The Airline Vikings clinched the District 1-5A baseball championship with a 7-6 victory over the Haughton Bucs in eight innings Thursday night at Airline.
Meanwhile, the Benton Tigers moved a step closer to winning their fourth straight District 1-4A title with an 11-1, six-inning victory over Minden at Benton.
Airline (25-4, 11-1) now has a two-game lead over Byrd (19-9, 9-3) with one game left. The Vikings play the Bucs (17-11, 6-5) in Game 2 of the series Friday night at 6 at Haughton. It is the regular-season finale for both teams. Regardless of the outcome, both the Vikings and Bucs will be going to the playoffs.
This is Airline’s third straight district championship. The Vikings shared the 2014 title with Captain Shreve but have won it outright the last two seasons.
Benton (15-11, 8-0) and Minden (13-10, 7-1) face off again in the final game of their series Friday night at 6 at Minden.
The Tigers and Tide each have one make-up district game left. They will be heavy favorites in the those games. That means Benton clinched a virtual share of the district championship with the win and can win it outright Friday. If Minden wins, the two will likely end up as co-champions.
At Airline, Haughton came very close to ending Airline’s 11-game winning streak.
The game was tied at 5 after seven. The Bucs scored a run with two outs in the top of the eighth. Reid Wilson singled, stole second and scored on Sam Herren’s single. Mason Simmons then singled to left field, but Herren was thrown out at the plate by Jarrett Bamburg.
Cameron Parikh got Airline’s rally going in the bottom of the eighth with a double to center field. He scored on a error on Hayden Waxley’s hard ground ball to tie it.
Waxley advanced to second and Jonathan Brandon walked. Peyton Davis then laced a single to center field, scoring Waxley with the game-winner.
Davis, a Northwestern State signee, had a big day. He went 3-for-5 with a home run, double and two RBI. Parikh went 3-for-3 with a double and two RBI. Josh James had two hits.
Herren led Haughton, going 3-for-3 with a double and two RBI. Reid Wilson and Andrew Sewell both had two hits, including doubles.
With the playoffs looming, both teams kept their starting pitchers’ work to a minimum. Airline’s Kyle Backofen allowed just one hit and struck out five in three innings. Waxley got the win in relief.
Haughton’s Triston Carmack went two innings and allowed two hits.
The Bucs struck first with a run in the second. Sewell, who was hit by a pitch, scored from first on Wilson’s double to center field.
The Vikings tied it in the bottom of the inning, taking advantage of a couple of errors and a single by James. Hunter Hollis, running for James, scored on an error.
Airline took command with four in the third.
Davis led off with his homer over the left-field wall. James doubled to right field after an Austin Zickefoose walk. Cameron Taylor walked with two outs to load the bases. Parikh brought home Zickefoose and Hollis, running for James again, with a single to left field. Taylor scored the final run on an error.
Airline kept the four-run lead through five when the Bucs had a four-run inning of their own. Sewell doubled to right field with one out and Wilson followed with a single. Carmack brought home Sewell with a single. Wilson also scored to make it 5-3.
Austin Clemmens reched on an error. Carmack advanced to third and scored on Jeremiah Wilson’s sacrifice. Herren’s double to right scored Jonathan Plant, running for Clemmens, and tied it.
At Benton, Tanner Craft pitched a six-inning three-hitter and went 2-for-2 with two RBI. He also walked twice.
Coleman Nerren went 2-for-3 with a double. Cody Norris had two hits.
After Minden took an early lead with a run in the top of the second, the Tigers broke the game open with five runs in the bottom of the inning.
Benton took advantage of some fielding mistakes by the Tide. Nerren and Norris had back-to-back bunt hits. Garrett Hable was hit by a pitch to lead off the inningand stole second. Hable and Nerren both scored on errors.
After Wade Grubbs walked, Craft brought Norris home with a single. Taylor Ward’s single made it 4-1. Tyler Self, running for Craft, scored on a passed ball.
Benton ended the game with six in the sixth.
Nerren led off with a double and Norris had another bunt hit. The Tigers then took advantage of a hit-by-pitch, a couple of walks and a wild pitch to make it 8-1. Conner Jack Smith’s single resulted in two runs. The game ended on Hable’s single to center field.
NOTE: The above report is based on box scores and play-by-plays on teams’ official GameChange accounts and information received from coaches.
— Russell Hedges, firstname.lastname@example.org