Rebels Fall in Quarterfinals of 2A State Baseball Tourney
The Riverside Rebels advanced to the second round of the state 2A baseball tournament at Parker's Chapel Thursday afternoon, although the victory likely cost the squad a chance to advance to the semi-finals the following day. The Rebels and the Patriots of Palestine-Wheatley, locked-up in a grueling contest in the first round, required 11 innings to decide a winner. Meanwhile, Riverside's second round opponents, Junction City, cruised to an easy five inning win by way of the 10-run rule over Hackett, 10-0.
The Rebels and the Patriots squared-off in the first game of this year's 2A baseball bracket and put on a show for those in attendance at Robert McKinnon Field. Strong pitching by both squads, a number of sparkling defensive plays and a strong wind blowing in from center field set the stage for an old fashioned pitcher's duel.
Despite a wealth of base runners for both squads, neither team scored in the first 10 innings of play as the two battled to a 0-0 tie. The Patriots drew first blood in the top of the 11th inning, as they scored the first run of the ballgame. The Rebels were able to respond in the home half of the frame with two runs of their own, taking the contest 2-1 in 11 innings.
Friday the Rebels were back to take on nearby Junction City, with a chance to advance to the state semi-finals on the line. But, the rigors of the first round game took its toll on the Rebels, especially their pitchers, as they dropped an 8-6 decision and were eliminated.
The Dragons jumped out to an early lead on the Rebels in their quarterfinal match-up, leading off the game with a solo homerun, then plating two more runs to take a 3-0 lead after one.
Junction City added three more runs in the top of the second to extend their lead to 6-0, and it appeared the Rebels would be routed. But, Riverside responded with four runs in the home half of the inning, two on a home run, as the lead was cut to 6-4.
The Dragons were held scoreless in the top of the fourth, as were the Rebels, as they stranded a runner at second. But, Junction City added another run in the top of the fifth, as the runner was advanced on two fielder's choice plays. The Dragons added another run in the sixth, as they took a 8-4 advantage into the seventh inning.
After holding Junction City in the top of the seventh, the Rebels began to mount a rally. Riverside got the first two baserunners on in the bottom of the seventh with nobody out, forcing a pitching change for the Dragons.
The Rebels then proceeded to load the bases with nobody out, bringing the tying run to the plate. Following a strikeout, Riverside got a one-out hit that handcuffed the shortstop, allowing one run to score. A hard hit ball to the left side of the infield scored another Rebel run on a fielder's choice, cutting the deficit to 8-6 with two outs.
But, with runners at first and third the Junction City pitcher coaxed another strike-out, and the game ended in the two run loss for the Rebels.
"You know we had to use Larry Tilley some yesterday and I think it affected him," Rebel coach Ben Hogard said of the tough back-to-back games. "Probably not his velocity, but his location, and he was probably a little sore."
Of the loss to the Dragons, he noted the early runs took their toll.
"We kind of got down early, I think the lead-off bomb just took the wind out of sails a little bit and we got down, instead of just pinching it off early in the first," he noted. "We just got too far behind before we got rolling."
Hogard noted he was well pleased with the effort of his team, despite the outcome.
"These guys just don't quit," he explained. "They fought hard, and they've done everything I've asked them to do this year. Sometimes you just play a good team, and we just got out-executed today. At the end of the day, we just got beat."
In comparing the two first round games, both played on the same field, Hogard noted there was a distinct difference.
"Yeah, the ball was flying pretty good today, the way the ball was traveling, the field did play differently today," he observed.
With the loss the Rebels end what has been an excellent season with a record of 23-5 overall.
On Saturday the Dragons advanced to the state championship game with a 10-2 win over Murfreesboro, while Woodland eliminated McCrory. The state final will be played at 10 a.m. Friday in Fayetteville.