The Parkway Panthers and the Benton Tigers begin best-of-three quarterfinal playoff series Friday.
The No. 3 seed Panthers (29-5) host No. 11 Slidell Northshore (23-10) in a Class 5A doubleheader (weather permitting of course). The first game starts at 4 and the second at 7.
A sweep by either team will result in a trip to Sulphur for the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Baseball State Tournament. If they split, a third and decisive third game is scheduled for 7 Saturday.
Parkway coach David George said the reason for the unusual schedule is that Northshore’s graduation ceremony is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday.
Parkway is making its first appearance in the quarterfinals since 2003 and the first ever as a member of Class 5A.
Meanwhile, defending state champion Benton, which is moving up to Class 5A next season, is making its seventh straight appearance in the Class 4A quarterfinals.
The No. 4 seed Tigers (31-5) host No. 5 West Ouachita (26-10). The first game is scheduled for 6 Friday. The second is scheduled for noon Saturday. The third, if necessary, is scheduled for 3 Saturday.
All four teams should be well-rested. They haven’t played since Saturday.
Northshore, a member of District 6-5A, has won 15 in a row. Northshore, whose mascot is also Panthers, defeated No. 22 Ponchatoula 7-1 in the first round.
The Panthers then upset No. 6 Ruston in the second, winning Games 2 and 3 9-5 and 7-4 after losing Game 1 2-1.
Parkway routed No. 30 Natchitoches Central 10-0 in five innings in the first round. The Panthers then swept parish rival and No. 14 Airline 6-4 and 11-9 in the second.
Starter Hayden Knotts picked up the win in the first game. Parker Stevens got the win in relief in the second. In both games, the Panthers had seemingly comfortable leads only to see Airline make things interesting late.
Benton had failed to make it past the quarterfinals six years in a row until last season. Not only did the Tigers advance, they went on to win the first state baseball championship in school history.
One of Benton’s victims en route to the title was West Ouachita in the semifinals in Sulphur.
The Tigers rallied past the Chiefs 6-5.
With two outs and two strikes on batter JT Brice, Benton scored three runs in the top of the seventh in an unusual sequence that started with a wild pitch and included a couple of throwing errors.
West Ouachita has won 13 of its last 14. The Chiefs have had no trouble in the playoffs, defeating No. 28 Bossier 12-0 in five innings in the first round and sweeping No. 21 Beau Chene 10-1 and 11-1 in the second.
Benton got a bit of a scare from No. 29 Plaquemine in the first round. The Tigers trailed 2-0 after four, but Cade Scott hit a three-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the fifth. Sam Simmons gave the Tigers an insurance run with a homer in the sixth.
Left-hander Landon Joyner got the victory.
Benton had little trouble in its second-round series against District 1-4A foe and No. 13 seed Northwood. The Tigers won the first game 11-1 in five innings and the second 7-3.
Brock Van Hoy pitched a three-hitter in the first game. Sophomore Grayson Gates was the winner in the second.