Buffalo Island Central's baseball team has come up just short the last two years in the Class AA State Tournament, finishing runner-up both times. The Mustangs were hoping the third time would be the charm, but Bay had other ideas, as the Yellowjackets stung the Mustangs 5-3 Monday night at Monette, extinguishing BIC's state title dreams.
Bay, who has a rich baseball tradition of their own dating back to the days of Wally Moon, got on the board early, scoring a run in the bottom of the first inning. Garrett Bollinger, who went the distance on the mound to pick up the victory for the Yellowjackets, drew a one out walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by left fielder Kellen Gage. Clean-up hitter Justin Hager grounded sharply to third, but BIC third sacker Randy Ibanez's throw sailed past first baseman Chris Deeds, allowing Bollinger to score all the way from second base to give the Jackets a 1-0 lead.
BIC came back with a pair of unearned runs in the top of third to take a 2-1 lead. Chad Williams reached on an error and advanced to second on a passed ball. Williams then took third when Bollinger uncorked a wild pitch. BIC starting pitcher Brooks Taylor, who absorbed the loss, beat out an infield hit as Williams scampered home from third to tie the game 1-1. Taylor swiped second base and rode home on Derek Rolland(s RBI single into right field, giving the Mustangs a 2-1 lead.
Bay battled back in the bottom of the fourth, scoring three times to take a 4-2 lead. Kellen Gage started the rally, lining a single over the outstretched arms of BIC shortstop Derek Rolland. Taylor enticed Hager to bounce into a force play for the inning's first out, but Jacket center-fielder Tyler Q. Griffin blasted an RBI triple off the rightfield fence, scoring Hager to tie the game at 2-2. Taylor then unloaded a wild pitch, scoring Griffin to give Bay a 3-2 advantage. Taylor issued a pair of walks wrapped around a strikeout of Josh McMasters, putting runners at first and second with two outs. R.J. Guthrie drilled an RBI single to plate Will Scott, pushing the Yellowjacket lead to 4-2. Bay threatened to blow the game open when they loaded the bases, but BIC Coach Todd Rhoades went to his bullpen and brought in southpaw Garrett Qualls to face the left handed swinging Bollinger. But Guthrie took the bat out of the hard hitting Bollinger's hands by straying too far off second base, allowing Qualls to pick off the Bay runner.
Bay added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth by pulling off a double steal to go up 5-2 entering the seventh inning.
BIC had one last chance to pull out the win when Bollinger plucked both Randy Ibanez and Ken Womack back to back. Chad Williams laid down a perfect bunt to load the bases with Taylor and Rolland due up. Bollinger got Taylor to ground out unassisted to Hager at first with the runner scoring from third. Rolland strolled to the plate with two outs and two runners in scoring position at second and third, but Bollinger blew a high fast ball by the Mustang centerfielder to end the game, sending Bay to the Regional semi-finals.
"We didn't do what it took to win," said BIC Coach Todd Rhoades. "We kicked the ball around and didn't make the routine plays, and Bay did. I take my hat off to Garrett (Bollinger). He threw a good game. We had some opportunities early in the game and didn't take advantage of them. That's just the way baseball is.
"I was proud of the fact that we gave ourselves an opportunity to win in the seventh inning. We had the tying run at second base with our big guns coming up, and that's all you can ask. We just came up on the short end. I am so proud of my seniors. What more can you say about them? They went to back to back state final appearances, and they went to three state tournaments, which is a tremendous honor. It's going to be hard to replace those guys. Derek Rolland, Brooks Taylor, Hunter Smith, Randy Ibanez, Chris Deeds, and Ken Womack. Derek and Brooks were both four year starters. They are a great bunch of kids," concluded Rhoades.
Taylor finished the day with one hit, two RBIs and a run scored. Rolland had a hit and an RBI in addition to stealing a base. Chad Williams had a hit and a run scored and Chris Deeds socked a double. Jordan Phillips had a stolen base while Jimmy Nance scored a run.
Taylor went 3 2/3 innings, giving up four runs and three hits while walking five and striking out four. Trevor Matheny came on in the fifth inning and finished up for the Mustangs, allowing one run and two hits while striking out two.
Bollinger, who improved to 8-2 on the season, went the distance for Bay, striking out 12 while allowing just four hits and walking a pair of batters.