BENTON â€“ It took extra innings to do it, but the Benton Panthers came away with a 3-2 victory over the defending 5A state champion Arkadelphia Badgers on Friday at Panthers Field. With the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth inning in a 2-2 game, Benton junior Cameron Spiveyâ€™s hard-hit grounder to second base scored courtesy runner Sam Baker when the throw to the catcher was low and the umpire called a trap against the ground for the winning run.
â€śThat was a hard call to make,â€ť Benton Coach Mark Balisterri said of the throwing error. â€śThat was one of the best calls made by an umpire because he was in perfect position. We played a quality team and we fought and battled.â€ť
After sophomore Benton lefty starter Chase Nix set down the Badgers down with a walk and a strikeout in the first, his twin brother, sophomore Colten Nix started the Panthersâ€™ first with a single to centerfield. Junior shortstop Colby Johnson sacrifice bunted Nix to second base and sophomore Brinson Williamsâ€™ double to centerfield would plate the gameâ€™s first run.
The Badgers would respond in the top of the second with an unearned run to tie it at 1-1, but sophomore designated hitter Ben Brasuell singled to center to begin the bottom of the inning for Benton (5-0). Chase Nix sacrificed Brasuell to second base and reached on an error by the third baseman before Spivey popped a sacrifice bunt attempt up for the first out of the inning. Brasuell was out at third on senior Bailey Mitchellâ€™s fielderâ€™s choice before courtesy runner Alex Graves scored on Colten Nixâ€™ two-out RBI single to left field for a 2-1 Panther lead. Nix finished 2 for 3 with a run, an RBI and a stolen base.
â€śColten is doing exactly what we felt like heâ€™d do,â€ť Balisterri said. â€śHeâ€™s a guy weâ€™d really like to have in the three or four hole just because I know heâ€™d be an RBI guy. But heâ€™s so valuable to us at leadoff, we donâ€™t really have another guy with that quality. He makes things happen.â€ť
Arkadelphia would respond with a run in the top of the third to tie it on a sacrifice fly which could have been much worse had right fielder Brian Krikorian not had an excellent diving catch. With a runner at second base, Chase Nix struck out Jake Knight looking at a curve ball to end the inning.
That would be all the scoring until the eighth despite the fact that Nix walked and hit a batter to start the top of the fifth. Badger J.F. Matros couldnâ€™t put down a sacrifice bunt and instead flew out to right field in which Krikorian would double off Ty Costers at first base when Jared Barker made a good play on a high throw. Nix would later load the bases before striking out J.B. Burnham to get out of the inning. Nix would get the no-decision giving up two unearned runs on four hits, four walks and seven strikeouts in five innings. He threw 89 pitches.
â€śChase did a good job,â€ť Balisterri said. â€śHe did better than the time before, but he still needs to get command of his off-speed pitches. When he gets command of his off-speed pitches, heâ€™s going to be hard to hit. The other day he threw 68 [pitches] through three innings and had eight Ks. He got better.â€ť
Junior lefty Ryan Rickford earned the win after throwing three scoreless innings on two hits.
â€śThe biggest part of the day was Rickford coming in and doing the job he did,â€ť Balisterri said. â€śI challenged him. He went out there and pitched three great innings.â€ť
Badger Brandon Matros got the no-decision after giving up two runs (one earned) on four hits, five walks and seven strikeouts in seven innings.
â€śTheir pitcher will be one of the better pitchers weâ€™ll see all year,â€ť Balisterri said.
â€śTo be able to win a game like that and play the way we did defensively, that will tell you we compete. There were a couple of innings we got in trouble on the mound; we competed and fought through it.â€ť
Williams finished 1 for 2 with an RBI and Brasuell was 1 for 3.
Bentonâ€™s junior varsity defeated Arkadelphiaâ€™s varsity team 7-0 thanks to Jake Croushore throwing a one-hitter threw four innings.
The Panthers will host the Bryant Hornets on Tuesday in the first 7A/6A South Conference game of the year.