Panthers come back for 1st-round win

Benton sophomore Tristan Hawkins takes a cut in an 8-7 comeback victory over the Marion Patriots Thursday in the first round of the 5A State Tournament at Everett Field at Panther Stadium in Benton. Hawkins had the walk-off RBI single. TONY LENAHAN/The Saline Courier
Staff Writer

Down by a run going into their final at-bat, the Benton Panthers came back to down the Marion Patriots 8-7 in the first round of the 5A State Tournament thanks to junior Tristan Hawkins' walk-off RBI single to plate junior Peyton Hudgins for the win at Everett Field at Panther Stadium in Benton.
"These guys don't ever give up," Benton Coach Mark Balisterri said. "We've been getting in their head all year long that we just have to keep the game manageable. We got it back within one run and gave ourselves an opportunity to win. It's just the way these guys are."
Down 7-6 going into the bottom of the seventh, Benton junior Jaden Woolbright took his third walk of the game before senior Logan Easterling flew out to left field. Junior Peyton Hudgins followed with a one-out single to center to send Woolbright to third before senior Caleb Easterling tied things up at 7-apiece with an RBI single to left field, his first hit of the game. Senior Wes Guerra struck out for the second out, but Hawkins came through with the game-winner with a line shot to left field that the Marion left-fielder couldn't grab a hold of, running into the wall.
The Panthers will take on the Russellville Cyclones today in the quarterfinals of the state tourney at Everett Field at Panther Stadium. Russellville, the West No. 4 seed, routed the Central No. 1 Sylvan Hills Bears 10-0. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m.

Read the rest in Friday's The Saline Courier.