Kevin Hall's Riverside Rebels came into this season riding an eight-year conference championship reign and the Rebels knew this was the week that would tell whether they could make it nine in a row.
The Rebels entered Monday's game with Bay with only one conference loss and in a tie for first place in league play, but costly errors led to a crushing 4-2 defeat and set off a week of heartbreak that may have ended Riverside's championship run.
Riverside played giveaway against the Yellowjackets Monday afternoon at Bay by surrendering four unearned runs, even though the Jackets were able to get only four hits.
After the Rebels jumped out to a 2-0 first inning lead, the Jackets began to peck away thanks to a leaky Rebel defense. Bay picked up an unearned run in the second and then tied the game with another unearned run in the fourth inning on an RBI single by Will Scott. The Jackets took the lead for good in the bottom of the fifth with yet another unearned run when Brett Hogan hit a long fly ball that was misplayed by the left fielder, allowing Robby Bollinger, who had singled with one out, to score all the way from first base to give Bay a 3-2 lead.
The Yellowjackets tacked on an insurance run when Brett Hogan, who reached third on the error by the leftfielder, raced home on a wild pitch, and then Davey Webb closed the door on the Rebels to secure the victory.
The Rebels could only muster two hits off the southpaw Webb, who fanned 15 Riverside batters in going the distance to pick up the victory.
Matt Owens pitched almost as well for the Rebels, giving up the four unearned runs on only five hits in six innings of work.
Michael Dewitt led off the game with a sharp single to centerfield, and scored the Rebels first run, while Alex Smith got the only other Riverside hit.
The loss dropped the Rebels out of first place in 3AA-South play, while Bay improved their conference record to 3-1 on the year.
The Rebels rebounded Tuesday by blasting hapless Turrell in both games of a doubleheader. The Rebels took the opener 15-0 and came back to take the nightcap 16-0.
The victories kept Riverside's conference hopes alive, pushing their record in league play to 5-2.
Riverside struck early and often in the first game, taking a 5-0 lead after the first inning and then putting the game away with a nine run fourth inning.
Alex Smith, 1-0, pitched a no-hitter to pick up the win for the Rebels. Smith struck out eight and walked two in four innings of work.
Riverside was led at the plate by Michael Dewitt who went 2-2 with two runs scored. Jeremy Mann also was 2-2 at the plate, scoring three times, while Kevin Winford went 2-3 with two runs scored.
The Rebels wasted no time in the second game, batting around in scoring 10 runs in the first inning on six hits and three Rocket walks. The Rebels mercifully ended things for Turrell with a six-run second inning to gain the victory.
Tyler Timms, 1-0, pitched all three innings for the Rebels to pick up the win, striking out eight while giving up just one hit. Corey Snyder went 2-2 with three RBIs to lead the Rebel offensive attack. Alex Smith went 2-2 with an RBI while Timms helped his own cause going 2-3 with one RBI.
Thursday night the Rebels suffered two backbreaking losses to league foe Cross County, which virtually eliminated Riverside's chances of another conference title.
The Thunderbirds out slugged the Rebels 14-13 in the opener of a doubleheader in extra innings before coming from behind to take an 8-7 win in the nightcap.
Cross County built an 8-3 lead in the first game before the Rebels battled back to tie the score 13-13 to send the game into extra innings, only to see the Thunderbirds score a run in the top of the 8th inning to pick up a crucial 3AA-South victory.
Alex Smith slammed two two-run homers and also added a single while driving in five runs to lead the Rebel offensive outburst. Michael Dewitt also went yard and added a double while driving in two runs and scoring three times to help the Rebel cause. Jeremy Mann drove in three runs with a homer, double, and single, while scoring two runs. Anthony Reece added a two-run single, Matt Owens had a double and a single while Matt Snyder also singled for Riverside.
Matt Snyder suffered the loss in relief after Matt Owens was forced to leave the game with a sore arm in the second inning.
Cross County banged out 15 hits in the opener as six players had two hits apiece, including home runs off the bats of Conrad Cline and Dylan Karnes.
In the nightcap, the Rebels watched Cross County jump out to a 3-1 lead after three innings before the Rebels rallied in the top of the fourth to tie the score 3-3. Alex Smith started the inning with a triple and scored on an RBI single by Matt Owens to cut the lead to 3-2. After a two-out double by Matt Snyder, Kevin Winford tied the game with an RBI single.
The Rebels struck again in the top of the fifth on an RBI double by Tyler Timms and a run scoring single off the bat of Owens to take a 5-3 lead. Riverside wasn't finished as Jeremy Mann scored Owens with an RBI infield hit to increase the lead to 6-3. After a Matt Snyder single pushed Mann to second base, Kevin Winford then lashed a run scoring single to give the Rebels what appeared to be a safe four run lead, 7-3, entering the Cross County fifth.
Cross County began to chip away at the lead by scoring two runs in the fifth to make the score 7-5. The Thunderbirds then made it a one=run game by adding a sixth inning run before rallying with a two-run seventh inning to pull the game out and complete the doubleheader sweep.
Jeremy Mann went all the way for the Rebels to take the loss, giving up eight runs on nine hits (five earned). He was hurt by seven Riverside errors as was Snyder in the first game when the Rebels made eight miscues in a sloppy defensive performance.
Riverside, which dropped to 5-4 in league play, was led by Matt Snyder and Kevin Winford who each went 3-3 to lead the Rebels offensively in the nightcap. Winford also added two RBIs. Tyler Timms went 3-4 with an RBI while Matt Owens went 2-4 with two RBIs to aid the Rebel offensive output.
Riverside then played host to the Craighead County Baseball tournament and opened up with a 10-0 victory over Nettleton as Matt Owens went 3-4 including a two-run homer in the first to provide the offensive firepower for thre Rebels. Owens also scored three times and swiped three bases.
Michael Dewitt drove in two runs with a double and a sacrifice fly, while M.J. Emery also drove in two runs including an RBI single. Matt Snyder and Anthony Reece also provided RBI hits for the Rebels. Kevin Winford had an RBI and scored twice.
Michael Dewitt went the distance to pick up the win for Riverside, allowing five hits while striking out nine.
In the semifinal game against eventual champion Bay, the Yellowjackets used a first inning grand slam off the bat of Tom Birdsong after the first five batters had reached on base on balls to take a 5-0 lead and the Rebels never got untracked in dropping a 14-1 decision to the Jackets.
Alex Smith, 1-1, took the loss, as the Rebels dropped to 11-11 on the season. Riverside will try to regroup heading into the last week of regular season play before playing host to the district tournament beginning Monday, April 19.
Riverside will play three home games at Lake City this week beginning Monday afternoon against Bay. On Tuesday the Rebels will take on Walnut Ridge and will close out the regular season on Friday against the Brookland Bearcats.