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.