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The Sun-Times - Heber Springs, AR
  • Ricebirds run-rule Panthers in regional final

  • Following two incredible upsets Heber Springs came back to earth on Monday at the hands of Stuttgart, which run-ruled the Panthers 13-0 in five innings to earn the 4A East Regional championship at Panther Field.

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  • Following two incredible upsets Heber Springs came back to earth on Monday at the hands of Stuttgart, which run-ruled the Panthers 13-0 in five innings to earn the 4A East Regional championship at Panther Field.
    Ironically, the Panthers swept Stuttgart in an early season doubleheader between the two conference rivals. But, from that point Heber hit several bumps in the road on the way to an 11-16 record, while the Ricebirds started winning. Monday’s victory gave the Ricebirds a 19-11 record and top seed in this week’s Class 4A state tournament.
    Panther Coach Darren Gowen said his team ran into a hot club. “Ever since they played us here early in the year, Stuttgart has been hitting the ball,” Gowen emphasized. “They lost their first two conference series and swept their next several. They have been hitting the baseball and we gave them a few extra outs and they took it to us. But, I’m proud of my guys.”
    Heber has a chance to bounce back in state as the No. 2 seed in Harrison, where they will face the winner of Shiloh Christian and Nashville at 2:30 p.m.
    “Nobody really expected us to be playing past this weekend and now we are playing Friday (today) in the state quarterfinals,” said Gowen. “We will have Michael [Ludwig] on the mound and he will be fresh and we will have a good chance to win that game and get into the semifinals and then who knows what will happen.”
    Facing Heber starting pitcher Judson Smith, Stuttgart jumped ahead with four runs on six hits in the bottom of the first inning. Jon Curtis drove home the first run with a sacrifice-fly then Jacob Clawson brought two more across with a two-out, RBI double to the gap in left center. Jay McGee added an RBI single before Smith got out of the inning.
    The Ricebirds tacked on two more runs in the second as Curtis and Regan Counce each collected RBIs.
    Micheal Kramer pitched a scoreless third in relief for the Panthers but Stuttgart got back to work in the fourth, scoring seven runs, highlighted by a two-run home run by Counce, who launched the ball over the left field fence.
    With Derrik Fisher in relief and Heber trailing 8-0, the Ricebirds continued to pour it on as McGee drove home a run, Dontrell Brown singled home two more and Curtis beat out an infield single for an RBI. A throwing error after Curtis’ hit allowed Brown to score as Stuttgart built a 13-0 lead before Smith and Kramer turned a 6-4-3 double play to break up the inning.
    Curtis picked up the win on the mound for the Ricebirds, limiting Heber to three hits while striking out seven and walking three. Brooks Morgan, Fisher and Ludwig contributed the Panthers’ three hits.
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