Here we go again. For the fifth straight year, the Benton Tigers have advanced to the quarterfinals of the Class 4A baseball playoffs.
The question is: Will this be the year the Tigers finally make it to the 4A semifinals?
Benton reached the Class 3A state championship game in 2007 but hasn’t gone farther than the quarterfinals since moving up to 4A in 2008.
Benton has lost to Teurlings Catholic twice, St. Michael the Archangel and West Ouachita the last four years.
This time, Benton, as the No. 1 seed, will be the favorite. The Tigers (31-7) host No. 8 Neville (21-15) in a best-of-three second-round series.
Game 1 is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday. Game 2 is scheduled for noon Saturday. Game 3, if necessary, is set for approximately 3 Saturday.
Benton knocked off No. 17 Belle Chasse two games to one in its best-of-3 second-round series last Friday and Saturday. The Tigers lost Game 1 5-3 and then swept the Cardinals 8-0 and 10-1.
Neville swept No. 9 Lakeshore 4-3 and 14-2 (five innings) in its second-round series. The Monroe Tigers defeated No. 25 Morgan City 12-2 in the first round.
The winner of the Benton-Neville series faces the winner between No. 21 Salmen and No. 29 Carencro in the semifinals on Friday, May 12, at 10:30 a.m. at McMurry Park in Sulphur.
Don’t let Neville’s record fool. The Tigers have played very good baseball in the second half of the seson.
Neville won the District 2-5A championship with a 13-2 mark. The Tigers’ only two losses were to West Ouachita, which lost to Carencro in the second round. Neville, which was 8-13 at one point during the regular season, has won 13 of its last 15 games.
Neville and Benton did not play in the regular season, but the Monroe squad played six games against Bossier Parish teams.
The Tigers split games with District 1-5A champion Airline, losing 9-6 March 11 and winning 6-5 on March 18. Neville defeated Haughton 5-0 on Feb. 24 and lost to the Bucs 6-2 on March 14.
The Tigers were swept by Parkway, losing 9-4 on March 11 and 5-4 on March 18.
Neville’s Cole McCarty, J. Hebert and Michael Haynes all had three hits in the 14-2 win over Lakeshore. Luke Cagle allowed four hits and struck out five in five innings.
Benton got outstanding pitching performances in the Saturday sweep of Belle Chasse. Will Hine pitched a three-hitter in the first game and Cameron Ross tossed a four-hitter in the second.
Colby Sharp, who like the rest of the Benton players has had an outstanding season, allowed six hits in 5 1/3 innings in the 5-3 loss.
— Russell Hedges, firstname.lastname@example.org