Southerners top Panthers in extra innings

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Good pitching kept the Heber Springs Panthers close, but missed opportunities led to a 5-4 non-conference baseball loss in eight innings to Southside Batesville (4-11) at the Heber Springs Sports Complex Thursday.

Heber Springs (3-5 in 4-4A Conference, 4-10 overall) will try and bounce back against conference foe Clarksville (4-4 in conference, 7-7 overall) at 4:30 p.m. Friday at home. The Panthers trail third place Clarksville and fourth place Pottsville (3-4 in conference, 5-7 overall) by one game in the loss column.

Starter Corbin Jones allowed five hits, four runs (two runs earned), struck out four and walked two in seven inning. Cole Payton, the losing pitcher in relief, pitched the eighth inning. Payton limited the Southerners to one hit, yielded one earned run and struck out one batter.

“Corbin pitched a great game, and Cole pitched well,” Heber Springs coach Monterio May said. “Corbin mixed his pitches well and stayed ahead of the batters. We didn’t finish the game as a team. We wanted to win and keep the momentum from Tuesday’s game at Pottsville going into Friday’s game with Clarksville.”

May said one of the game’s determining factors was the Panthers not capitalizing on Southside’s mistakes.

“It’s the little plays over the course of a game that make the difference,” he said. “I remember about three or four times it happened. We are not capitalizing on little mistakes that teams make. We played a good game and swung the bats decent.”

Heber Springs took the lead during the bottom of the second inning. Gage Buford hit a single and later scored from third base on John McBroom’s RBI base hit.

Southside scored three runs on three hits and a Heber Springs fielding error in the top of the third inning for a 3-1 lead. The Southerners held the lead until the sixth inning.

J. T Spears singled and was replaced by courtesy runner Conner Riddle. McBroom followed with a base hit and Jones was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Riddle scored on Zachary Parker’s single and reduced Southside’s lead to 3-2.

Easton Cusick, who was a courtesy runner for McBroom, was tagged out on the same sequence at the plate.

The Panthers tied the game when Xander Lindley, a courtesy runner for Jones, scored from third base on a passed ball.  Heber Springs took the 4-3 lead when Parker scored on Kenan Sneed’s sacrifice fly to the outfield.

Southside tied the game at 4-4 in the top of the seventh. The Southerners scored the winning run on a Heber Springs fielding error in the eighth.

May said Garrett Hudspeth and Spears have their rest and will be available to pitch against Clarksville on Friday.

“Our pitching is set and both are ready to go,” May said. “We want to go as high in the conference standings as we can and get a good seed for the playoffs. We are starting to play our best baseball and want to be in the top four for the conference tournament.”

Southside 003 000 11–5 3 3
Heber Springs 010 003 00–4 8 4
Southside Batesville hitters — Bo Trucks 2 singles, 1 RBI; Tyson Trucks single, 1 RBI; Blayne Bufford single, 2 stolen bases; Kaelan Duncan single, 1 stolen base; Carson McGhee single, 1 stolen base; Landen Haas 1 stolen base; Kyle Long 1 stolen base.
Southside  pitchers — Kaelan Duncan 5 hits 1 run, 1 strikeout in 5 innings; Bryson Duncan 2 hits, 3 earned runs, 1 walk in .1 inning; Blayne Bufford (W) 0 hits, 0 runs, 2 strikeouts, 1 walk in 2.2 innings.
Heber Springs hitters — Matthew Cook single, double, 1 stolen base; John McBroome 2 singles, 1 RBI; Kenan Sneed single, 1 RBI; Zachary Parker single, 1 RBI; Cole Payton single; Gage Buford single; Garrett Hudspeth 1 stolen base.
Heber Springs pitchers –Corbin Jones 5 hits, 4 runs, 2 earned runs, 4 strikeouts, 2 walks in 7 innings; Cole Payton (L 0-1) 1 hit, 1 earned run, 1 strikeout in 1 inning.

Panthers fall to Bulldogs in nonconference action

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Monday’s nonconference baseball match with Conway St. Joseph turned into one of those kind of days that the Heber Springs Panthers will try and forget quickly.

Playing for the first time in 10 days, the Panthers resumed the schedule and lost to St. Joseph 15-1 at the Heber Springs Sports Complex.

The game ended on the 10-run rule after five innings.

“It turned into one of those days when the wheels completely fell off,” Heber Springs coach Monterio May said. “We practiced for the past four days, but we have a lot of rust to get rid of.”

St. Joseph scored one run during the first inning and two more runs in the second. The Bulldogs broke the game open  by scoring 11 runs during the third and added one run in the fifth.

The Panthers avoided a shutout in the bottom of the fifth.

Cole Payton was hit by a pitch and Conner Riddle walked.  St. Joseph turned a double play as Payton reached third base. Kenan Sneed followed with an RBI single, scoring Payton from third base.

The Panthers (2-3 in 4-4A Conference, 3-5 overall) were scheduled to play at Ozark on Tuesday and at Morrilton on Thursday. Heber Springs will play Woodlawn and Rose Bud at Rose Bud on Saturday.

St. Joseph 13(11) 01–15 9 2
Heber Springs 000 01–1  4 4
St. Joseph hitters — Nicholas French single, double, 2 RBIs; Collin Coney 2 singles; Luke Pope single, 3 RBIs; Max Longing single, 2 RBIs; Caleb Mallett single, 1 RBI; Jared Sanders single, 1 RBI; Gabriel Stobaugh single; Luke Brigger 1 RBI; Cole Garner 1 RBI.
St. Joseph pitchers — Cole Garner (W) 4 hits, 1 earned run, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts in 5 innings.
Heber Springs hitters — Kenan Sneed 2 singles, 1 RBI; Matthew Cook single; Garrett Hudspeth single.
Heber Springs pitchers — Xander Lindley (L, 0-2) 6 hits, 6 runs, 5 earned runs, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts in 2 innings; Mathew Cook 1 hit, 3 earned runs, 2 walks in 0 innings; Gage Buford 2 hits, 5 runs, 4 earned runs, 2 walks in .1 inning; Corbin Jones 0 hits, 1 run, 1 walk, 1 strikeout in 2.2 innings.

Eagles looking to make history

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

GREERS FERRY – The West Side Eagles hope to earn its place in school history and become the third team to win a state basketball championship.

West Side (28-6) will play conference rival Viola at 7 p.m. Thursday for the Class A state tournament championship at the Bank OZK Arena in Hot Springs.

The Eagles look to duplicate the accomplishment of the 1983 team that capped that season with a 43-42 win against Gould in the state finals. West Side finished that year at 36-1 with its only loss to Camden Fairview at the state overall tournament.

The Lady Eagles won the 1999 state championship.

“We know what the 1983 team did and hope that people will talk the same way about the 2021 team in 20 years,” West Side coach Keith Brown said. “We respect everything that team did. That gives them more incentive to win. We have received great support from those guys as well as other alumni. We want to keep the tradition going.”

“Winning a state championship would mean everything,” starting guard Travis Gentry said. “I’ve been at this school for most of my life and watched all of the teams play.”

Gentry said he welcomed the opportunity of playing in Thursday’s game.

“I’m happy for the opportunity to lead the team to the state championship game,” he said. “Going into the season, I felt this might happen. We didn’t end our season last year well. I felt like it could happen if we played well.”

Gentry said he and his teammates admire the 1983 team and hope fans will remember this year’s team in a similar way.

“We want people to talk about us in 20  years like they are talking now about the 1983 team,” he said. “We hope they will talk about us for years to come.”

Senior Zack Birmingham made two of the most important free throws of season late in overtime against Izard County. Birmingham’s free throw clinched a win and a spot in the state finals.

“I had a similar experience in junior high, but that game was not as big,” Birmingham said. “I knew the first one was going in because of how I felt when the ball left my hand. The second free throw didn’t feel as comfortable, but it went in.”

Birmingham has attended West Side school since kindergarten and winning the title would cap his senior season.

“It would mean a lot if we won,” he said. “I am glad to be a part of this team. I can’t wait to get to Hot Springs.”

Brenton Knapp moved to West Side at the start of his fifth grade year. Knapp remembered games during recent years, and he hopes this year’s team will bring back the state championship to the school.

“It would mean the world to me,” he said. “I came to many games and watched teams that came close. We have a chip on our shoulders after losing last year at the district tournament  We wanted to come back strong and take care of unfinished business.”

Knapp said he and his teammates wants to win and add to the trophy case.

“We hope to become the third team to win a state championship,” he said. “I just want to contribute to the team. My role is to rebound and score on putbacks and whatever else the team needs me to do.”

Seniors Jake Ballard and Malachi Miller arrived before the start of last season.
Ballard played a big role in the win against Izard County by hitting four 3-pointers and scoring 14 points. He hopes to earn a championship ring and match the accomplishment of his brother, who was a member of the 2017 state champion Guy-Perkins.

“We hit our stride during the second half and realized we could win the game,” referring to Monday’s semifinals, Ballard said. “I made two threes early in the game and two more threes during the second half. I needed to make those shots to get us back in the game.”

Despite playing with new teammates, Ballard said he was accepted from the beginning and happy to be playing for the Eagles.

“I was accepted right away,” Ballard said. “I remember my first game when fans told me they were glad I decided to come to West Side.”

Ballard said he heard the stories about the 1983 team and glad to be a part of the team that may bring back another championship.

“I’m looking forward to playing in Hot  Springs with guys like coach Brown, Malachi, Travis and everyone on the team.” Ballard said. “This is a great group of guys to be around. It would mean the world to win on Thursday.”

Miller, who scored a game-high 25 points against Izard County, said he also felt welcomed from his first day at West Side.

“I felt a part of this team since I came,” Miller said. “I knew we had a good chance to be where we are right now. Stats are not that important. I’m happy we are winning games whether I have 10 rebounds or scoring 10 points. It’s a great feeling to have a chance at making history.”

West Side practiced on Tuesday afternoon and left at noon Wednesday for Hot Springs. The Eagles plan their final practice at Lake Hamilton High School before the championship game.

“I tried to keep practice as normal as possible,” Brown said. “We know Viola well. We will be trying to do things different, so we can have success. Neither team will have anything to hide after playing so many times. It will come down which team executes its game plan better.”

West Side and Viola split games during conference play. Viola defeated the Eagles in the finals of the conference and regional tournaments.

“The big keys are taking good care of the ball and rebounding,” he said.

Lady Eagles come up short in semifinals

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

GREERS FERRY – The West Side Lady Eagles’ basketball season ended with disappointment for the second year while playing a conference opponent.

Norfork controlled the second half, and defeated West Side 54-48 in the Class 1A state tournament semifinals at Brady-Hipp Arena on Monday. The Lady Eagles lost to Viola in the 2020 state semifinals.

West Side finished the season with a record of 25-9.

Kamryn Sutterfield scored a game-high 23 points for the Lady Eagles. Ashtyn Knapp had 20 points. Kiley Aiman led Norfork with 12 points. Hannah Bryant and Kylie Manes each contributed 11 points.

Knapp connected on a 3-pointer, while Sutterfield made a field goals and two free throws as West Side built a 7-2 lead during the opening minutes. Norfork went on a 7-0 scoring run and led 9-7. The game was tied three times before the Lady Eagles took a 14-13 lead going into the second quarter.

After exchanging field goals, West Side seized the momentum with an 8-3 scoring run and increased the lead to 24-18 by halftime.

Knapp hit 2-of-2 free throws as the Lady Eagles led 26-18 to start the third quarter. Norfork pulled even with a 14-6 scoring run and tied the game at 32-32 by the midway point of the quarter. After a couple of lead changes, the Lady Panthers scored five consecutive points and pulled ahead, 39-34.

West Side closed the gap on Knapp’s 3-pointer and trailed 39-37 going into the fourth quarter.

The Lady Eagles reduced Norfork’s lead to 43-41 early in the fourth quarter. Norfork increased the advantage to six points  and maintained it for the remainder of the game.

Norfork was scheduled to play Rural Special at 4 p.m. Thursday for the state championship at the Hot Springs Convention Center.

West Side 14 10 13 11–48
Norfork 13 5 21 15–54
West Side — Kamryn Sutterfield 23, Ashtyn Knapp 20, Haley Gentry 3, Sarah Carlton 2.
Norfork scorers — Kiley Aiman 12, Hannah Bryant 11, Kylie Manes 11, Liza Shaddy 8,  Keely Smith 7, Mesa Beavers 5. 

Eagles earn first finals trip since ’83 with overtime win

The West Side Greers Ferry Eagles punched their ticket to the 1A state finals in Hot Springs on Monday in Greers Ferry. PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHELLE MCCARTY

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

GREERS FERRY — The West Side Eagles didn’t take the easy path back to the Class 1A state championship game. West Side, which will make its return to the finals for the first time since 1983, trailed by nine points after three quarters, but rallied to force overtime.

The Eagles made 8-of-11 free throws during overtime and emerged with a 66-62 win against conference rival Izard County at Brady-Hipp Arena Monday. The win was the third this season against the Cougars, all close games.

West Side (28-6) will play Viola, another conference rival, at 7 p.m. Thursday for the state championship at the Hot Springs Convention Center.

Malachi Miller, who led all scorers with 25 points, made 3-of-4 free throws for the Eagles during overtime. Travis Gentry, Jake Ballard and Zach Birmingham each hit 2-of-2 attempts and Ashton Klepko connected on 1-of-2 at the free-throw line.

Birmingham’s two free throws with less than 10 seconds remaining made it a two-possession for a 66-62 lead.

West Side Greers Ferry coach Keith Brown said the Eagles also won the rebounding battle, particularly during the second half.

“A big key in the second half was keeping them from getting an offensive rebound,” he said. “We did a good job of rebounding.”

Ballard followed Miller with 14 points. Caleb Faulkner led Izard County with 23 points, while Coby Everett scored 11 points and Chase Orf had 10 points.

“Ballard hit big shots throughout the game,” Brown said. “Miller also scored well. It was a team win, but those two players were battling and came through for us.”

Brown also credited the team’s mental toughness as another determining factor.

“Our mental toughness was a difference in the game,” he said. “The players have answered the bell all year and are as tough as nails. Nothing fazes them.”

West Side started the game with an 8-2 scoring run, but Izard County quickly answered. The Cougars rallied for an 12-11 lead and held a one-point lead until the final seconds of the first quarter. Miller scored on an inside move as the Eagles took a 16-15 lead going into the second quarter.

Izard County regained the lead midway through the second quarter and increased it later to eight points, 30-22. West Side closed the gap, but the Cougars scored the final five points for a 33-26 halftime lead.

West Side failed to make ground on Izard County during the third quarter and trailed 46-37 going into the fourth quarter.

The Eagles made through move by outscoring the Cougars 19-10 and forced overtime.

Miller made 1-of-2 free throws with 1:56 to go in overtime for a 61-60 lead and never trailed again.

“I’m very proud of this team,” Brown, who is in his third season at West Side, said. “I’m usually a man of many words, but speechless after the game inside the dressing room. The players deserve all of the credit. I thought three years ago they could reach the state finals if I didn’t mess them up too much.”

Izard County 15 18 13 10 6 –62
West Side 16 10 11 19 10–66
Izard County scorers — Caleb Faulkner 23, Coby Everett 11, Chase Orf 10, Noah Everett 9, Denton Reiley 6, Landon McBride 3.
West Side scorers — Malachi Miller 25, Jake Ballard 14, Travis Gentry 8, Nate Bittle 7, Zach Birmingham 4, Brenton Knapp 4, Ashton Klepko 4.

Lady Eagles move one step closer to title game

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

GREERS FERRY – Tightening up the perimeter defense during the second half helped the West Side Lady Eagles to a 58-44 win against Morrilton Sacred Heart in the Class 1A state tournament quarterfinals at the Brady-Hipp Arena Saturday.

The Lady Eagles (25-8) will advance for the second straight season to the state tournament semifinals, this time against Norfork at 4 p.m. Monday. West Side lost in last year’s semifinals to Viola.

“We knew they were a good team with players who could shoot well,” Lady Eagle coach Megan Berry said. “We changed to a man defense during the second half and did a better job of defending and took charges when we had an opportunity.”

Free-throw shooting accuracy also aided the Lady Eagles, who made 23-of-27 attempts. Ashtyn Knapp made 12-of-15 free throws, while Kamryn Sutterfield connected on 5-of-6 attempts. Haley Gentry hit 6-of-6 free throws.

“We missed a couple, but we shot a good percentage,” Berry said. “Our free-throw shooting was good and important.”

Knapp led the Lady Eagles with 18 points. Sutterfield contributed 16 points and Gentry scored 15 points. Rylee Oliver had 12 points for Sacred Heart and Myisa Ibarra chipped in 11 points.

“We ran our offense better during the fourth quarter,” Berry said. “We put together a scoring run and gained momentum. We turned the ball over a few times late in the game against the full-court press, but we came back and got stops on defense.”

The lead changed six times during the first quarter, ending with Sutterfield’s 3-pointer, as West Side led 12-11 going into the second quarter. The Lady Eagles increased the lead to seven points before Sacred Heart reduced it to 28-22 by halftime.

Sacred Heart struck quickly by scoring two field goals at the start of the third quarter. Gentry answered with a 3-pointer and the Lady Eagles withstood the challenge. West Side led 35-27 going into the fourth quarter.

The Lady Eagles built a 14-point lead, but Sacred Heart showed no quit and pulled within 10 points. West Side never lost its double-digit lead for the remainder of the game.

Berry said the experience from playing in last year’s semifinal will benefit her team on Monday against Norfork.

“Most of the players have been in this position before,” she said. “Lack of experience will not be the problem. We need to come out and play well.”

Sacred Heart 11 11 15 7 –44
West Side 12 16 17 13–58
Sacred Heart scorers — Rylee Oliver 12, Myisa Ibarra 11,  Halen Hoelzeman 6, Lizzy Beck 6, Emma Dold 5, Karlee Cooper 2, Anna Jones 2.
West Side scorers — Ashtyn Knapp 18, Kamryn Sutterfield 16, Haley Gentry 15, Sarah Carlton 6, Kortnee Finch 3.

Eagles advance to quarterfinals of 1A state tourney

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

GREERS FERRY – The West Side Eagles didn’t play one of their best games, but finished with a strong push and defeated the Bradley Bears 78-68 in the first round of the Class 1A state basketball tournament at Brady-Hipp Arena.

Bradley trailed after the first quarter before it rallied for a halftime lead before West Side pulled ahead by two points going into the fourth quarter.

“When you get to the state tournament, a team usually will have that one game when you didn’t play your best,” West Side coach Keith Brown said. “A team just has to find a way to win. We didn’t play our best game, but we won the game. We have a veteran team and showed maturity during the fourth quarter.”

Jonathan Easter led Bradley with 20 points. Jacardo Cornell had 17 points, while Jaylan Hardamon added 12 points. Colbie west scored 10 points.

Brown said a defensive adjustment during the halftime break led to a successful second half.

“We played excellent defense, especially during the fourth quarter,” he said. “We gave up 44 points during the first half. We made the adjustments and held them to 24 points during the second half. That gave us a spark. No. 2 (Easter) is a great player, and we had to put two guys on him.”

Travis Gentry, who made four 3-pointers, paced the Eagles with a game-high 32 points. Malachi Miller scored 23 points and Ashton Klepko had 12 points.

“It was not just one player, but a team effort,” Brown said. “Klepko made a big three during the first quarter and, Travis hit big shots throughout the game. The team showed its maturity. Our experience was the key to the comeback. We have five players who are starting for the third year.”

Cornell led the charge for Bradley during the first quarter. West Side countered with Gentry, who made three 3-pointers during the quarter, and Klepko connected from behind the circle.

The Eagles scored the final six points of the quarter as Klepko, Miller and Bittle scored field goals. West Side led 24-18 going into the second quarter.

Easter carried the hot hand by scoring 10 points as Bradley rallied for a three-point lead during the second quarter. Cornell hit a 3-pointer in the final seconds, giving Bradley a 44-38 halftime lead.

Bradley maintained an eight-point lead during most of the third quarter. West Side fell behind by nine points before the Eagles claimed the lead on a 10-0 scoring run.

Easter made 1-of-2 free throws and tied the game at 54-54. Miller scored on an offensive rebound right before the buzzer as West Side led 56-54 going into the fourth quarter.

West Side put the game away with a 13-2 scoring run and increased the lead to 69-56 midway through the fourth quarter.

The Eagles (26-6) will play The New School (Fayetteville) at 7 p.m. Friday in the quarterfinals.

“New School is a good team,” Brown said. “We must come out and play better than against Bradley.”

Bradley 18 26 10 14–68
West Side 24 14 18 22–78
Bradley scorers — Jonathan Easter 20, Jacardo Cornell 17, Jaylan Hardamon 12, Colbie West 10, De’ontae Woods 9.
West Side scorers — Travis Gentry 32, Malachi Miller 23, Ashton Klepko 12, Nate Bittle 4, Zack Birmingham 4, Jake Ballard 3.

West Side girls advance at 1A state tournament

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

GREERS FERRY -Dermott briefly led Tuesday’s Class 1A state tournament first round game, but it didn’t take long for the West Side Lady Eagles to get rolling.

The Lady Eagles trailed 1-0 before scoring 14 unanswered points and advanced to Saturday’s quarterfinals with a 60-31 win at Brady-Hipp Arena.

Kamryn Sutterfield scored eight of her game-high 17 points during the first quarter. Sarah Carlton made two 3-pointers, while Kortner Finch and Haley Gentry also made a 3-pointer.

The Lady Eagles built a 23-9 lead by the end of the first quarter and increased it to 36-14 by halftime. West Side led 55-23 going into the fourth quarter.

Gentry finished with 13 points and Shawna Carlton came off the bench and scored 11 points for the Lady Eagles. Elizabeth Rowe led Dermott with 10 points.

“We started the game by playing with a lot of energy,” West Side coach Megan Berry said. “Dermott kept changing defenses, but we did a good job of adjusting, moving the ball and finding the open man. We made the shots and got off to a good start. We got the momentum and never let up.”

Berry complemented her team for preparing well for the game.

“We watched game film on Dermott and talked with other coaches,” she said. “Dermott played exactly how we thought it would. Our posts came off the bench and had good games. Sutterfield, Gentry and Ashtyn Knapp did good jobs of getting the ball inside.”

Despite being the first state tournament game, Berry said the players seemed ready to go.

“We played relaxed, but not sure if it was because we were playing at home,” she said. “It seems lately we have been playing well at the right time. I’m hoping that will continue.”

West Side (24-8) will play the Western Grove-Morrilton Sacred Heart, which are scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. Thursday, at 4 p.m. Saturday in the quarterfinals.

Dermott 9 5 9 8–31
West Side 23 13 19 5–60
Dermott scorers — Elizabeth Rowe 10, E. Mari Wade 8, Kaliyah Griffen 6, Rochelle Piliota 3, Za’Kak Tyler 2, Radeja Ford 2.
West Side scorers — Kamryn Sutterfield 17, Haley Gentry 13, Shawna Carlton 11, Sarah Carlton 6, Kortner Finch 6, Alyssa Smith 5, Ashtyn Knapp 2. 


Panthers, May claim first win

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Monteri0 May will never forget his first win as head baseball coach at Heber Springs High School.

Garrett Hudspeth pitched the final two innings and hit a bloop single to drive home the winning run in the bottom of the eighth as the Panthers defeated Pottsville 8-7 in a 4-4A Conference game at the Heber Springs Sports Complex.

Hudspeth struck out five batters with one walk in relief of starter J.T. Spears.

Heber Springs picked up its first win in three games. The Panthers lost to conference foe Morrilton in the season opener and to Clinton in non-conference play.

Heber Springs loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the eighth. Kenan Sneed hit a groundball against a drawn-in infield and Matthew Cook, who started the inning with a single, was thrown out at the plate for the second out.

Hudspeth hit a blooper behind second base that Pottsville shortstop Matthew Moore failed to catch as Xander Lindley scored from third base.

“We will take it anyway we can,” May said. “I told the players before the game we were going to fight every pitch, win every inning and let the outcome play out. I’m proud of how these guys completed with dedication every day. It paid off in this game.”

Heber Springs struggled at the plate during Thursday’s game at Clinton, and May challenged his team to reverse that trend.

“We want to swing through every pitch and try and stay away from check swings,” May said. “We wanted to put the ball in play. We struck out too much against Clinton and wanted to reduce that.”

Spears allowed seven hits and seven runs (one earned run) and struck out six batters in six innings.

“J.T. first met me in January and told said he had been working on pitching for the last year,” May said. “He said that he was going to be one of our best pitchers. He showed that in this game. I told him if he could throw strikes, he could become a good pitcher. We didn’t play great defense behind him, but he kept battling.”

May hoped to get five or six innings from Spears and then give the ball to Hudspeth.

“I told Garrett earlier in the day he will close out the game and be the leader that his teammates think he is,” May said.

Pottsville built a 4-1 lead by scoring one run in the top of the first inning and three runs in the second.

Heber Springs responded with three runs in its half of the second inning. The Panthers loaded the bases with one out as Cook scored from third base on an error. Spears then came home on an infield out. Lindley scored on Sneed’s RBI single to left field.

Pottsville increased its lead to 5-3 in the third inning.

Heber Springs led for the first time by scoring four runs in the bottom of the fourth. Conner Riddle scored on a bases-loaded walk to Cole Payton. Cook hit a 2-run single, scoring Sneed and Hudspeth, as the Panthers led, 6-5. Payton later came home on an error.

Pottsville tied the game at 7-7 in the fifth.

“This was a good win,” May said. “The field was wet and more rain was starting to come down. We hope to build on this and keep rolling along.”

Heber Springs (1-1 conference, 1-2 overall) is scheduled to play at Clarksville on Tuesday and return home to host Dardanelle on Friday in conference games.    

Pottsville 131 020 00–7 7 5
Heber Springs 030 400 01–8 9 4
Pottsville hitters — Aiden Owens single, double 1 RBI; Zach Gray single, double; Cade Linker double, 2 RBIs; Easton Stevens single 1 stolen base.
Pottsville pitchers — Matthew Moore 5 hits, 7 earned runs, 4 strikeouts, 5 walks in 4.2 innings; Jacob McCurry 2 hits, 0 runs, 3 strikeouts, 1 walk in 1 inning; Caden Caruthers 2 hits, 1 earned run, 2 strikeouts, 1 walk in 1.2 inning.
Heber Springs hitters — Matthew Cook 2 singles, 2 RBIs, 1 stolen base; Garrett Hudspeth single, 1 RBI; Kenan Sneed single, 1 RBI; Conner Riddle single, 1 RBI; John McBroome single; Gage Buford single; J.T. Spears single; Xander Lindley single; Cole Payton 1 RBI.
Heber Springs pitchers — J.T. Spears 7 hits, 7 runs, 1 earned run, 6 strikeouts in 6 innings; Garrett Hudspeth (W, 1-0) 0 hits, 0 runs, 5 strikeouts, 1 walk in 2 innings.

Panthers fall in baseball opener

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Heber Springs breezed into the fifth inning with a 6-1 lead and apparently on the way to give first year head coach Monterio May a win in his debut, but Morrilton rallied to tie the game at 6-6 by scoring five unearned runs in the fifth inning and took the lead in the sixth and defeated the Panthers 8-6 in the 4-4A Conference baseball opener at home.

Despite the loss, May said he was proud of his team’s effort.

“We committed two mental errors (in the fifth inning), but we will work on correcting those mistakes,” May said. “We kept competing until the end of the game. We talked in practice about not worrying when we make one mistake. We don’t want it to become two mistakes, but it turned into five. When we face adversity, we need to keep competing and finish the rest of the game strong. We had too many things happen at one time and couldn’t slow the game down. We need to learn to step back and take a deep breath.”

Heber Springs scored runs in the second and third innings. Cole Payton, who walked earlier in the second, scored on Conner Riddle’s infield grounder. The Panthers added one run in the bottom of the third on a bases-loaded walk for a 2-0 lead.

Morrilton scored one run in the top of the fourth, but Heber Springs answered with four runs in the bottom of the inning. Riddle led off with a single, stole second base and scored on Matthew Cook’s single. The Panthers loaded the bases as John McBroome was safe on a throwing error that got past the first baseman and rolled into right field for three runs and increased the lead to 6-1.

Morrilton took advantage of two Heber Springs errors for three runs in the top of the fifth. Cade Halbrook hit an RBI single and the Devil Dogs tied the game at 6-6 on Maddox Hogan’s base hit.

May said Garrett Hudspeth had a good performance in his first pitching start. Hudspeth allowed six runs (five unearned) on seven hits, struck out four and walked two. Cook relieved Hudspeth in the fifth. Gage Buford relieved Cook in the sixth.

“Garrett pitched well and into the fifth inning and showed he will be one of our team leaders,” May said. “Morrilton players showed relief in their faces when he came out of the game.”

Morrilton took the lead on an infield out in the sixth, followed by Drew Tiner’s RBI single.

Riddle and Kenan Sneed each had two singles for the Panthers.

“Conner was one of our bright spots,” May said. “This was the first time we hit against live pitching. We had a good collective team effort. Garrett made a great defensive play in the sixth when he caught a line drive at shortstop and stepped on second.”

Heber Springs was scheduled to play at Clinton in a nonconference game Thursday. The Panthers will host conference foe Pottsville at 4:30 p.m. Friday.

Morrilton 000 152 0–8 13 2
Heber Springs 011 400 0–6 7  5
Morrilton hitters — Cade Halbrook 2 singles, double, 1 RBI, 2 stolen bases; Maddox Hogan 2 singles, 1 RBI; Jackson Dixon 2 singles, 1 stolen base; Drew Tiner single, 1 RBI; Luke Carter single, 1 RBI; Casey Jones single, 1 RBI; Beau McElroy single; Braydan Garrett single; Hunter White single; Maddox Hogan 2 stolen bases; Phillip Drilling 1 stolen base.
Morrilton pitchers — Phillip Drilling 2 hits, 2 earned runs, 2 strikeouts, 5 walks in 3 innings; Braydan Garrett 4 hits, 4 runs, 1 earned run, 2 strikeouts in 1 inning; Casey Jons (W, 1-0), 1 hit, 0 runs, 7 strikeouts, 1 walk in 3 innings.
Heber Springs hitters — Connor Riddle 2 singles, 1 RBI, 1 stolen base; Kenan Sneed 2 singles; Matthew Cook single, 1 RBI; Gage Buford single; Garrett Hudspeth single.
Heber Springs pitchers — Garrett Hudspeth 7 hits, 6 runs, 1 earned run, 4 strikeouts, 2 walks in 4.2 innings; Mathew Cook (L, 0-1) 5 hits, 2 earned runs, 1 strikeout in 2/3 of an inning; Gage Buford 1 hit, 0 runs, 1 walk in 1.2 inning.