Tuesday, May 09, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbit baseball settles for three seed

Leader sports editor

The Lonoke Jackrabbits will have to settle for a three seed when it begins hosting the Class 4A state baseball tournament on Thursday.

The Jackrabbits suffered a disappointing 2-1 loss to Jonesboro-Westside in the 4A-East Regional semifinal. That dropped them to the third-place game against Heber Springs later Monday afternoon. The Rabbits won that game 12-9 after trailing 9-3 through four innings.

In the loss to the Warriors (20-4), Lonoke struggled at the plate against Westside’s soft-tossing pitcher Avery Felts. Casey Martin and Daulton Smith got base hits on the game’s first two at-bats, and they were Lonoke’s last until the seventh inning.

“He was really good with his angles, very accurate hitting his spots,” said Lonoke coach Chris Foor. “I thought we had a good game plan and good approaches. We put it in play, had very few strikeouts. We were just underneath everything. The kid pitched a great game.”

Lonoke loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the seventh. Kade Stuart got a leadoff base hit. Caleb Horton was hit by a pitch with two outs and Will Risner reached on an error at first base. Kameron Cole then drew an RBI walk for Lonoke’s first and only run. That brought Martin, the team’s best hitter, to the plate with the bases still loaded, but he flew out to left field to end the game.

The Jackrabbits (20-12) gave up an unearned run in the bottom of the first due to an error at third base. In the sixth inning, Haven Hunter walked Westside’s leadoff hitter, and back-to-back singles led to a 2-0 Warrior lead.

Martin started on the mound, threw four innings and took the loss. He gave up four hits while striking out five and walking one. Hunter threw the last two innings, giving up two hits with one strikeout and one walk. Felts threw all seven innings and gave up only three hits with four strikeouts and two walks.

Against Heber Springs (21-8-1), Martin led the Jackrabbits back from a 9-3 deficit with a three-run home run in the bottom of the fourth inning and a grand slam in the fifth. Lonoke compiled 12 base hits in the victory.

“We were still getting underneath everything really until about halfway through the second game,” Foor said. “We weren’t playing, I don’t think, with much energy or focus. This was the first time all year we stayed overnight. I don’t know if that had something to do with it, but this was not a typical effort by us. We were finally able to turn it around. I think we’re going to regroup and look a lot better on Thursday.”

Martin went 3 for 4 with two home runs and seven RBIs in game two. Greg Lingo went 2 for 3 while Smith and Stuart each went 2 for 4.

Lonoke will open the tournament at 10 a.m. Thursday against 4A-North three seed Pottsville (25-6). The winner of that game will face 4A-South Regional champion Nashville (21-8) at 10 a.m. Friday.