Home Sports-Free Benton wins second straight 1-4A baseball title

Benton wins second straight 1-4A baseball title


Russell Hedges

With his team trailing  Loyola College Prep 2-0 Saturday through 3.5 innings, Benton pitcher Aaron Sheppard wasn’t particularly concerned.
“I was going to go out there and keep us at two at least,” he said. “I have confidence in our lineup to get us some runs.”
The Tigers did just that, rallying for a 5-2 victory that gave Benton the outright District 1-5A championship for the second straight year.
Benton (23-8, 10-1) has a two-game lead on second-place Minden with just one district game against North DeSoto left.
sheppard2“It feels great,” Sheppard said. “I’m just glad to be a part of it. I’m glad I was able to go out there and compete.”
The district title is the second in as many seasons for Benton head coach J.D. Stephens.
Benton returned all but one player who started in last year’s quarterfinal loss to Teurlings Catholic. So while the district championship is a major accomplishment, Stephens and the Tigers have a bigger goal.
“When you get through your district and win a district championship, that means you’re winning games which means you’re moving up in the power rankings,” he said.
“At the end of the year our goal is to win a district championship, but we want to be as high as we can be come Saturday (when the regular season ends).”
Benton was No. 5 in the latest unofficial Class 5A power rankings, which were released last Monday.
Sheppard did his part Saturday, holding the Flyers to just four hits and striking out 10.
“My slider was probably my best pitch,” he said. “I started off kind of slow. Then I kind of got in a rhythm and later in the game I felt better.”
After Loyola took the 2-0 lead, the Tigers chipped away at it.
Josh Scherer and Peyton Leflett had singles in the bottom of the  fourth. Scherer scored on Jordan Shaffer’s fielder’s choice to make it a 2-1 game.
Scherer had the big hit in the fifth inning, a two-out double. Tyler Stephens, running for Jaret Gill, reached third and then scored the tying run on an error.
The Tigers put three up in the sixth thanks to singles by Shaffer, Wade Grubbs and Gill and a couple of Loyola errors.
“Our guys do a great job on not panicking,” Stephens said. “We’ve been there as far as we’ve had to win from behind, we’ve had to win from out front.
“Early in the game we  got guys on in every inning. We hit line drives at people, ground outs at people. It’s only a matter of time before those balls will fall. If you keep putting the ball in play, it does make them make plays.”
Seven Tigers had hits. Scherer led the way with two.
Benton visits Southwood Tuesday and then closes the regular season with home games against North DeSoto and Ouachita Christian.

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