The Benton Tigers defeated the Crowley Gents 9-2 in five innings in Game 1 of their best-of-3 second-round playoff series Friday night at Benton.
The game got started late because of rain and was delayed after the fourth inning. With a steady rain coming down, it was called after five innings. That’s when it became official.
Game 2 is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at Benton with a Game 3, if necessary, immediately following. Benton, the No. 6 seed, improved to 19-11. Crowley, the No. 11 seed, dropped to 18-9.
The Airline Vikings weren’t as fortunate with the weather. Rain and lightning caused the postponement of Game 1 of their best-of-3 Class 5A second-round series against the Chalmette Owls.
The No. 3 seed Vikings (27-4) and No. 19 Owls (22-9) will try again on Saturday at 11 a.m. at Airline. Game 2 is scheduled for 30 minutes after the completion of Game 1.
According to The Weather Channel, there is an 80 percent chance of rain Saturday. But that’s mainly in the overnight and early morning hours. It decreases to about 15 percent by 9 a.m. before increasing to anywhere from 35 to 45 percent in the afternoon.
Arkansas signee Jackson Rutledge pitched a two-hitter with nine strikeouts against Crowley. The Gents’ runs came on a two-out, two-run homer in the third.
Benton gave Rutledge more than enough runs in the first inning.
The Tigers scored eight, taking advantage of seven singles — including three bunts — and some throwing errors by the Gents.
Wade Grubbs led off with a single to center field, advanced to second on Tanner Craft’s bunt and scored on an error.
Craft moved to second on a wild pitch and third on Taylor Ward’s sacrifice bunt. He scored on a throwing error that allowed Ward to be safe at first.
Conner Jack Smith bunted safely for the third hit of the inning with one out. Ward advanced to second.
Garrett Hable put down yet another successful bunt. Ward and Smith were both able to score on another error.
Coleman Nerren then laced a single to center field, putting runners at the corners. Cody Norris walked to load the bases.
After Austin Beck popped up for the second out, Grubbs walked on four pitches to make it 5-0. Craft followed that with a groundball single to center field to make it 6-0.
After a Crowley pitching change, Ward singled to center field, scoring Norris. Grubbs scored on the throw, making it 8-0.
The inning finally ended on Sam Simmons’ popup.
Benton loaded the bases in the bottom of the fourth with two outs but a popup ended the threat.
The Tigers scored their final run in the fifth. Grubbs walked, stole second and advanced to third on a passed ball. He scored on Ward’s groundout to third.
Craft went 2-for-3. Smith went 2-for-4. Ward had three RBI.
NOTE: Some of the above report is based on the box score and play-by-play on Benton’s official GameChanger account.