Panthers shut out Wildcats, secure state bid

Benton senior Ross Carver throws a pitch during the Panthers 7-0 shutout over the El Dorado Wildcats Monday in the first round of the 6A West Conference Tournament in Benton. Carver struck out 10 in seven innings for the win. TONY LENAHAN/The Saline CourierBenton sophomore Logan Easterling hits a 2-run single in the second inning of a 7-0 victory over the El Dorado Wildcats Monday in Benton. Easterling went 3 for 4 with three RBIs in the win. TONY LENAHAN
Tony Lenahan
Sports Editor

The Benton Panthers opened the 6A West Conference Tournament in fine style Monday at Panthers Field. Behind senior starting pitcher Ross Carver, the fourth-seeded Panthers shut out the fifth-seeded El Dorado Wildcats 7-0. With the victory, Benton will travel to Sheridan Wednesday to take on the No. 1 seed Yellowjackets, which routed the Lake Hamilton Wolves 13-3 on Monday.
Carver pitched the best game of the season on Monday, giving up just two hits and two walks, while striking out 10 in a complete-game win.
“He had command of all three of his pitches, he was throwing hard and it was probably the best game he’s thrown all year,” Benton Coach Mark Balisterri said. “That’s what we wanted, for him to be at his best at the end. He’ll get to rest until probably Saturday and we’ll be ready to roll then. He did a great job.”
The victory gets the Panthers into the 6A State Tournament and Wednesday’s matchup with Sheridan will be no easy task. The Yellowjackets (27-4) are ranked second in the state, regardless of conference, according to Sheridan has beaten Benton twice this season with the Yellowjackets taking a close game, 6-2, in late March and winning 9-3 in mid-April. First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 5 p.m.
“We’re going to Sheridan,” Balisterri said. “We feel good with where we’re at with them. We’ve not played our best either time we’ve played them and we didn’t get blown away. We gave up five unearned runs and they scored six (in the first game). The second game they got a few more hits, but they got seven hits that never left the ground in the infield.”