Lions rally to capture District Championship
Manila Coach Steve Milligan didn't relish the idea of facing his former coach, Tuckerman's Morgan Gilbert, in the championship game of the 3A-3 District Tournament Saturday night at Piggott, but thanks to a big night at the plate by senior centerfielder Frankie Cowgill, the Lions rallied from a two-run deficit to defeat the Bulldogs 5-4 for their second consecutive district title.
Cowgill got the Lions off to a 2-0 lead when he ripped a two-run homer in the bottom of the second inning, following Tracey Reinhart's two-out double.
Tuckerman came back with a run in the top of the third on a base hit by first baseman Zack Shipman to cut the margin to 2-1. Manila held the lead until the Bulldogs rallied for three runs in the top of the fifth inning to take a 4-2 advantage.
The Lions failed to score in their half of the fifth, but rallied in the sixth inning, tying the game on Jacob Britt's two-run double down the left field line. Cowgill scored Britt with what proved to be the winning run by legging out an infield hit.
Winning pitcher Tray Malone put down the Bulldogs in the bottom of the seventh to set off a Lion celebration. Malone remains undefeated on the year, picking up his 10th win of the season as the Lions improved their record to 15-2 on the year.
"It was a very good ballgame," said Tuckerman coach Morgan Gilbert. "I am proud of my kids, they played very well. Manila just came up with the plays at the end of the game to pick up the win."
"We are very happy," said Milligan. "This is back to back district championships for us. Malone really gutted it out tonight on the mound and Frankie had a big night for us offensively. I am very proud of this team, and we're looking forward to the regional tournament next week. I wasn't looking forward to playing Coach Gilbert. I played for him at Tuckerman. He's a great coach and I learned a lot from him."
Manila will open up regional tournament play as a number one seed, beginning Saturday at Tuckerman.
The Lions claimed a share of the 3A-3 conference championship Tuesday with a 16-0 shellacking of Hoxie.
Manila erupted for 13 runs in the third inning to mercy rule the Mustangs, and gained a share of the conference title with Rivercrest.
Tray Malone went 3-3 with a homerun, four RBIs and there runs scored. Luke McLaughlin was also a perfect 3-3 at the plate with three runs scored and a pair of RBIs. Kyle Evans doubled, driving in two runs while scoring three times. Tracey Reinhart had an RBI double while Hunter Bryan belted a two-run single. Zach Birmingham also had a hit for the Lions.
Malone pitched two innings, giving up two hits while striking out four and walking one to pick up the victory. Michael Shedd pitched a 1-2-3 third inning with a strikeout.