Wednesday, March 23, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbits defeat Badgers

Leader sports editor

It took five years, but Lonoke coach Darrick Lowery finally beat Beebe. Lowery’s Lonoke Jackrabbit baseball team got three extra-base hits and six RBIs from shortstop Casey Martin, and defeated the Badgers 7-5 Friday at Lonoke Ball Park.

“That’s the first time I’ve beat them since I’ve been head coach, so this one was nice,” said Lowery. “We played them every year and he’s (Beebe coach Mark Crafton) got me every time, a couple times by run rule. But hey, if we can set it up every game like we did today, getting two runners on base for our DI guy every time, we’ll do pretty good.”

Martin is a junior who has verbally accepted a scholarship offer from Razorback coach Dave Van Horn, but he wasn’t the only future Hog on the field. Beebe’s Angus Denton is a senior who has already signed with Arkansas, but Denton is a pitcher and did not take the mound on Friday.

Despite a senior Division I pitcher, the Badgers have not enjoyed a tremendous beginning to the season. Monday’s loss dropped the Badgers to 2-5, but they did sweep their conference opener against McClellan last week, and Crafton has some young players he believes are coming along. Three freshmen were in the starting batting rotation on Friday.

“Right now, the freshmen are out-hitting my sophomores and juniors,” said Crafton. “I feel pretty good about my seniors, but other than that we’re still trying to figure things out, see who’s going to fit in best.”

Lonoke scored first in the bottom of the second inning. Haven Hunter hit a one-out single and Martin followed that by roping a 0-2 pitch down the third baseline for an RBI double. He stole third and scored on a fly ball to center field by Savonte Rountree.

Beebe tied the game in the top of the third on two hits and two Lonoke errors. They took a 5-2 lead in the top of the fifth after Denton led off the inning with a triple to the wall in right-center field. He scored on a hit by John Finley. Bryson Halford walked on four pitches before freshman Noah Jolly advanced the runners with a groundout to second base. Freshman Quint Roberson then singled to score the two base runners.

Lonoke nine-hole hitter Kameron Cole hit the first pitch of the bottom of the fifth down the third baseline for a double and leadoff hitter Caleb Horton walked. Hunter struck out, but Martin tied the game on the first pitch of his at-bat when he drove a fly ball over the fence in right-center field.

The game remained tied until the bottom of the seventh when Lonoke was back at the top of the lineup. Horton hit a leadoff infield single to shortstop. Hunter laid down a sacrifice bunt back to the mound, but the throw went to second and was not in time, leaving everyone safe and bringing Martin to the plate. This time his shot back to the wall in right-center field fell short of a home run, but went for a two-RBI, game-winning triple.

Martin went 3 for 4 and was a single away from hitting for the cycle.

He also accounted for half of Lonoke’s base hits. Horton, Hunter and Cole each had one hit for the Jackrabbits (8-1, 1-0).