(Town Crier photo/Trent Fletcher)
Errors and the inability to come up with the clutch hits spelled disaster for the Rebels in the Walnut Ridge game. Andrew Ballard scattered six hits in going all the way on the mound to post the victory for the Bobcats.
Walnut Ridge jumped on the board first, scoring an unearned run in the top of the third inning. Ryan Belcher led off the inning with a walk and stole second base before advancing to third on a ground out by Jeremy Hart. Ballard then reached safely on a wide throw to first base, scoring Belcher from third to give the Bobcats a 1-0 lead.
The Rebels bounced back in the bottom half of the third to tie the game with their only run. Michael Dewitt lashed a one-out single to centerfield, stole second, and advanced to third on a base hit by shortstop Tyler Timms. First baseman Alex Smith struck out but reached first as the third strike sailed over the outstretched arms of Walnut Ridge catcher Kai Rorex, allowing Dewitt to scamper home with the tying run.
Ballard, however, settled down by getting Matt Owens to fly out to short center before ending the inning by enticing Jeremy Mann to ground into a force out.
Walnut Ridge immediately got the lead back in the top of the fourth with the help of two Rebel errors, allowing two more unearned runs to cross the plate, giving the Bobcats a 3-1 lead that they would never relinquish.
The Bobcats added two more runs in the fifth, one on an RBI double by Cody Holland, while one out later Holland came in to score on an RBI ground out by Brandon Evans. Walnut Ridge added their final run in the seventh on an RBI single off the bat of Jeb Davis, scoring Rorex, who had singled to lead off the inning, making the final score 6-1.
Riverside was led at the plate by Dewitt, Timms and Matt Snyder, all with two hits apiece. Jeremy Mann suffered the loss, giving up five hits and six walks while striking out two. Mann was hampered by poor defense as four of the six Bobcat runs were unearned.
Riverside traveled to Bay Thursday, hoping to get back on the winning track. Things looked good early as the Rebels jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning on an RBI single from Jeremy Mann.
The Rebels increased their lead to 3-0 in the third when Mann drove in two more runs on a two-out bloop single to right field, scoring Alex Smith and Matt Owens.
Bay began their comeback in the fourth inning, scoring two runs, one unearned to pull within 3-2. The Yellowjackets then grabbed the lead for good in the fifth inning by scoring two more unearned runs as the Rebels continued to struggle defensively. The big hit in the inning came off the bat of pitcher Bart Hogan, who lashed a two run opposite field single to right field. Hogan got his chance after watching his battery mate and brother Brett Hogan walked intentionally, loading the bases and setting up what proved to be the game winning hit.
Bay tacked on two more runs in the sixth to take a 7-3 lead, again benefiting from a Rebel error.
The Rebels tried to mount a comeback in the sixth when Michael Dewitt slammed a two-run single, scoring Matt Snyder and Kevin Winford to make the score 7-5. But Bay answered in the seventh when centerfielder Tom Birdsong led off the inning with a long homerun over the left field fence to make the score 8-5. Riverside then completely broke down defensively, allowing three more unearned runs to cross the plate as the Yellowjackets blew the game open 11-5.
Riverside added one more run in the last of the seventh inning on an RBI groundout by Snyder, setting the final score at 11-6.
Mann led the Rebels at the plate with three hits while Dewitt had the only other Rebel hit of the game. Snyder suffered the loss, surrendering 13 hits while giving up all 11 runs, six of which were unearned. Snyder fanned seven while walking four. The Rebels defense was again leaky, making six errors on the day.
Bart Hogan struck out 10 and walked four, while allowing only four hits in gaining the victory for the Yellowjackets.
The Rebels finish the regular season 11-13 overall and 5-5 in conference play.
Riverside will host the district tournament, beginning Monday at noon in Lake City. The Rebels come into the tournament as the fourth seed and will play the Hughes Blue Devils with a trip to the regional tournament at Monette next week on the line.