Wednesday, May 11, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke holds off JW Warriors

Leader sports editor

The Lonoke Jack-rabbits couldn’t get their bats going in the semifinal round of the 4A-East Regional tournament on Friday at Lonoke Ballpark, but they made up for it in the third-place game on Saturday. The Jackrabbits beat Jonesboro-Westside 11-9 and will carry the three seed from the East into the Class 4A state tournament that begins tomorrow in Ashdown.

Lonoke will face Hamburg (18-8), which will likely have its senior southpaw Drake Streeter on the mound, and lefties gave Lonoke trouble in the regional tournament. The Jackrabbits struggled for seven innings against Brookland’s lefty in the first round of regionals before getting three base hits off of him in the first of two extra innings.

On Friday, Gosnell lefty Andy Roberts held Lonoke to two hits, both by Savonte Rountree, in a 3-0 victory in the semifinal round.

Lonoke coach Nick Smith said preparing for left-handed pitching is a big priority as the Jackrabbits prepare for Thursday’s opening round game at 10 a.m.

“We’re working a lot in the cage against left-handed pitching,” said Smith. “We have one pitcher who is left handed. He’s not out on the mound throwing live or anything like that, but he’s in the cage and we’re just trying to get used to seeing that left-handed delivery.”

Streeter carries an 8-1 record and a 1.22 ERA into Thursday’s matchup.

Another key to an extended run in state is good defense, and Lonoke didn’t display that in Saturday’s victory. Westside only had five base hits, but seven Lonoke errors kept the Warriors in the game.

Lonoke wasn’t able to get on its field on Tuesday to work on defense, but Smith has addressed the issue with the players.

“Hamburg can hit, one through nine, so we’re going to have to make plays,” Smith said. “We talked about focusing on just making the regular plays. If you make the routine plays, the great plays will come. Even if you aren’t able to make the great play, if we’ll just make the regular plays, we’ll be fine.”

In Saturday’s game, junior Razorback commitment Casey Martin hit for the cycle and the Jackrabbits piled up 13 base hits in the victory. Westside led 7-4 going into the sixth inning, but Lonoke tied the game and added four runs in the top of the seventh to take an 11-7 lead.

Westside could only manage two in the bottom half of the final inning, and will settle for the four seed.

The Jackrabbits were held to just two hits over seven innings by Roberts in a 3-0 loss on Friday. Rountree was solid on the mound Friday as well. He threw 5 1/3 innings, giving up just five hits and one earned run.

Playing as the visiting team on Saturday against Westside, Lonoke took a quick lead in the first inning as Martin got the hardest part of a cycle out of the way early. Haven Hunter drew a one-out walk, and Martin drove a pitch to the wall in center field for an RBI triple.

The Warriors grabbed the lead in the bottom of the same inning with one earned and one unearned run. They made it a 5-1 lead in the bottom of the second with three runs on a walk, two hits and an error.

Hunter hit a one-out single in the top of the third, and Martin followed with a double that left runners in scoring position.

Kade Stuart sacrificed to right field to score Hunter while Martin held at second base. Rountree then doubled to make it 5-3.

Westside added two more runs in the bottom of the fourth on no hits, two errors and a walk.

Martin hit a leadoff single in the top of the fifth. Stuart and Rountree also singled with Rountree driving in Martin and leaving runners on the corners with no outs, but Lonoke failed to add another run.

Martin tied the game with one swing in the top of the sixth. Caleb Horton and Hunter each singled before Martin completed the cycle by sending a 1-1 pitch over the wall in straightaway center to make the score 7-7.

After holding Westside scoreless in the bottom of the sixth, Lonoke took the lead for the first time since the top of the first.

Gabe Rooney was hit to start the inning and Keith Lingo singled. Brayden Hardy walked to load the bases, and Kameron Cole walked to score Rooney and give Lonoke an 8-7 lead.

Horton hit a sacrifice grounder that scored Lingo, and Hunter followed that with a two-RBI double to left field.