The Benton Tigers are one win away from a berth in the Class 4A semifinals and the state baseball tournament.
Trailing 2-1 after 5 1/2 innings, Benton put seven runs on the board in the bottom of the sixth en route to an 8-2 victory over the Monroe Neville Tigers in Game 1 of their best-of-3 quarterfinal series Friday night at Benton.
Game 2 is set for noon Saturday. Game 3, if necessary, will follow Game 2.
Benton, the No. 1 seed, improved to 32-7. Neville, the No. 8 seed, dropped to 21-16.
Benton ace Will Hine pitched a four-hitter. He struck out six and walked two.
Benton’s victory was somewhat similar to the Game 2 win in the second round against Belle Chasse when the Tigers turned a 1-0 lead after six into an 8-0 victory.
Benton got seven straight singles to lead off the bottom of the sixth (per Benton official stats). They were by Garrett Hable, Hal Gatti, Sam Simmons (bunt), Coleman Nerren (bunt), Peyton Long (bunt), Kade Scott (bunt) and Connor Jack Smith.
The score was 5-2 when Neville got the first out on a fielder’s choice. But Kade Scott scored on an error and Cole Horton’s line-drive single to center field scored two more runs to make it 8-2.
Benton took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth on back-to-back doubles by Hable and Gatti. Neville tied it in the fifth and then took the 2-1 lead in the top of the sixth on an RBI-single by Cole McCarty.
Hable, Gatti and Nerren all finished with two hits.
— Russell Hedges, email@example.com