Rebels advance to state semifinals despite weather delays
Perhaps the only thing capable of stopping Riverside's post season run is the weather. The Rebels (25-3) overcame a two-day rain delay to win last week's regional title, and after two straight victories in the state tournament, Riverside finds itself one win away from the Class 2A State Championship game this Friday at Baum Stadium on the campus of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
The Rebels were scheduled to play their semifinal matchup against Magnet Cove on Saturday, but rain postponed the game until Monday afternoon.
Riverside began its run through the state tournament with an 8-4 victory over Hector in first round action Thursday afternoon at Marked Tree. The Rebels took a 2-0 lead, scoring single runs in the first and third innings. Hector charged back with two runs of their own in the top of the fourth. Rustin Hays, Colton Foster and Dalton Day delivered consecutive singles, loading the bases to begin the Wildcat rally. Nate Parks drew a bases loaded walk to pull Hector to within a run. Rebel starter Kollin Stone nailed Tyler Brashear with a pitch, forcing in the tying run. But Stone was able to get out of the jam, striking out the last two Wildcat hitters in the inning to strand the bases loaded.
Riverside came right back, plating three runs in the bottom of the fourth. Devon Austin clobbered a one-out double and scored when Caden Barrett smacked an RBI single to give the Rebels a 3-2 edge. Kollin Stone followed with a ringing RBI double to score Barrett, and when Izzy Garcia blooped a single into centerfield, the Rebels held a 5-2 lead.
Riverside tacked on three more runs in the bottom of the sixth. Garcia delivered another RBI hit to score Barrett, who had led off the inning with a single. Kollin Stone, who walked, also scored on the play after Hector misplayed Garcia's single in the outfield. Larry Tilley's RBI knock plated Garcia, giving the Rebels an 8-2 lead entering the seventh inning.
Hector scored a pair of runs in the seventh, but it wasn't enough as Riverside advanced to the tournament's quarterfinals.
Barrett and Garcia both had perfect days at the plate, going 3-3, while Kollin Stone finished the day 2-2. Stone earned the win, pitching six innings, allowing five hits, two runs while striking out nine. Charley McClure finished the game, pitching one inning, allowing two runs on three hits.
The Rebels faced off against one of the pre-tournament favorites in perennial power Woodlawn on Friday. Riverside knocked off the Bears 6-1 to reach the state semifinals for the first time since 1995, current Rebel coach Jeff Womack's freshman season. The victory came after a more than three hour weather delay.
Senior right hander Devon Austin was too much for the normally hard hitting Bears. The Lyon College signee picked up the win with a complete game performance, allowing just one run on five hits. Austin fanned six Woodlawn hitters and issued five walks.
Riverside scored in the bottom of the first when Gavin Stone led off with a single, moved to second on a walk and rode home on an RBI hit by Matthew Fraser. Woodlawn bounced back with a run in the top of the second to tie the game 1-1. Will Richardson doubled, advanced to third on a groundout and scored on a fielder's choice off the bat of Dalton Rissinger.
The Rebels widened the gap, scoring four times with two outs in the third inning. Garcia laced a one-out single to right to begin the Riverside rally. With two away, Fraser slapped a single the opposite way to put runners at first and second. Left fielder Luke Baker broke the tie, slicing a sinking line drive that fell fair down the right field line, going all the way to the fence. Both Garcia and Fraser raced around the bases to score, giving Riverside a 3-1 lead. The Rebels weren't finished, as Dillon Turner blasted a double down the left field line, scoring Baker, pushing the Riverside advantage to 4-1. Back to back wild pitches brought Turner home, and Riverside held a 5-1 advantage after three innings of play.
Riverside put another run on the board in the fourth, thanks to the Stone brothers. Gavin Stone drilled a one-out single to centerfield, and scored when Kollin Stone hammered an RBI double into the left centerfield gap to give the Rebels a 6-1 lead.
Neither team could muster any offense the rest of the way, with Austin shutting the door on any potential Woodlawn comeback, giving the Rebels a spot in the state semifinals.
"Devon Austin pitched a great game," said Rebel skipper Jeff Womack. "I was a little worried about him pitching on two days rest, but he was really sharp today. He got into a little trouble a couple of times, but worked his way out of the jams. He's a great senior leader for us. We've been doing this all year. When we get into trouble, we find a way to get out of it. Luke Baker had a big hit for us in the third inning and I think all of our runs came with two outs. We've been doing that a lot this year, and today it couldn't have come at a better time. We really hit the ball well today. I was proud of them."
"The team got me a nice lead, and I was able to relax and not worry about hitting my spots," Austin said. "I just wanted to throw strikes, throw it down the middle and tell the other team to hit it and let the defense work. We are really excited about making it this far. Our motto all year has been one game at a time. We've got one more to win to earn a trip to Baum. This is really exciting for me as a senior. It's my last hoorah and something I will always remember."
Riverside was scheduled to face Magnet Cover in Monday's semifinals, weather permitting. The winner will face either Junction City or Ouachita in Friday's 5:30 championship game in Fayetteville. Complete coverage of Monday's game and any state finals action will appear in next week's Town Crier.