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Baseball: Har-Ber upsets Fayetteville

Third-seeded ‘Cats knock off top-seeded ‘Dogs

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Photographs by J.T. Wampler

Springdale Har-Ber pitcher Blake Benson (left) celebrates with catcher Lincoln Rasmussen on Saturday after beating Fayetteville in the 7A state baseball tournament semifinals in Bentonville.

BENTONVILLE --The third time was a charm and eight was more than enough for Blake Benson during Springdale Har-Ber's 8-1 win over Fayetteville on Saturday.

It was the Wildcats' third straight trip and first win in the 7A state semifinals under third-year coach Ron Bradley. They'll play in the state championship game for the second time in school history when they take on Cabot in Baum Stadium next weekend.

Springdale Har-Ber 8, Fayetteville 1

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Fayetteville^000^001^0^—^1^8^1

Har-Ber’s battery Benson and Rasmussen. Fayetteville’s battery Cox, Davenport (4) and Blagg. W - Benson (3-1). L - Cox (5-3). Sv - none. HRs - none.

Cabot 14, Bryant 4 (5)

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Cabot^333^41^—^14^15^1

Bryant’s battery Greiner, Heil (2), Buck (3), Catton (4) and Wright. Cabot’s battery Brockinton, Shepherd and Mullins. W - Brockinton (7-0). L - Greiner. Sv - none. HRs - none.

Har-Ber, which won a state championship in 2008, entered this postseason as the No. 3 seed from the 7A-West and dominated the 7A-West Conference champion Purple'Dogs from start to finish.

"That's what we talked about as a staff, we said, 'Third time's a charm,'" said Bradley, who has coached team to a combined four state titles at West Fork, Jenks, Okla. and Claremore, Okla. "You're trying to build tradition and, with Fayetteville, that's what we were up against today, the tradition that Fayetteville has established over the years (seven state titles).

"Har-Ber is coming along and trying to take that tradition away. And this is a good start."

Har-Ber led 2-0 before Benson (3-1), a junior left-hander, even threw a pitch. His shutout bid ended when Hayes Cox hit an RBI single in the sixth. By then, the outcome was well in hand as the 'Cats scored in four of the first five innings to build Benson an 8-0 cushion. He finished off the complete-game victory with his fourth strikeout on his 110th pitch.

"Last week, when we knew we would have to win three games, we penciled in Blake Benson to start Game 3," Bradley said. "And he didn't disappoint us. He did a great job. He makes you beat him. He does a quality job of putting pressure on the hitter and that's all you can ask for in Game 3."

Sophomore Blake Adams was 2-for-3 and drove in a run in each of his first three at-bats, including the Wildcats' first run of the game. Caleb Kimbel, who was hit by a pitch twice, drove in the second run on a sacrifice fly. Colin Kozak was 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Mac McCroskey and Jacob Williams each had two hits as well for the Wildcats.

Fayetteville had eight hits, including two each by Jackson Sloan and Logan Carr, but couldn't string enough together against Benson to make a difference, leaving nine runners stranded on base.

"Everything that we hit hard found somebody and everything they hit hard found a hole," said Fayetteville coach Scott Gallagher. "We hit the ball hard off (Benson), but it was mainly they played really good defense behind him and he didn't give up any free bags."

Cabot 14, Bryant 4 (5 innings)

Blake McCutchen had four hits to lead a 15-hit attack and power the Panthers (24-7) into the state championship.

"Our kids, they could taste it today," said Cabot coach Ronnie Goodwin. "I told them, 'Cabot is going to be in a state championship and win one one of these days.' ... And now we're one step closer and hopefully we have one more good game in us."

After Bryant (19-11) grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, the Panthers scored three runs in each of the first three innings and four more in the fourth. Eric Larsen's line drive landed just inside the left-field line to end the game by mercy rule in the fifth.

"The credit goes to our players," Goodwin said. "We tell them everyday that we have a road map of how to get there -- it's up to them to get up and go."

All nine Cabot starters had at least one hit. McCutchen, who Goodwin called a "catalyst" at the top of the order, had three runs and three RBIs. Clayton Gray was 3-for-4 with 3 RBIs and 2 runs. Houston King and Evan Hooper each drove in two runs and Dillon Thomas had two hits.

Goodwin said the game "felt a lot closer than the score indicated'" because Bryant had 10 hits. The Hornets were led by Coby Greiner, who was 3-for-3 with two RBIs. Jake Wright and Logan Chambers had two hits apiece.

Sports on 05/14/2017

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