Thursday, April 5, 2018
Tigers coach Todd Abbott has seen flashes of brilliance from his team, but putting together all aspects in the same game hasn't happened yet.
Bentonville (7-7 1-3 7A-West Conference) dropped a two-game set to Springdale Har-Ber earlier this week, after having their league games against Van Buren rained out last week.
The Tigers are relatively inexperienced, returning just three players who were regular starters at the varsity level. Those are Kam'ron Mays Hunt, along with Nathan Lyons and Tyler Johnson.
"Pitching, defense and offense has yet to happen at the same time in the same game," Abbott said. "We feel like this group has a chance to be pretty good, but it's just putting it all together and getting our minds right for that stuff. We're close to turning that corner.
"Cam Mays Hunt is swinging a good bat for us and we've seen some good pitching performances from Austin Gottula and I thought Austin Garrett threw well for us against Har-Ber. But we're still got some guys we're waiting on to come on for us."
The Golden Arrows are off to a nice start, already knocking off defending conference champion Magazine, but coach Greg Pair Jr. said newcomer Martin Lozano has played a big part.
Lozano improved to 6-1 on the mound on Wednesday, tossing a four-hit shutout against Hackett. He now has 65 strikeouts in 39 innings of work. He is also hitting over .500 for the Class 2A Golden Arrows (8-3, 5-0).
Lozano, a senior, played for Class 6A state champion Mustang, Okla., last year, but he played in the outfield and hadn't pitched much until moving to Lavaca this year.
"He's a really good outfielder, but with us he's played shortstop some when he isn't pitching, Pair said. "He just doesn't get rattled out there in any situation. He's been through tough situations, being on a championship team."
Seniors Draven Gill and Tripp Lile are also cornerstones of the team. Both are three-year starters.
Lavaca lost in the first round of the regional tournament a year ago, but Pair believes this team has a chance to make a postseason run.
"We were a few players shy last year," Pair said. "But I've got four seniors who contribute a ton. We've worked hard to improve our hitting. I've got a good number one pitcher and a solid number two and three and four that I'm not afraid to use. Defensively, we make the plays we should most of the time."
The Eagles graduated six starters from last year's team that lost in the first round of the regional tournament, but they are off to a strong start this year because of the commitment they made over the summer, coach Greg Harris said.
"What we did was we played in the summertime on the showcase circuit," Harris said. "We got our heads beat in some, but it's helped us this year. The kids made the commitment to play and that's been big. We got a lot of games under our belt."
Huntsville (12-2) has lost only to Prairie Grove and to Lutheran South out of St. Louis, who is currently ranked No. 1 in their class by Max Preps in Missouri.
Harris, in his 23rd year of coaching and third at Huntsville, recently picked up his 400th coaching victory this week. He pointed to many great examples to follow in his career.
"Kirk Bock, he changed my career," Harris said. "I've worked with several coaches who anybody would put on their Mount Rushmore of coaches. Marion Glover, Tommy Tice, Jim Stafford, Charlie Berry. I've been lucky to be able to learn from some of the best."
The Eagles this year have been keyed by three senior three-year starters -- Tanner Harris, Clay Siegrist and Ty Shackelford. Siegrist is a leader behind the plate, while Harris mans second base. Shackelford, left-hander, pitches and plays right field.
"Harris has come a long way, he didn't even swing it as a sophomore," Harris said. "We DH'd for him. Now, he's our lead-off hitter."
Juniors Tad Jones and Ty Buchanan have also been big on the mound. Junior Sean McCone, a three-spot standout, has also been key, Harris said.
Harris hopes his team can be ready for the postseason, but the Eagles face a daunting schedule in the next couple of weeks because of some rain outs.
"My biggest fear is will we be standing upright when we get through," said Harris, whose team is slated to play nine games in the next couple of weeks.
The Wolverines picked up a pair of huge 7A-West Conference wins this week, sweeping Springdale High.
Bentonville West (11-6, 2-4 7A-West) got a big effort from center fielder Joey Aden, who was 6-for-9 with two doubles, 2 RBIs and 4 runs scored. The junior has been huge defensively, all season, too, West coach Chip Durham said.
"He's seeing the ball real good right now," Durham said. "He's laid down a few bunts when he's seen some opportunities. But he saves us a lot of runs defensively, too. He's made some really, really nice plays for us in the outfield."
Junior Carter Bourg also came out of the bullpen with 3.1 scoreless innings of relief to help West rally for the win on Tuesday. Durham said he came up big to give the offense a chance to rally, after Springdale took a 6-5 lead.
"He comes in with the bases loaded and gets our of it and gave us a chance," Durham said.
The Wolverines responded with four runs in the bottom of the inning to regain the lead and never looked back. Bourg allowed two hits, struck out three and walked one to pick up the win.
Durham said walks and errors have been a problem in his team starting 0-4 in the 7A-West, but some of that was much better this week.
"We don't have one dominant guy on the mound," Durham said. "But one thing we addressed was walks and we were able to limit those the past couple days. We only had one error yesterday, but that's really what's hurt us in our losses. It's nice to see us do OK there.
"That's how we're built, We've got to throw strikes and play defense. If we don't do that, we don't give ourselves a chance to win."Preps Basketball on 04/06/2018
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