Tuesday, May 15, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> 2A baseball not Hamlet, Horatio dies in the end

Leader sportswriter

PINE BLUFF — Carlisle added to the long history of Taylor Field by clinching a spot in the 2A state finals for the first time ever with a 13-3 rout over Horatio in the semifinals on Saturday.

The Bison (29-6) battled wet, windy conditions, as well as a surging Lions relief pitcher in Josh Prowant, who shut down Carlisle from the top of the third until the top of the seventh after a blistering start for the visitors on the scoreboard.

Carlisle scored five runs in the first inning and added three more in the second inning before the bats came to a standstill in the third. Horatio threatened to come back with a three-run spree in the bottom of the fifth inning against what seemed to be a tiring starter in Carlisle’s Josh Mathis, but Mathis came back to life in the sixth inning and went the distance on the mound to help the Bison clinch the biggest victory in program history.

“We came out and hit it,” Bison coach B.J. Greene said. “I told the guys before the game started that we have not played a good game in the state tournament yet. We’ve snuck by two times in a row, we’ve not played a good game, and I told them that. I said, ‘These guys are a good ballclub, we need to come out and play,” and they did exactly that.”

Both teams came into the semifinals as No. 1 seeds with Carlisle representing the East Region and Horatio the South Region. Carlisle had its difficulties making it through the bracket with a 5-4 thriller over Gurdon in Thursday’s first round and another close 4-2 victory against Danville on Friday. The win over Danville marked the first time a Carlisle baseball team had reached the state semifinals, but Saturday’s triumph quickly eclipsed Friday’s milestone.

“Words can’t explain it,” Greene said of reaching the finals. “They had never been in the semifinals in baseball in Carlisle history, and now to say we’re in the finals, it’s a testament to our kids – finals in football and baseball. We’ve got great kids here at Carlisle.”

The Bison will face Wood-lawn, the No. 3 seed out of the South Region. The Bears beat Conway Christian 9-6 in the first round and routed Walnut Ridge 13-1 on Friday before edging Junction City 2-1 in the other semifinal game. The final is at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville on Saturday, with the 2A championship game set for 5:30 p.m.

Mathis’s heroics went back to the day before when he extended himself at first base to get the final out against Danville, but it also forced him to wear a wrap for Saturday. It did not impede his performance, however, as he struck out eight batters while giving up six hits. He also helped himself at the plate by going 3 for 4 and driving in two runs, including a double in the top of the seventh that scored Derick Herring to give the Bison a 9-3 lead and started a five-run spree.

“He’s done that all year,” Greene said. “I cannot say enough about how that kid performed. I told him in the middle of the year, ‘Chip, you’re going to win a big ballgame for us this year, and it doesn’t get any bigger than that.”

Chris Hart got things going for Carlisle in the top of the first inning when he led off with a single and advanced on a walk for Tommy Inman. Trey Wilson then singled to score Hart before cleanup hitter Herring walked to load the bases. Deron Ricks took one for the team with an off-target offering from Horatio starter Jordan Izzo, which scored Inman.

Dillon Brazaele increased the Bison lead to 4-0 with a single that scored Wilson and Herring, prompting the Lions to make a change on the mound.

Prowant’s start was equally shaky as the Bison scored one more in the opening frame with a sacrifice fly by Mathis that scored Ricks, and the Bison added three more scores during the next inning with singles from Inman, Wilson and Mathis.

“We went four innings without scoring,” Greene said. “And we were just chasing, chasing, getting away from everything that we talked about on how to approach these guys. We knew we had to get a few extra runs in that last inning just to have some security, because Chip (Mathis) had already thrown 102 pitches there. So, we had to have some security there, and they did a good job of coming up there and doing what they needed to do.”

The Bison got back on track offensively in the top of the seventh when Herring led off with a walk and advanced on a single by Ricks. Mathis then scored Herring with a double in the gap between left and centerfield, and Ricks came in soon after that on a passed ball. Mathis scored on a single grounder to center by Austin Reed to give the Bison an 11-3 lead.

Hart doubled to left and scored Reed, and Inman set the final margin with a single shot to right that scored Hart.

Hart was 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI. Inman was 2 for 3 with an RBI and Wilson was 2 for 4 with two RBI.