Tuesday, May 22, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke bats quiet, Saints win 4A

Leader sports editor

Lonoke’s No. 1 pitcher got hurt in the state tournament, but the bats made up for it and got the Jackrabbits to the state championship game. Once there, the pitching held a powerful Shiloh Christian lineup in check, but the bats went away as the Saints beat Lonoke 4-0 Saturday at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville for the third-straight class 4A state championship.

Lonoke rarely struck out against hard-throwing Shiloh pitcher David Petrino, but rarely made solid contact and couldn’t find the gaps the entire game.

“We just didn’t hit the ball today,” Lonoke starting pitcher Lane Moore said. “We put it in play we just didn’t hit it hard, not like you need to if you want to win a championship.”

Lonoke also committed four errors in the field and gave up three unearned runs. Making things even more difficult was a mobile strike zone that seemed to move farther and farther into the lefties’ batters’ box for the first several innings, then began to drift back to the right side late in the game.

“The strike zone was a little inconsistent and that makes things difficult,” Lonoke coach Darrick Lowery said. “But that’s something that both teams have to deal with.”

Moore also refused to use the drifting strike zone as an excuse.

“It is hard to adjust and figure out what’s going to be a strike,” said Moore, who left the mound in the third inning. “But that’s not the reason we lost. Those four errors and not hitting like we’re capable of is what cost us this game.”

Moore and early reliever Zachary Riesner held Shiloh to just one run for five innings. Shiloh finally extended its one-run lead in the sixth inning with three runs without an out. Petrino started it off when he reached on an error at third base. He then scored on an E2 when he attempted to steal second and the throw from home sailed into centerfield. Tyler Harris then singled and Joseph Paulino technically got a base hit when he popped up to second base. It should have been a routine out, but went down as a base hit when Lonoke second baseman James Christian slipped and fell while backing up to make the catch. After an out, Ryne McDonald singled to centerfield to score both base runners, setting the final margin with an inning left to play.

“They made us pay for some of our mistakes,” Lowery said. “And they did a great job defensively. They were very solid.”

The Saints committed no errors in the game.

Though they got three hits and walked twice, the Jackrabbits left just one on base the entire game. Three Lonoke players were thrown out trying to steal while another was thrown out on the base paths after a base hit.

Lonoke junior shortstop Blake Gooden, who entered the game with an .833 batting average in the state tournament, kept the hot bat alive on the first inning when he ripped a single to centerfield off Shiloh starting pitcher Jacob Rhodes.

He went hitless over his three at bats, walking once and striking out once. He still finished the tournament with an impressive .733 average, going 11 for 15 in the tournament.

Moore and left fielder Shane Pepper got Lonoke’s other two hits in the game.

Moore, Reisner and Garrett Spears combined to give up just five hits to Shiloh, but the errors and other mistakes allowed the final three runs to cross the plate.

Shiloh finishes the season 26-6 while Lonoke finished 21-10.

The Jackrabbits return all but three players next season.