By Rob Patrick
The second-seeded Texarkana Razorbacks advanced to the winners bracket final, a win away from qualifying for the Senior American Legion State Tournament, with a 6-2 win over Benton McClendon's on Saturday.
Michael Nava, Caleb Hawkins and Austin O'Donnell combined to limit Benton to five hits but, with Nava and Hawkins combining to issue nine walks and hit two batsman over the first eight innings, the Razorbacks were never quite comfortable until O'Donnell worked a 1-2-3 ninth.
Benton thus had its opportunities but stranded 13.
Texarkana was set to play Bryant on Sunday, July 19, at 1 p.m., with the winner earning a bid to State and a spot in the Zone 4 championship round. Benton, the sixth seed, came back to play an elimination game later on Saturday and stayed alive with a 5-2 win over fifth-seeded Little Rock Continental Express. That win put Benton in another elimination contest at 4 p.m. on Sunday against Little Rock Blue.[more]
The Razorbacks were led on offense by Josh Stringfellow and Michael Milum who each had three hits. The Hogs produced runs with three sacrifice flies, two by Will Wagner.
Benton had a chance to break out big in the opening frame. Nava, struggling with his command, issued walks to Seth Hobbs and Blake Childress. Michael Long and Austin Pfeiffer followed with singles up the middle to make it 1-0. But, with the sacks jammed, Nava induced a pop to second then a double-play ball that got him off the hook.
Texarkana tied it in the bottom of the innings. Gavan McCauley beat out a bunt base hit, Trevor Rogers singled up the middle and, after Stringfellow was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Wagner produced his first sac-fly.
But Benton's Heston Besancon kept it to that by retiring the next two on a strikeout and a fly to center.
Benton made noise again to start the second. Tanner Bates slapped a single to right and Riley Hobbs walked. But Nava bounced off the mound to field Ashton Wilson's bunt and threw to third for a force. He then fanned the next two as he began to find his groove. That began a streak in which he retired 12 of 15 batters. The only two baserunners Benton managed through the end of the fifth inning was Pfeiffer in the third when he was hit by a pitch and again in the fifth. Wilson contributed the only hit along the way, a two-out single in the fourth to interrupt as Nava struck out the side.
Texarkana, meanwhile, took the lead in the bottom of the second with a double by Milum, a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly by Ian Underwoond. In the third, Rogers walked and, after advancing to second on a wild pitch, scored when, with one out, Wagner reached on an errant throw after a tab back to the mound. Marc McRae singled Wagner to third and he scored from there on a two-out double by Milum.
Underwood drew a walk but Besancon struck out Colt Galloway to keep it 4-1.
But, in the fourth, Stringfellow blooped a two-out double to right and, after Wagner walked, scored on a single by McRae to increase the margin.
Knuckle-baller Jace Mitchell took over for McClendon's in the fifth and, after Pfeiffer made a nice sliding catch of a foul pop at the fence, he hit Underwood. With Galloway at the plate, Underwood stole second but was tagged out when he over-slid the bag.
Hawkins relieved in the sixth and retired Benton in order. Texarkana, however, added a run in the bottom of the inning when Rogers singled, stole second, took third on an infield hit by Stringfellow and scored on Wagner's second sacrifice fly.
Benton got a chance in the top of the seventh when Hawkins walked the bases loaded. With two down, Steven Brooks crushed one to center on a line only to have McCauley track it down to end the threat.
After Mitchell worked around a single to Milum and an error that allowed Galloway to reach in the bottom of the inning, Benton waited out another couple of walks, this time to Beau Fulcher and Riley Hobbs. Wilson tapped to first and Wagner made an aggressive play, fielding the ball and firing to third for the force. With two down, however, Seth Hobbs worked for a walk to load the bases. And he appeared to be out of the inning when he got Childress to sky one to center. But, with nary a cloud in the sky, McCauley lost track of the ball. When he was finally able to pick it up, it was nearly too late. Despite his lunging attempt, the ball fell in for a hit, driving in a run. Long followed with a hard-hit ball to third but it resulted in a force there to end the inning.
O'Donnell finished up by inducing a pair of groundouts then getting the last one on strikes.
TEXARKANA 6, BENTON McCLENDON'S 2
Senior American Legion
Benton ab r h bi Razorbacks ab r h bi
S.Hobbs, ss 2 1 0 0 McCauley, cf 5 1 1 0
Childress, lf 4 0 1 1 Rogers, rf 4 2 2 0
Long, c 5 0 1 0 Stringfellow, 2b 4 1 3 0
Pfeiffer, 3b 2 0 1 1 Wagner, 1b 2 1 0 2
Brooks, cf 5 0 0 0 McRae, ss 4 0 2 1
Fulcher, 2b 4 0 0 0 Spencer, lf 4 0 0 0
Bates, dh 4 0 1 0 Milum, dh 4 1 3 1
R.Hobbs, 1b 2 1 0 0 Underwood, 3b 1 0 0 1
Wilson, rf 3 0 1 0 Galloway, c 4 0 0 0
Besancon, p 0 0 0 0 Nava, p 0 0 0 0
Mitchell, p 0 0 0 0 Hawkins, p 0 0 0 0
O'Donnnell, p 0 0 0 0
Totals 31 2 5 1 Totals 32 6 11 5
Benton 100 000 010 — 2
Texarkana 112 101 00x — 6
E—Besancon, S.Hobbs, Pfeiffer. DP—Benton 1, Texarkana 1. LOB—Benton 13, Texarkana 10. 2B—Milum 2. SB—Underwood, Rogers, Stringfellow, Wilson. SF—Wagner 2, Underwood.
Pitching ip r er h bb so
Besancon (L) 5 5 3 7 3 2
Mitchell 4 1 0 4 0 1
Nava (W) 5 1 1 4 3 6
Hawkins 3 1 1 1 6 3
O'Donnell 1 0 0 0 0 1
Balk—Nava. HBP—Stringfellow (by Besancon), Pfeiffer 2 (by Nava), Underwood (by Mitchell). WP—Nava, Besandon, Hawkins.