|The Lonoke Jackrabbits are the 2015 4A-East Region Champions (Photos by Melissa Pool)|
By Mark Buffalo
POCAHONTAS — The Lonoke Jackrabbits are the 2015 4A East Region champions.
Lonoke (17-3) scored a run in the bottom of the seventh to beat Brookland 8-7 in the championship game of the regional tournament Tuesday afternoon. The Jackrabbits will open Class 4A state tournament play Friday at noon against the winner of Thursday's game between Prairie Grove and Arkadelphia. The Badgers are the two-time defending state champions.
Our kids just keep finding ways to win," Lonoke coach Darrick Lowery said. "It's been something different every ballgame. Someone has stepped up. It's definitely been a team effort with the dugout keeping us in ballgames and bouncing back after momentum-changing plays. They are doing a great job."
Lonoke led 7-6 heading into the top of the seventh. Brookland hit a leadoff homer to tie the game at 7-7. Things looked bleak in the bottom of the frame.
With one out, designated hitter Conner Linton reached on an error and went to second on a passed ball. After a flyout by Savonte Rountree for the second out of the inning, Elijan Seigrist reached on an error, allowing Linton to score the game-winning run.
Lowery said winning the regional title is huge. Three years ago when the Jackrabbits made it to the state championship game, Lonoke finished third in the regional tournament.
"It was great for us to play in the first round (in 2012) because I had never been there and our kids had not been there in a long time," Lowery said. "This year with these guys, I feel confident that we play with anybody in the state. It's big for us to have that bye and set up our pitching."
Brookland took a 2-0 lead in the top of the third inning. It was Lonoke's first deficit of the regional.
The Jackrabbits responded quickly with six runs in the bottom of the frame. Casey Martin hit a solo homer to lead off the inning. He also drove in two more runs with a single later in the frame. Also scoring in the third were Cody Martin, Nick Graves, Christian James, Todd Pool and Rountree.
Brookland cut the deficit to 6-3 with a run in the fourth then tied it with three runs in the top of the fifth.
Lonoke reclaimed the lead with a run in the bottom of the fifth. Routhree singled and scored on a double by Casey Martin.
Casey Martin was 4-for-4 at the plate with four RBIs. Also collecting hits were Haven Hunter, Cody Martin, Graves, Rountree and Seigrist.
Ethan Holland got the win on the mound in relief. He pitched 2 1/3 innings. He gave up one on earned run while striking out two. He allowed only one hit.
Hunter pitched 4 2/3 innings. He gave up five hits and six runs with only four of them earned. He struck out three.
One thing that was possibly going to disturb Lonoke's run to another state title game was graduation, which is slated for Friday night at 8 p.m. at James B. Abraham Stadium in Lonoke while the state tournament is being played in Blytheville.
Provided the weather doesn't cause any issues, the Lonoke seniors should be able to return to Lonoke in time for graduation and head back to Blytheville if the Jackrabbits are victorious.
"It was definitely a concern going in on what we would do about that," Lowery said, adding that parents have volunteered to get the senior players back to Lonoke then back to Blytheville for a semifinal game if they win.
"We'll get all the little details worked out for that and we'll be ready to go," Lowery said.
|The 2015 Lonoke Jackrabbits senior players with the regional championship award.|