A spirited Benton comeback against the West Ouachita Chiefs came up short Saturday in Game 2 of their best-of-3 Class 4A quarterfinal playoff series in West Monroe.
Down 7-3, the Tigers scored twice in the bottom of the fifth and once in the sixth to close the gap to one going into the final inning. But the Chiefs put four on the board in the top of the seventh and won 11-7.
West Ouachita (25-8), the No. 3 seed, won the series two games to none. The Chiefs won Game 1 3-1 Friday night. West Ouachita will face No. 2 St. Michael in the semifinals at the state tournament next week in Sulphur.
Benton, the No. 6 seed, closed another outstanding season 20-13. The Tigers won their fourth straight District 1-4A title and reached the quarterfinals for the fourth straight year.
Wade Grubbs led Benton at the plate, going 3-for-3 with a triple. Taylor Ward went 2-for-2 with a double. Cody Norris had an RBI triple.
Benton starter Tanner Craft allowed six hits and three earned runs in six innings. He struck out five and walked five.
West Ouachita starter Zach Tidwell allowed seven hits, struck out six and walked one in six innings.
After the Chiefs took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, the Tigers answered in the bottom.
Leadoff batter Grubbs walked. He stole second with two outs, advanced to third on an error and scored on another error.
The second inning proved to be pivotal. After the Chiefs led off with a single, the Tigers got consecutive outs on fly balls. LSU signee Zach Watson was intentionally walked and Zach Tidwell followed with a single to load the bases.
Two Benton errors then led to four runs and a 5-1 West Ouachita lead.
The Tigers cut the lead to three in the bottom of the inning. Coleman Nerren led off with a single, stole second and advanced to third on Ward’s sacrifice. He scored on Garrett Hable’s groundout to shortstop.
The Chiefs added a run in the top of the third to make it 6-2.
Once again, the Tigers answered with one of their own. Grubbs and Craft led off with back-to-back singles. Grubbs stole third and scored on Conner Jack Smith’s sacrifice fly.
West Ouachita scored one in the top of the fifth to make it 7-3.
Benton cut the lead in half in the bottom of the fifth. Grubbs led off with his triple to right field. Norris brought him home with his triple. Smith scored Norris with a sacrifice fly.
The Tigers made it a one-run game in the bottom of the sixth. Ward led off with a single.
Legend Denler, running for Ward, advanced to second and third on passed balls. He scored on the throw after the second one.
But the Chiefs opened up the lead again with their four-run seventh. Three of those came with two outs.
Grubbs led off the bottom of the inning with a single and Craft followed with a walk. Norris reached on a fielder’s choice with Grubbs out at third. Craft and Norris each advanced a base on an error. Craft scored on a passed ball, making it 7-6.
But West Ouachita reliever Watson got two strikeouts to end the game and Benton’s season.
NOTE: Some of the above report is based on the box score and play-by-play on Benton’s official GameChanger account.
— Russell Hedges, firstname.lastname@example.org