Less than a week after they suffered one of their most unexpected losses of the season, the Benton Cardinals got a chance to redeem themselves and extend their season.
The Cardinals did so with a 5-2 win against Cameron in the quarterfinals of the Class 4 District 16 tournament Saturday at Phil Welch Stadium.
Benton (15-8) coach Johnny Coy discussed the difference between this game and last Monday’s 8-5 loss to Cameron (6-17).
“That win against us was their first conference win, but we knew today that we were the two seed and they were the seven seed and we needed to come out and play like that. I don’t think it could have gone any better,” Coy said. “We woke up a little bit. We’d been in a bit of a funk and I think these guys started realizing that anybody can beat anybody on any certain day.”
Fundamental to the win was a game-defining four-run third inning for the Cardinals. They benefited from a litany of errors from the Dragons, both in terms of pitching and fielding.
“Before this game we were struggling at the plate but I think our swings were looking a lot better. When we had that four-run inning in the third it got our energy back up and we really needed that to happen,” junior Braysen Miller said. “We capitalized on a few mistakes they made and took advantage of those moments.”
Aside from their opportunism and solid hitting, as both Miller and senior Austin McClure connected for several base hits, McClure also contributed in the pitching department.
McClure ended the game with 11 strikeouts over nearly six innings.
Cameron coach Nathan Moore predictably pointed to that sloppy third inning to contrast with their upset win over the Cardinals on Monday.
“We had some mistakes that opened this game up, we gave them four unearned runs in one inning. In a three run game, that’s the difference,” Moore said. “We had our chances, and we took advantage of those opportunities when we played Benton on Monday but today we couldn’t do it.”
In spite of the loss and the preventable runs, Moore was still proud to see how far his team had come by putting up a fight in the postseason.
“For these guys to come out and play all seven innings to come back and give themselves a chance was awesome,” Moore said. “As a coach you never want to end the season, but know that you got better throughout the year was definitely a plus.”
Benton moves on to Monday’s 6:30 p.m. semifinal
Lafayette 10, Maryville 0
In the first meeting of the district tournament, Lafayette (14-6) avenged an earlier loss to Maryville (9-11) with a dominating run rule victory.
Pitcher Hunter Blake played the duration of the game for the Fighting Irish, allowing just three hits and compiling six strikeouts to keep the Spoofhound bats at bay.
But it was sophomore Jayden Little’s three-RBI double in the bottom of the second that broke the game open and gave Lafayette some breathing room.
Irish coach Jason Hale discussed the efforts of the sophomore in improving his play.
“That (hit) was huge. You talk about hard work and dedication to his craft, (Little) has come a long way. To be a sophomore as accomplished as he is, he’s got to be a great kid who works hard. He’s a big part of this team, and was a big part of this win.”
Lafayette will face No. 1-seeded Savannah at 4:30 p.m. Monday for a spot in the finals.