For the second straight year, the Riverside Rebels dealt Buffalo Island Central a loss in their season opener. Last year, Riverside held onto to a one run victory at Caraway. This year, the Rebels traveled to Monette and came away with a 6-0 victory, Wednesday afternoon.
Riverside pitcher Jeremy Mann threw a two-hit complete game shutout, striking out 13 Mustangs, allowing only one hit. Mann allowed only a single to Derek Rolland with one out in the first inning, along with an infield hit to Hunter Smith, bouncing off of Mann's glove, in the Mustang sixth. It was the only inning Buffalo Island posed any kind of threat. Mann dominated the Mustangs by keeping them off balance all day mixing up his pitches with over half of his 13 strikeouts coming off called third strikes.
Tyler Timms got the Rebels on the board, with the only run they would need, on a RBI single down the third baseline to give the Rebels a one run advantage. Kevin Winford, who led the Rebels at the plate going 3-4, added a run scoring double to give the Rebels a 2-0 lead after 3 innings of play.
Winford struck again when he laced a solo blast over the left field fence off of Mustang starter Preston Despain (0-1) giving Riverside a 3-0 lead in the top half of the sixth. Riverside tacked on an unearned run stretching the Rebel lead to 4-0 going into the bottom half of the sixth.
The Mustangs tried to come back, in their half of the sixth, when Hunter Smith lined a base hit off the glove of Mann. Mann then walked the next batter, before an error loaded the bases. Mann got out of trouble as he enticed Despain to bounce back to the mound with a force out to the plate. He then struck out Derek Rolland and Brandon Ballard looking to end the inning.
Chad Williams came on in relief in the seventh giving up two more runs, and Mann preceded to sit the Mustangs down in order in the bottom of the seventh as Riverside evened their record 3-3 on the year, while the Mustangs fell to 0-1.
"I thought Jeremy (Mann) was outstanding today," Buffalo Island Central head coach Todd Rhodes. "He did an excellent job of mixing up his pitches and kept us off balance the entire game. Where I was disappointed was with the fact that we got caught looking so many times on called third strikes. If you don't swing the bat, you can't hit the ball. This is early in the season and we will get a lot better. You have to give Riverside credit, they played a great game today."
"We played a great game today," said Riverside Coach Kevin Hall. "Jeremy pitched an terrific ball game and we played great defense behind him. That's something we haven't done in previous games this year. I told the kids that if we played good defense, we'll win a lot of games and have a lot of fun. We beat a very good team today, one that was state runner-up last season. I'm very proud of the kids."
The Mustangs picked up a win Friday afternoon over Maynard as Matthew Ibanez picked up the victory, while Brandon Ballard banged out two hits and scored two runs in a 3-1 victory of the Tigers. Ibanez (1-0) went the distance for the Mustangs striking out 11, while scattering five hits and walking three. BIC also picked up a victory rolling over Piggott 14-4 as the Mustangs finished the week with a two game winning streak. Buffalo Island Central will take a 2-1 record on the road as they travel to Nashville, Ark., to play in the Outlaw Classic. The Mustangs will play four games in the tournament against Fouke, Horatio, Atlanta, Texas, and host Nashville. The Mustangs will then come home before playing in the Xtra Innings Tournament, March 24-26, at Nettleton.