Tuesday, March 19, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Lions can’t catch up after early Beebe lead

Leader sportswriter

Timely hits and key defensive stops helped the Badger baseball team start spring break on a high note as it beat Searcy 8-4 in nonconference action Friday at Beebe High School.

Although Beebe (6-4, 0-2) never trailed, Searcy (4-4, 1-1) stayed within striking distance throughout the game. There were various moments in the contest when the Lions appeared to make a serious run at the Badger lead, but the home team had an answer for nearly every Searcy run.

Beebe led 1-0 at the end of the first on a sacrifice fly by three-hole hitter Justin Browning. Leadoff hitter Than Kersey scored on the play after starting the inning with a walk. Searcy knotted it up at 1-1 in the top of the second on a RBI-single by Anthony Arnold that drove in Justin Rea.

A one-out single by Brandon Stane and a ground ball to third base by Browning put Beebe back up 3-1 in the third. Deion Byrd cut the Badger lead to 3-2 in the top of the fifth with a double down the first baseline that scored Matthew Parsley. But the top of Beebe’s order started doing damage to the Searcy pitching corps from the fifth inning on.

With two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Browning hit a two-run home run over the left-field wall to give the Badgers a 5-2 cushion. Searcy added a run in the sixth, but another two-out Badger rally in the bottom part of the inning scored three runs and gave the home team its largest lead at 8-3.

After a Kord Simpson walk the previous at bat, Kersey drove in the Badgers’ sixth run of the game with a hard hit, RBI-single up the middle of the diamond.

Kersey stole second with Stane, the two-hole hitter, at the plate, but it wasn’t necessary. Stane followed with a two-run home run over the left field wall to give the Badgers the five-run lead.

“Of course we had two home runs in the game, which was good for us because it gave us a little confidence,” said Beebe coach Mark Crafton. “We hadn’t been hitting the ball well, and we scattered some hits around today. And we scored all those runs in the fifth and the sixth with two outs.

“So that just shows them when they put in the work, they get to reap the rewards if they do what they need to do.”

Searcy set the final score in the top of the seventh on the Badgers’ lone error of the game. Jacob Sexton grounded out to start the inning, but Beebe freshman pitcher Angus Denton began to show the fatigue of pitching a complete game as he walked the next two batters.

A stolen base put Arnold on third, and Brady Anderson followed with a ground ball to shortstop. Stane fielded the ball cleanly, but the throw to first was off, and Arnold scored to make it 8-4. With two on and one out, the Badgers got out of the jam as leadoff hitter Brandon Zomant grounded out to second base, and Stane redeemed himself by throwing out Colby Crossen at first after a routine grounder.

Denton earned the win on the mound for the Badgers as he struck out four and walked three in his seven innings of work. His performance stood out to the head Badger.

“That was his first complete game,” Crafton said. “He threw for us earlier in the year and has done well on the mound. He’s really stepped up and played good third base for us, but we wanted to throw him into the fire against a top-notch ball club like Searcy, and he rose to the challenge.”

Stane and Browning led the Badgers with two hits apiece. Kersey, Denton, Jonathan Underwood and Pete Drennan also had hits for Beebe.

The Badgers won’t play again until March 26 when they host Forrest City in a 5A East Conference doubleheader starting at 4 p.m.