Airline, Benton roll into quarterfinals of baseball playoffs

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The Airline Vikings and Benton Tigers advanced to the quarterfinals of the LHSAA state baseball playoffs in their respective classes Saturday.

The No. 3 seed Vikings swept the No. 19 Chalmette Owls 12-2 and 6-2 in a Class 5A second-round doubleheader at Airline. The Vikings and Owls played two after Friday night’s scheduled Game 1 was postponed because of inclement weather.

Airline (29-4) will host District 1-5A rival Byrd (22-9), the No. 11 seed, Friday and Saturday. The Vikings swept the Jackets 5-3 and 9-1 in the teams’ district series.

Last year, Byrd upset district champion Airline 8-6 in the single-game first round. This time it will be a best-of-3 series like the second round. Byrd swept another 1-5A foe, Captain Shreve, 16-0 and 7-5, in its second-round series.

Airline is in the quarterfinals for the first time since 2008 when the Vikings reached the semifinals.

Benton, the No. 6 seed, completed a sweep of Crowley in its second-round Class 4A series with a 7-2 win at Benton. The Tigers won Game 1 9-2 Friday night in a game shortened to five innings because of rain.

Benton (20-11) will visit No. 3 West Ouachita (23-8) in the best-of-3 quarterfinals Friday and Saturday. The Chiefs split the first two games of their second-round series against District 2 rival Neville, winning the first 6-1 and losing the second 3-2. They advanced with a 6-1 win in Game 3.

At Airline, the Vikings pounded out 17 hits in the six-inning Game 1 victory.

Jonathan Brandon, Austin Zickefoose, Chase Hodges and Cameron Taylor all had three hits.

Taylor’s two-run home run over the right-field wall in the sixth ended the game.

Brandon had two doubles and two RBI. Hodges had a double and an RBI.

Jarrett Bamburg went 2-for-3 with a triple and three RBI. Josh James had two hits, including a double, and two RBI.

Cameron Parikh (7-1) pitched a complete game, allowing five hits and striking out five.

Airline took advantage of what amounted to an extra out to score four runs in the first inning of Game 2.

Chalmette quickly retired the first two batters in the inning. Peyton Davis started the rally with a single. He advanced to second when Bamburg was hit by a pitch.

It looked like the Owls were going to get out of the inning when Zickefoose struck out, but he was able to reach first on a dropped third strike. Davis scored on the play and Bamburg advanced to third.

James brought Bamburg home with a single to left field. Hodges followed with a double to left field, scoring Zickefoose and Hunter Hollis, running for James.

James went 2-for-4, making him 4-for-7 with three RBI on the day.

The Vikings added a run in the top of the fourth. Parikh led off with a single, advanced to second on Hayden Waxley’s sacrifice and scored on Brandon’s single to center field.

Airline put another one the board in the fifth. With one out, James bunted and went all the way to third on an error.

Hollis, running for James, scored on a sacrifice by Taylor to make it 6-0.

Taylor (8-0) started on the mound and allowed just one hit in five innings. He was relieved by Waxley.

Chalmette finally got on the board in the sixth on a walk, two singles and fielder’s choice. With a runner at first, Waxley struck out two straight Owls to end the threat.

Waxley had two of the Vikings’ eight hits. Chalmette (22-11) finished with just three hits.

At Benton, Sam Simmons, Conner Jack Smith, Coleman Nerren and Cody Norris had two hits apiece for the Tigers.

Simmons had two doubles and two RBI. Norris had a double. Norris, Smith, Taylor Ward and Tanner Craft had one RBI apiece.

Craft pitched a complete game, allowing seven hits and striking out five.

Crowley was the designated home team, and the Gents led 1-0 through three innings.

Benton tied it in the top of the fourth. Simmons smacked a two-out double to left field and scored on Smith’s single to right field.

The Tigers blew the game open with four in the fifth.

Nerren led off with a single to right field. With one out, Austin Beck reached on an error and Nerren advanced to third. Wade Grubbs walked to load the bases.

Craft hit a grounder to shortstop for the second out, but Nerren scored. Ward walked on five pitches, making it 3-1.

Simmons followed with his second double, scoring Grubbs and Craft.

Crowley (18-10) used a couple of singles to score a run in the bottom of the fifth.

Craft retired the Gents in order in the bottom of the sixth.

Benton put together another two-out rally in the seventh. Smith started it with a single. He advanced to second when Garrett Hable walked, reached third on a wild pitch and scored on Nerren’s single. Norris brought Hable home with a line drive single to center field.

After hitting the first batter in the bottom of the seventh, Craft set the Owls down in order to end the game.

NOTE: Some of the above report is based on box scores and play-by-plays on the teams’ official GameChanger accounts and information received from coaches.

— Russell Hedges, rhedges@bossierpress.com