Despite not having a hit, Fruitport went down 1-2-3 only twice in seven innings. They put a scare into the Lakers in the seventh, putting two runners on base with
just one out, but Groover got the next two outs, including a strikeout on his 100th pitch of the game, to close out the contest.
In the opener, the Trojans threw their ace, Cody Bayle. He struck out eight batters while allowing six hits and three earned runs.
The Lakers countered with Nic Bectel, who went the distance, allowing two runs and six hits. He struck out four.
Both of Fruitport’s runs came in the top of the first, when Sullivan doubled and later scored on Bayle’s base hit. Goldman followed with an RBI double to score courtesy runner Jacob Breese for a 2-0 advantage.
Spring Lake got a run back in the bottom of the inning as Batts’ base hit drove in Bench, who had reached on an error.
The Lakers tied the game in the fourth. Batts singled and scored on Codey Houts’ base hit.
Spring Lake scored the game-winner in the fifth as Michael Dillingham doubled and scored on Batts’ base hit.
Trojans’ coach Mike Giddings wasn’t happy with his team’s performance.
“Not good today,” he said. “We’ve been playing better lately, but their pitcher threw strikes, and they made the plays behind them.”
Giddings was disappointed that his team didn’t play a cleaner contest against the Lakers.
“It’s really been our downfall this season, giving up too many free 90s — passed balls, wild pitches, errors,” Giddings said. “We’ll be ready for them in districts.”
The Lakers and the Trojans will meet again in the Division 2 district tournament at Sparta on June 2.
Sabo said the Lakers approached Tuesday’s doubleheader with the district tournament in mind.
“We didn’t want to tip our hat, so we didn’t throw our 1 or 2 pitchers, (Michael) Zietlow and (Brian) Chappel,” Sabo said. “We threw our 3 and 4 guys, and they pitched great.”