Magnet Cove dashes Riverside's state title hopes 4-0
Riverside waited three extra days due to inclement weather for the chance to play for a trip to the 2A State Baseball finals at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville. But the Rebels, in search of their first ever state baseball championship, fell victim to a strong pitching performance from Magnet Cove's Grant Edwards. Edwards fired a four-hit shutout, leading the Panthers to a 4-0 victory, dashing Riverside's state title dreams Tuesday afternoon at Marked Tree.
Neither team could get on the scoreboard through the first four innings before the Panthers finally pushed across the game's first run in the top of the fifth. Tanner Clements drew a one-out walk. Rebel pitcher Kollin Stone fanned the next Panther for the second out, and Riverside appeared to be out of the inning when Rebel catcher Matthew Fraser fired a strike to first baseman Caden Barrett in an attempt to nail Clements, who had wandered off first base, but the call went Magnet Cove's way, extending the inning.
Stone unleashed a wild pitch, allowing Clements to advance to second. Riverside elected to intentionally walk Panther slugger Joshua Smeltzer, who had doubled earlier in the game. The strategy backfired when Magnet Cove cleanup hitter Brandon Stovall belted a solid single to left field, scoring Clements from second and giving the Panthers a 1-0 lead.
The Rebels threatened in their half of the fifth when Dillon Turner laced a one-out single down the third base line. Devon Austin just missed blasting a two-run homer when his long fly ball landed at the base of the centerfield fence for a double, sending Turner to third. Barrett hit a one-hopper to first base for the second out as Turner tried to score from third. But the throw home nailed the Riverside third baseman on a bang-bang play, ending the inning and preserving the Panthers' one-run lead.
Magnet Cove added three more insurance runs in the top of the seventh. The first run of the inning came home on a wild pitch by Stone. Stovall delivered once again with another ringing RBI single to left field, giving the Panthers a 3-0 lead. Magnet Cove tacked on one more score when Stone's pickoff attempt to first base sailed over Barrett's head to push the Panther lead to 4-0.
Riverside put up a mild threat in the bottom of the seventh but failed to score as they ended their season with a 25-4 mark.
Edwards went the distance, striking out nine while walking just one batter to earn the victory. Stone absorbed the loss, going 6 1/3 innings, allowing two earned runs on six hits. The senior right hander fanned 10 Panther batters while walking six. Austin pitched 2/3 inning, striking out one.
"We ran into a pitcher that was pretty hot, and he shut us down, that's all there was to it," said Riverside Coach Jeff Womack. "You aren't going to beat anybody scoring zero, and that's a fact. Scoring zero or one run is not going to win state semifinal games very often. I thought we kind of fell apart in the last inning. You just have to tip your hat to Magnet Cove.They outplayed us today."
"I told the kids they have nothing to hang their heads about," continued Womack. "We had a great season, finishing 25-4. That's the best record in Riverside history. It's something to really be proud of. But we certainly had our sights set on the big prize, so we are very disappointed. I thought Kollin did a great job. But it's simple; when you don't score, you don't win."