Small Ball

Bases-loaded walk gives Car­di­nals 1st state cham­pi­onship

The Saline Courier - - FRONT PAGE - By Bruce Guthrie

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.

Spe­cial to The Sa­line Courier

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.

Spe­cial to The Sa­line Courier

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.

Spe­cial to The Sa­line Courier

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.

Spe­cial to The Sa­line Courier

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.

Spe­cial to The Sa­line Coureir

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