The Benton Tigers have enjoyed great success on the baseball diamond the last three seasons, but the last two ended with losses in the quarterfinals of the Class 4A playoffs.
The Tigers have reached that point again. District 1-4A champion Benton (28-9), the No. 4 seed, hosts No. 5 Teurlings Catholic (24-9) in a best-of-three series. Game 1 is Friday at 6 p.m. Game 2 is scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m. with Game 3, if necessary, following immediately afterwards.
The winner faces the winner of a series between No. 1 Tioga and No. 8 West Ouachita in the 4A semifinals at the state tournament in Sulphur May 14-16.
Teurlings Catholic swept No. 12 Belle Chasse 6-0 and 4-3 (11 innings) in the second round.
Te Rebels finished second to St. Thomas More in District 5-4A with a 9-3 mark. St. Thomas More, the No. 2 seed, has also reached the quarterfinals. Both of Teurlings’ losses to St. Thomas More in district play were by a single run.
This is the first year best-of-3 series have been used in the second round and quarterfinals. Teurlings Catholic defeated Benton 8-6 in the 2013 quarterfinals. Last year, the Tigers fell to St. Michael the Archangel 11-0.
Teurlings Catholic has long been a baseball power. The Rebels have won five state titles with the last two coming in 2010 and 2012.
Junior Josh Taylor, who pitched a 4-hitter in the 6-0 win over Belle Chasse, is the Rebels’ ace. Catcher Austin Kirkpatrick had three RBI in the game.
Benton’s ace is Louisiana Tech signee Aaron Sheppard, who went 9-2 with a .950 ERA and had 71 strikeouts in 73.2 innings during the regular season.
Tanner Craft, the winning pitcher in two of the three playoff games, has also been outstanding. He went 7-0 with a 1.86 ERA during the regular season. Jackson Rutledge and Aaron Thompson have also been solid on the mound.
The Tigers have hit the ball well up and down the lineup.
Louisiana-Lafayette signee Cameron Horton leads the Tigers at the plate. The shortstop batted .405 with six home runs, 15 doubles, two triples and 35 RBI during the regular season.
First baseman Branson Woodard batted .356 with 11 doubles and 22 RBI. Third baseman Jaret Gill hit .333 with nine doubles and 17 RBI.
Center fielder Wade Grubbs, who has shined during the playoffs, batted .339 with 25 RBI during the regular season. Left fielder Tyler Stephens hit .304 and had 15 RBI.
Craft, right fielder Josh Scherer and designated hitter Taylor Ward and second baseman/catcher Clayton Festavan have also done their part. TJ Anderson and Coleman Nerren have also contributed as mainly courtesy runners.
— Russell Hedges, email@example.com