(Town Crier photo/Trent Fletcher)
BIC received that chance by defeating Rector 7-1 in the semi-finals of the Class AA Region 4 Tournament Tuesday at Monette.
BIC warmed up for the state tournament with a 13-10 come from behind victory over Marked Tree to claim the Regional title Wednesday afternoon. BIC (22-6) grabbed a 3-0 first inning lead by stringing together four hits including an RBI double off the bat of senior second baseman Preston Despain, who drove home the game(s first run. Jordan Phillips and Matthews Ibanez added RBI singles to cap off the first inning rally.
Marked Tree tied the game at 3-3 in the second on a two-out two-run double off the bat of Ron Thompson.
BIC regained the lead in the top of the third when Despain walked, stole second, reached third on a wild pitch and came home on a one-out RBI grounder delivered by Derek Rolland, giving the Mustangs a 4-3 advantage.
The game stayed 4-3 BIC until the bottom of the fourth when the Indians exploded for five runs to take an 8-4 lead heading into the fifth inning. The big blow in the inning came when Loren Ghant rapped a two-run single to put Marked Tree back up 5-4. The Indians tacked on three more runs as Mikey Scott laced a two-run double and William Ruthven pitched in with a run scoring single to cap off the five run inning for Marked Tree.
BIC battled back in the top of the sixth, highlighted by Despain's two-run double into the right centerfield gap, tying the score at 8-8. Despain then stole third and scampered home on a wild pitch to give the Mustangs a 9-8 advantage. BIC added one more run on a throwing error by the Indians to take a 10-8 lead.
The Indians came back again in their half of the sixth, tying the game on a two-run double by Ruthven against Derek Rolland who had come on in relief of starting pitcher Matthew Ibanez.
Neither team could score in the seventh inning, but the Mustangs took the lead for good in the top of the eighth with three runs to take a 13-10 lead. Despain, who reached base all five times while going 3-3 at the plate, walked to lead off the eighth. Marked Tree pitcher Phllip Bickerstaff then uncorked a wild pitch, sending Despain to second. After advancing to third on a ground-out by Brandon Ballard, Rolland drove in Despain for the go-ahead run with an RBI fielder's choice, giving the Mustangs an 11-10 advantage. BIC tacked on two more insurance runs, capped off by an RBI single by senior outfielder Josh Nettles.
Marked Tree tried to rally in the bottom of the eighth, when with two outs, Scott and Ruthven both reached on infield hits. But Rolland enticed hard hitting Andy Lung to ground into a 6-4 game ending force out to insure the championship for the Mustangs.
Rolland picked up the win in relief for the BIC, fanning five in two innings of work. In addition to Despain's big day at the plate, Nettles also had three hits while Ibanez added two more.
Bickerstaff took the loss, giving up 13 runs, six earned, on 11 hits. The righthander walked three as the Indians dropped to 13-15 on the season.
"I was proud of the way we battled at the plate," BIC Baseball Coach Todd Rhoades said. "Our defense let us down a little today, but we kept battling back and came up with some big hits and put the ball in play when we needed to. Preston (Despain) had a big day at the plate, driving in three runs and he also did a good job running the bases. We are very proud of this championship and are looking forward to the state tournament at Norphlet," Rhoades said.
"We went toe to toe with one of the best teams in the state," Marked Tree Coach Matt Wright said. "I was very proud of the kids. Obviously, we are disappointed, but we still get the opportunity to play in the state tournament. A lot of people wrote us off when we started 2-12, but we played a very tough schedule early on and it paid off for us at the end of the season. This is a great bunch of kids," Wright concluded.
BIC opened Regional Tournament play with a 9-1 victory Monday afternoon. Derek Rolland worked seven innings, striking out 11 while walking four. The junior righthander surrendered only two hits and no earned runs. BIC used a three-run first and a four-run sixth to put the game on ice.
Brandon Ballard had an RBI single in the first inning as well as another RBI in the fourth. Josh Nettles capped off the four run sixth with a two-run double as the Mustangs advanced to the semi-finals.
In the semi-final game against Rector, it was Ballard going the distance to pick up the victory, striking out 10, as the senior righthander threw a four-hitter while allowing no earned runs.
The Mustangs pounded out eight hits, including Hunter Smith's first home run of the year. Brooks Taylor added two hits for BIC as well as two stolen bases while scoring a run. Preston Despain had a single and an RBI, scored twice, and swiped two bases. Ballard laced a two-run double and scored a run while Jordan Phillips, Derek Rolland, and Garrett Qualls had one hit apiece. Phillips drove in two runs and Rolland drove in one run while stealing four bases as the Mustangs qualified for the state tournament.