Saturday, April 29, 2017

Jackrabbits finish as district-tourney runners-up

The Lonoke Jackrabbits baseball team fell to CAC 6-5 in the 4A-2 District Tournament to finish as the runners-up. (Photo by Jennifer Martin)

By Mark Buffalo
Staff Writer

BATESVILLE — Lonoke and Central Arkansas Christian played a classic high school baseball game in the finals of the 4A-2 District Tournament on Friday at Southside High School. 
For Jackrabbits fans, the ending was not one they wanted.
CAC’s Braden Quesinberry hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh to give the Mustangs a 6-5 win.
The score was tied 3-3 heading into the top of the seventh. Lonoke’s Casey Martin, a University of Arkansas signee, hit a two-run shot to give the Jackrabbits a 5-3 lead. The homer was his seventh of the season. Kameron Cole started the inning with a single and scored on Martin’s shot.
CAC’s game-winning home run came with one out off reliever Kade Stuart. 
Lonoke took a 3-0 lead in the top of the third. Haven Hunter hit a three-run shot. Scoring on the play were Cole and Dalton Smith.
CAC scored twice in the bottom of the third and once in the bottom of the fourth to tie the game at 3-3.
“I thought the kids did really well on both teams,” said first-year Lonoke coach Chris Foor. “Everyone tried hard. It was a true slugfest going back and forth.”
Foor said Quesinberry made a great swing on a good pitch from Stuart.
“Instead of trying to pull the ball like he did every single at-bat, he takes a different approach and goes to right center and it leaves the ball park,” Foor said. “You look back and we had opportunities. We let them get in with walks and errors. I truly believe if we see them in the regional that we have a good shot to win the next time.
“I think our boys want them. We’re 1-2 against them. All three have been great baseball games. It’s developed into a true rivalry.”
Lonoke will play Brookland in the first round of the Class 4A East Region Tournament on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at Trumann.
The Jackrabbits beat the Bearcats 5-4 in the first round of the regional tournament last year at the Lonoke Ball Park. 
Foor said he has some former colleagues he coached with who work in northeast Arkansas and has gotten some information about Brookland. 
“They are a solid hitting team,” Foor said. “They play good defense. They are going to throw a soft-throwing lefty out there that is a true pitcher. He’s going to be crafty and he’s going to change speeds. He doesn’t have great velocity but he’s a pitcher.”
Foor said the Jackrabbits would work on hitting lefties similar to what they did in getting ready for Baptist Prep in the first round of the district tournament. Foor had several former Sylvan Hills players come in to throw during practice, as well as using the only left-handed pitcher he has, Bradley Aycock.
“We’ll worry more about making us better as opposed to chasing them,” he said. “We’ll take a lot of ground balls and get back to who we are. If we take care of us, it’s hard for anybody in the state to beat us.”
Foor, who was an assistant at Sylvan Hills before coming to Lonoke this year, said his team has been a “family” this season, similar to what he experienced at the Sherwood school.
“That probably gives you more pride as a coach than anything,” he said. “It’s definitely there in this group. It is a very tight-knit group. That is why they are being successful in what they do.

Lonoke's Casey Martin delivers a pitch against EStem earlier this season. Martin pitched a one-hitter against Heber Springs in the semifinals of the district tournament. (Photo by Mark Buffalo)

The Jackrabbits advanced to the title game with a 9-0 win over Heber Springs.
Martin pitched a complete-game shutout, allowing only one hit while striking out six in seven innings of work. His only hit allowed came in the fourth inning. 
Lonoke scored three runs in the top of the first. Martin reached on an error and scored on a single by Hunter. He eventually scored on a single by Tallon Swint. 
Kade Stuart singled and scored on a passed ball.
Lonoke added to its lead in the third. Hunter reached on an error and scored on a sacrifice fly by Keith Lingo. Stuart singled and scored on a single by Caleb Horton. 
The Jackrabbits scored a single run in the fourth. Cole walked and scored on a single by Hunter. 
The Jackrabbits plated three runs in the sixth. Martin hit a home run in the inning. Also scoring were Christian Cooper and Cole. 
Lonoke beat Baptist Prep 18-1 in the first round of the district tournament. The big play of the game was a home run by Stuart.

The six Lonoke Jackrabbits seniors are, from left, Keith Lingo, Haven Hunter, Casey Martin, Kameron Cole, Caleb Horton and Ryan Truelove (Photo by Jennifer Martin)