Bases-loaded walk gives Cardinals 1st state championship
Special to The Saline Courier
Following a three-hour rain delay at Baum-walker Stadium in Fayetteville — and after watching their 3-0 lead evaporate in the sixth inning — Harmony Grove Cardinals (21-9) left fielder Shane Small drew a bases-loaded walk that broke a 3-3 tie in the top of the seventh and eventually gave the Cardinals a 4-3 win in the 3A state baseball championship over Central Arkansas Christian, a conference foe that had beaten the Redbirds in three previous meetings this season.
“This is a team that all year, we’ve fought from behind,” said Harmony Grove Head Coach Brandon Mynhier . “We’re used to it. They don’t quit. They don’t give up. They are the most special guys I’ve been around.”
Small battled back from a 1-2 count before taking two straight pitches for the free pass off CAC reliever Eli Garrison who came on in the seventh after the Mustangs had tied the score.
Harmony Grove loaded the bases with a pair of walks and a hit batter.
In the bottom of the seventh, CAC got a runner on base, but an
interference call on runner Davis Gatling on a ground ball by Samuel Pitrie squashed the momentum as the Mustangs went from no outs to two.
Jacob Hale then flied out to center for the final out of a remarkable championship game played by the Cardinals.
Trey Miller, a sophomore who had been serving as the team’s closer as of late, got the win after an 1 2/3 innings of work, allowing no runs on two hits on 23 pitches.
With 85 pitches on his arm to start the sixth, junior southpaw James Mccormick got into a jam.
After a one-out hit by Jacob Hale, Garrison was hit by a pitch. Garrett Overstreet’s single loaded the bases for Troy Flowers with one out.
Mynhier then inserted Miller, who induced a foul out by Flowers to Cooper White for the second out.
CAC’S Rhett James then pushed a 1-2 pitch up the middle for an infield hit, driving in Hale and cutting the Cardinals’ lead to 3-1.
An infield hit and error by Connor Burrow allowed the Mustangs to put 2 runs across to tie the game at 3-3.
Mccormick was named the game’s MVP.
“That guys is such a workhorse,” Mynhier said. “He wants the ball and he’s going to take it. He’s going to do the best job he can. He’ll beg, ‘Coach don’t take me.’”
Mccormick earned the no decision, tossing 5 1/3 innings while allowing 3 runs (1 earned) on four hits and striking out eight.
It didn’t take long for the Cardinals to get something going off CAC starter Levi Smith.
Elijah King drew a fourpitch walk to lead off. Cooper White took the next pitch to his body, putting two runners on for junior A-state commit Jared Toler.
On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Toler took a called third strike
After Burrow loaded the bases with a hit to right,
Chase Chilton then tapped a 3-2 pitch back to the mound that glanced off Smith’s glove, whom then recovered to get the out, but King scored to put the Cardinals up 1-0.
Chilton would finish the game going 2 or 3 with two runs driven in to lead the Cardinals. Mccormick also tacked on two hits in the contest.
Smith then struck out Small on three pitches to end the frame.
Mccormick’s opening inning wasn’t quite as dramatic. After allowing a leadoff hit, Mccormick struck out the next two hitters before walking Garrison.
With two on, Mccormick got Overstreet to fan through a 3-2 fastball high in the zone to retire the side and keep the shutout intact, but with 28 pitches thrown.
Mccormick then stepped in and provided a one-out hit. Josh Prather, who was dispatched to run for Mccormick, got to second on a wild pitch. He got to third on a passed ball with two outs, but couldn’t get the next 90 feet before the inning was done.
King struck out looking to end the threat.
The Cardinals extended their lead in the third on Chilton’s single that drove in Toler. Burrow got caught in a rundown at third base.
CAC then inserted Karson Richard to pitch who was called for a balk on his second pitch, putting Chilton at third. Small’s groundout ended the inning with the Cardinals up 2-0.
At that point, after a rocky start that saw Mccormick throw 28 pitches, he settled in. After three innings, his pitch count totaled 53 and he had struck out six in three innings of work to that point.
The Mustangs had a chance to get on the board but ran themselves out of the bottom of the fourth when Garrison rounded third on a bobble at second by King on a ground ball by Flowers. King ran toward the runner and threw in time to get Garrison at the plate in a close play.
Mccormck helped himself in the sixth with a two-out double that drove in Chilton to go up 3-0.
Monday’s state title match was postponed from Saturday due to rain and served as the first time a Harmony Grove baseball team had gone to the finals. ABOVE: Harmony Grove reliever Trey Miller throws a pitch Monday during his 1
2/3 innings of action. He would finish by allowing only a hit during his time.
RIGHT: Cardinals catcher Cooper White frames a pitch during the tilt. White led the Cardinals at the plate, finishing with two hits and a pair of RBIS in the win. ABOVE: Cardinals slugger Ethan Wetzel takes a cut during the game.
LEFT: Harmony Grove outfielder Matthew Rouse makes a play for an out during Monday’s win.
Harmony Grove junior ace James Mccormick fires a pitch during Monday’s championship game. Mccormick earned the no decision, tossing 5 1/3 innings while allowing 3 runs (1 earned) on four hits and striking out eight. He was also named most valuable player.
ABOVE: Central Arkansas Christian runner Eli Garrison is tagged out at the plate during the title match. LEFT: Harmony Grove’s Josh Prather slides into second base safely after entering the game as a courtesy runner.
ABOVE: The Harmony Grove Cardinals celebrate after receiving their championship trophy Monday at Baum-walker Stadium in Fayetteville following a 4-3 win over Central Arkansas Christian. RIGHT: 3A State Championship most valuable player James Mccormick readies for a pitch during the game.
ABOVE: Members of the Cardinals team share a moment after the final out of the game. RIGHT: Outfielder Shane Small fields a ball before tossing back to the infield.