Panthers season ends in district tourney

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

A season of ups and downs came to a conclusion for the Heber Springs Panther baseball team on Monday.

Ozark capitalized on its opportunities during the second and sixth innings and defeated the Panthers 7-2 in a 4-4A Conference Tournament play-in game at the Heber Springs Sports Complex.

Heber Springs finished the season with a record of 5-14.

“It was a game of momentum swings,” Panther head coach Monterio May said. “We came out a little flat for the first inning. We didn’t capitalize on Ozark’s mistakes like we should and could have scored more runs. The little things made a big difference in the end.”

Jacob Lawsen led off the top of the second inning for Ozark by reaching on an error. Dax Shaffer followed with a single, and Lawsen scored the game’s first run on an infield out. Rylee Griffin walked to load the bases. Tyler Sanders was safe on an error as Shaffer and Griffin scored for the 3-0 lead.

“I told the team during the third inning we needed to chip away at the lead,” May said. “We scored two runs during the fifth and had an opportunity for more runs before a base-running blunder.”

Corbin Jones and Conner Riddle each hit singles to start the bottom of the fifth. Garrett Hudspeth bunted in an attempt to advance the runners and beat the throw to first base to load the bases. Matthew Cook lined a 2-run single into center field. Easton Cusick, running for Hudspeth, was caught in a rundown between second and third bases for the first out.

The Panthers reloaded the bases with walks to Kenan Sneed and Cole Payton. Larsen relieved McAnally and stopped the rally by striking out the next two batters as Ozark clung to a 3-2 lead.

Ozark put the game away by scoring four runs in the top of the sixth inning. The Hillbillies loaded the bases on back-to-back walks and a hit batsman. Jones, who relieved Hudspeth, hit Sanders with a pitch for the first running of the inning, scoring Cook. The final two runs scored on a balk and a 2-run single by Sebastain Ross.

“We gave up too many free passes (six walks),” May said. “We need to learn from this season and plan to be back in the playoffs next year. I’m proud of the team for never giving up.”

The Panthers  will lose two senior starters to graduation — Cook and Hudspeth. May said the team’s future is bright.

“We are losing  good seniors, who were outstanding leaders for the team,” May said. “We have a lot of talent returning and more on the way.”

Ozark 030 004 0–7 5 2
Heber Springs` 000 020 0–2 6 3
Ozark hitters — Kayden McAnally 2 singles; Sebastian Ross single, 2 RBIs; Rylee Griffin single, 1 RBI; Dax Shaffer single; Tyler Sanders 1 RBI.
Ozark pitchers — Kayden McAnally(W) 4 hits, 2 runs, 1 earned run, 2 strikeouts, 3 walks in 4.1 innings; Jacob Larsen (Save) 1 hit, 0 runs, 4 strikeouts in 2.2 innings.
Heber Springs hitters — Mathew Cook 2 singles, 2 RBIs, 1 stolen base; Corbin Jones 2 singles; Garrett Hudspeth single; Conner Riddle single.
Heber Springs pitchers — Garrett Hudspeth (L) 4 hits, 4 runs, 1 earned run, 4 strikeouts, 5 walks in 5 innings; Corbin Jones 1 hit, 3 earned runs, 1 walk in 2 innings.

4A-4 District Tournament bracket

Monday, April 26

Game 1 – (7) Ozark at (6) Heber Springs, 4:30 p.m. (game played at Heber Springs)

Tuesday, April 27 at Dardanelle

Game 2 – (4) Pottsville vs. (5) Subiaco Academy, 4:30 p.m.

Game 3 – (3) Clarksville vs. Winner Game 1, 7 p.m.

Thursday, April 29 at Dardanelle

Game 4 – (1) Morrilton vs. Winner Game 2, 4:30 p.m.

Game 5 – (2) Dardanelle vs. Winner Game 3, 7 p.m.

Friday, April 30 at Dardanelle

Championship Game – Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 6 p.m.

(Note: Top 4 teams advance to regional tournament)

Panthers thump Hillbillies in regular season finale

Heber Springs pitcher J.T. Spears delivers a first-inning pitch to an Ozark batter on Friday at Panther Field. The Panthers won the 4A-4 contest 10-1. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Heber Springs came out swinging and celebrated senior night with one of its best performances of the season at the Heber Springs Sports Complex on Friday.

Kenan Sneed, Garrett Hudspeth and Matthew Cook each hit three singles as the Panthers whipped Ozark 10-1 in a 4-4A Conference baseball game. Sneed led the offense with three RBIs while Hudspeth had two RBIs.

Heber Springs and Ozark will meet again at 4:30 p.m. Monday, also at the Heber Springs Sports Complex, in a play-in game at the conference tournament. The winner will advance to play Clarksville at Dardanelle on Tuesday.

“We played a complete baseball game,” Panther coach Monterio May said. “I was happy to get all of the seniors in the game on senior night. We are starting to put everything together and excited to see what this team will do going forward.”

Heber Springs (4-8 in conference, 5-13 overall) fell from a No. 4 to a No. 6 seed because of a forfeit of an earlier win against Subiaco Academy. The forfeiture occurred because a pitcher exceeded the pitch count limit during that game.

The Panthers had 13 hits, all singles, against three Ozark pitchers.

“We got the bats rolling,” he said. “We quit swinging at bad pitches.”

J.T. Spears limited Ozark to three hits with two strikeouts in six innings. Matthew Cook pitched the seventh inning.

“J.T. competes every day and embodies everything we want to do as a team,” May said. “He brings  intensity and consistency. He usually throws around 70 percent strikes. I told him we need him to throw at least 60 percent to win. He does it with five different pitches.”

Heber Springs scored one run in the first and second innings.

Hudspeth and Cook hit singles to start the bottom of the first inning. Sneed’s fly ball to the outfield allowed Hudspeth to tag and advanced to third base.

Hudspeth scored on a wild pitch for the 1-0 lead.

In the second inning, Corbin Jones reached on an error and Conner Riddle had a single. Jones scored on Hudspeth’s base hit.

After Ozark scored in the top of the fourth, the Panthers responded with three runs during the bottom of the inning and increased their lead.

Hudspeth walked and advanced to third base on Cook’s single. Sneed followed with an RBI base hit, scoring Hudspeth. Cole Payton walked to load the bases. Xander Lindley also walked, bringing in Cook from third base. Sneed scored on an error as the Panthers held a 5-1 lead.

Heber Springs put the game away in the fifth by scoring five runs. Riddle hit a single and later scored on Hudspeth’s base hit. After Cook’s single, Sneed lined a 2-run single into center field. The final two runs came on an error and a fielder’s choice.

May said the win gives momentum to the team for Monday’s game.

“We will be ready to play,” he said.

Ozark 000 100 0- 1 3 3
Heber Springs` 110 350 x- 10 13 2
Ozark hitters — Sebastian Ross single; Dylan Herriage single; Rylee Griffin single; Tyler Sanders 1 stolen base.
Ozark pitchers — Kayden McAnally (L) 7 hits, 5 runs, 3 earned runs, 4 walks in 3.1 innings; Dax Shaffer 3 hits, 3 earned runs, 2 walks in .2 inning; Dylan Herriage 3 hits, 2 runs, 5 strikeouts in 2 innings.
Heber Springs hitters — Kenan Sneed 3 singles, 3 RBIs; Garrett Hudspeth 3 singles, 2 RBIs, 2 stolen bases; Matthew Cook 3 singles, 1 stolen base; Conner Riddle 2 singles, 1 stolen base; Xander Lindley single, 1 RBI; Corbin Jones single; J.T. Spears 1 RBI; Easton Cusick 1 stolen base.
Heber Springs pitchers — J.T. Spears (W) 3 hits, 1 run, 2 strikeouts, 3 walks in 6 innings; Mathew Cook 0 hits, 0 runs in 1 inning.

Heber Springs rally comes up short against Clarksville

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Clarksville scored five runs during the first two innings and hang on for an 8-5 win against the Heber Springs Panthers in a 4-4A Conference baseball game at the Heber Springs Sports Complex Monday.

The defeat and Tuesday’s 8-7 loss at Dardanelle dropped the Panthers (3-7 in conference, 4-12 overall) to fifth place in the conference standings.

“We let up during the first inning,” Heber Springs coach Monterio May said following the loss to Clarksville. “We picked it up before the end of the inning, but it was too little, too late. We have been trying to instill in the players that the game is not over until it’s over. We need to come out and play with more intensity early in the game.”

Righthander J.T Spears, who was the losing pitcher, allowed seven hits, eight runs and had four strikeouts and one walk in 5.1 innings. Corbin Jones relieved Spears and permitted one hit and struck out one batter in 1.2 inning.

“Spears did what was expected and gave us a chance at winning,” May said. “He is turning into a diamond in the rough and he’s only a sophomore. J.T. throws all of his pitches for strikes, and he has a chance to become an even better pitcher in the future.”

John-Foster Case, Landon Leeds and Dakota Palsey hit RBI singles during the top of the first inning. Leeds scored later on Cole Chrisman’s sacrifice fly.

Heber Springs scored one run in the bottom of the inning.

Garrett Hudspeth was hit by a pitch and moved into scoring position by stealing second base. Hudspeth later scored on an infield out.

After Clarksville scored one run in the top of the second for a 5-1 lead, the Panthers kept close in the bottom of the inning. Xander Lindley reached on an error, Spears hit a single and the runners advanced on a passed ball. Lindley came home on an infield out. Spears scored on Hudspeth’s double and reduced Clarksville lead to 5-3.

Clarksville scored one run in the top of the fifth, but the Panthers matched it during the bottom half of the inning.

Kenan Sneed reached on a fielder’s choice and then he scored on Cole Payton’s RBI triple.

Clarksville added two runs during the sixth inning and increased its lead to 8-4.
Heber Springs’ final run came in the bottom of the seventh on a bases-loaded walk to Lindley.

The Panthers are scheduled to host Bald Knob in a non-conference game at 4:30 p.m. Thursday and play a conference game at Subiaco Academy on Friday.

Clarksville 410 012 0–8 12 2
Heber Springs 120 010 1–5 5  2
Clarksville hitters — Alex Snow 4 singles, 1 stolen base; John-Foster Case single, double, 2 RBIs; Landon Leeds 2 singles, 2 RBIs, 1 stolen base; Easton Burkett single, 1 1 RBI, 1 stolen base; Dakota Pasley single, 1 RBI; Cole Chrisman single, 1 RBI; Gabe Kremers single, 1 stolen base.
Clarksville  pitchers — Dakota Pasley (W) 2 hits, 4 runs, 1 earned run, 3 strikeouts, 3 walks in 4.2 innings; John-Foster Case 2 hits, 1 run, 5 strikeouts, 1 walk in 2.1 innings.
Heber Springs hitters — Garrett Hudspeth single, double, 1 RBI, 1 stolen base; Cole Payton triple, 2 RBIs; J.T. Spears single, 1 RBI; Kenan Sneed single; Xander Lindley 1 RBI; Corbin Jones 1 RBI.
Heber Springs pitchers — J.T Spears (L) 7 hits, 8 runs, 7 earned runs, 4 strikeouts, 1 walk in 5.1 innings; Corbin Jones 1 hit, 1 strikeout in 1.2 inning.
 

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.