The Mounties (7-10, 2-6 7A-West) lost a tough 7A-West game at home in extra innings on Monday, but came back strong on Tuesday to notch a huge 5-1 win over then-co-leader Van Buren.
“That’s the rough thing, we haven’t just been getting blown out,” Rogers High coach Matt Melson said. “We’ve been close and you point to one or two simple things, controllable things. And we finally put a game together.
“We got a big pitching performance from Mason Mitchell and Max Horton was kinda a catalyst offensively.”
Rogers faces Bentonville High next week, but finishes against Bentonville West and Springdale High — two teams it will be battling for a state tournament berth.
The Mounties struggled offensively in getting swept by Fayetteville and being shut out for 16 innings. But Melson said getting the lead-off man on and being able to move runners was big in the win over Van Buren.
“One thing we haven’t been doing when we’ve struggled is we’ve not been able to get lead-off runners on and play a little bit of small ball, move it around put some pressure on the defense for once,” Melson said. “We saw some good things happen.”
The War Eagles (5-13, 2-6 7A-West) are just looking to get healthy to try to make a run at a state tournament berth.
Logan Easley, a Wichita State signee, pulled a hamstring in the win over Farmington a week ago. Dylan Qualls, who was slated to be a conference starter, has thrown only six innings thus far because of a shoulder issue and senior Noah Guill, another pitcher went down with a knee injury in Tuesday’s loss to Fayetteville.
Heritage, outscored by a combined score of 29-0 in two losses to Fayetteville earlier this week, still has hope for a state tournament berth with three league opponents left.
Heritage coach Mitch Cameron said it’s tough for his young team to sustain the loss of arguably its three top pitchers. But he’s hopeful Guill and Easley can return soon.
“If you also take in consideration it’s not the best team offensively or defensively,” Cameron said. “That’s difficult. And we’re very young, playing four or five freshmen.”
“Logan hit a ball to the fence against Farmington and pulled something,” Cameron said. “He went to the doctor and they said seven-to-10 days. We hope to have him back Monday.”
“Dylan’s going to go get an MRI. That’s a guy who we thought he could be our No. 1 guy.”
Heritage has a big two-game set against last-place Bentonville West next before finishing against Bentonville and Springdale Har-Ber.
— Paul Boyd • @NWAPaulB
The second game was a little closer than coach Todd Abbott expected Tuesday, but Bentonville managed an 11-10 victory over Springdale High and completed a sweep of the Red’Dogs.
The Tigers (10-8, 6-2) scored six unanswered runs after falling behind 7-5 on a two-run home run, then held on as Springdale belted a three-run home run in the bottom of the seventh.
“It could have certainly been less dramatic in that seventh inning,” Abbott said. “But we found a way. We finished with one more run than they did, and that’s the end goal. We needed one more run than the other team, and we did that.”
The sweep helps Bentonville stay in the thick of the 7A-West Conference race with six games remaining. The Tigers trail league-leading Fayetteville by one game and are tied with Van Buren and Springdale Har-Ber for second place.
Bentonville, however, has already played all three of those teams, but that’s not reason for Abbott or his team to panic.
“That’s really simple,” Abbott said. “Our approach all season long is we find a way today and get it done today. All of these guys have been working hard each day, and especially when these games roll around.
“We need to be improving a little bit each and every day. We’re not looking at having six conference games left. We want to look at the next game or the next practice — whatever it is that’s ahead of us. These guys have bought into that thought process, and it’s paying dividends.”
— Henry Apple • @NWAHenry