May 11, 2016 Edition

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Bobcats are district champions

Walnut Ridge's Will Weir pitches to a Buffalo Island Central batter during the first round of the 3A North Regional Baseball Tournament on Thursday. BIC won the game 2-1 to end the Bobcats' season.
TD Photo ~ Ashley George

A four-run first inning provided Walnut Ridge with all the runs they would need as the Bobcats coasted to a 9-1 win over the host Midland Mustangs in the championship game of the 2A-2 District Baseball Tournament on May 3 in Pleasant Plains.

Walnut Ridge got the scoring underway in the bottom of the first inning when Preston Aaron hit into a fielder's choice, allowing Will Weir to score from third. Next, Colin Phillips drew a bases-loaded walk to put the Cats ahead 2-0. Drake Smith followed with a two-RBI single to give Walnut Ridge a 4-0 advantage.

After the teams traded single runs in the second and third innings, Walnut Ridge put the game away in the fourth on Cade Burris's RBI-single and Chaz Burgin's two-run double, which stretched the Cats' lead to 8-1. Walnut Ridge tacked on an additional run in the fifth inning to close out the scoring.

Smith was stellar on the mound, holding the Mustangs to one unearned run on three hits. He finished with seven strikeouts while tossing a complete game.

Burris led the Bobcats' offense, going 3-for-4 with an RBI and scoring a run. Smith finished 2-for-2 with two RBIs, and Luke Wall went 2-for-4 with an RBI and scored a run. Slade Dalton scored three runs, and Weir crossed the plate twice. Aaron had one hit, one RBI and scored two runs, and Phillips drove in a run. Burgin added one hit and two RBIs.

District semifinals

Earlier in the day, Walnut Ridge survived a 5-4 nailbiter against Tuckerman when Wall singled home Michael Bounds with the winning run in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Tuckerman scored a run in the top of the first inning, but the Bobcats answered in the bottom of the frame. Leadoff hitter Weir was awarded first base after being hit by a pitch, and later scored on a two-out single by Phillips to tie the game 1-1.

Tuckerman regained the lead with two runs in the top of the third inning. Walnut Ridge cut into the Bulldogs' lead with a run in the bottom of the inning. Chase Baker bunted for a single and moved to second on a ground out. Baker was attempting to steal third base, but an errant throw by the Bulldogs allowed him to score from second base, bringing the Cats to within 3-2.

Walnut Ridge tied the game in the fourth inning. Phillips led off with a bunt single, then stole second. Burris followed with a single, moving Phillips to third. A sacrifice fly by Smith brought Phillips home with the tying run.

The Bobcats took their first lead of the game, 4-3, in the sixth inning. Bounds drew a one-out walk and was replaced by pinch runner Slade Dalton. Dalton was awarded second base on a balk, then moved to third on a passed ball. A sacrifice fly by Baker brought Dalton home with the go-ahead run.

The Bulldogs would not go easily, as they scored a run in the top of the seventh inning to tie the contest at 4-4.

Phillips, who pitched the entire game for Walnut Ridge, held the Bulldogs scoreless in the top of the eighth, setting the stage for a Bobcat win in the bottom of the inning.

Dalton opened the inning by drawing a walk, and moved to second on a sac bunt from Baker. Weir also walked, and Wall followed with his game-winning hit to score Bounds, who had come in to run for Dalton.

Phillips allowed just one earned run on nine hits while striking out six batters. At the plate, Phillips went 2-for-3 with an RBI and scored a run.

Also on offense for the Bobcats, Burris went 2-for-4, and Baker finished with a hit, an RBI and scored a run. Wall had a hit and an RBI, and Drake Smelser added a hit. Aaron had a hit, and Dalton scored a run. Smith had an RBI, and Bounds scored a run.

Regional tournament

Walnut Ridge moved on to the 2A North Regional Tournament in Marked Tree.

The Bobcats' season ended with a 2-1 loss to Buffalo Island Central in the first round on Thursday.

Single runs in the second and sixth gave BIC a 2-0 lead through five-and-one-half innings. Walnut Ridge clawed back with a run in the bottom of the sixth to make the score 2-1. Weir and Wall opened the inning with back-to-back singles to give the Cats a pair of baserunners. After two outs, Phillips came through with a base hit to bring Weir home with the Cats' only run.

Bounds reached base on an error with one out in the bottom of the seventh for Walnut Ridge, but BIC pitcher Bryce Towery retired the next two batters to end the game. Towery held the Bobcats to one run on five hits in a complete-game outing.

For Walnut Ridge, Wall went 2-for-3, and Weir went 1-for-4 and scored a run. Phillips finished with a hit and an RBI. Smelser also contributed a hit.

Weir started on the mound and allowed two earned runs on 11 hits in six-and-two-thirds innings. Wall pitched the final two-thirds of an inning in relief.

The Bobcats ended the 2016 season with a 22-10 record.

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