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The Sun-Times - Heber Springs, AR
  • Panthers fall flat in fifth, lose to Shiloh

  • Heber Springs’ amazing postseason run unraveled in the top of the fifth inning Friday when Shiloh Christian scored 12 runs on seven hits, three walks, two hit batsmen and two errors while pulling away for a 15-2 victory in the quarterfinals of the Class 4A state tournament.

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  • Heber Springs’ amazing postseason run unraveled in the top of the fifth inning Friday when Shiloh Christian scored 12 runs on seven hits, three walks, two hit batsmen and two errors while pulling away for a 15-2 victory in the quarterfinals of the Class 4A state tournament.
    After playing their best ball of the season while beating Jonesboro Westside and Lonoke to earn a bye in state, the Panthers (11-17) closed their season with a pair of run-rule losses, including Friday’s game and last Monday’s regional championship against Stuttgart.
    Playing as the North’s No. 2 seed, the three-time defending state champion Saints upended Prairie Grove 7-2 on Saturday to reach the state finals against Lonoke, which edged Pulaski Academy 8-7 in 12 innings to reach the title game.
    “They are a good team. I told the kids all week long as long as we don’t make errors and don’t walk people we will be able to play with them,” said Panthers Coach Darren Gowen. “There in the second inning they scored three runs that were unearned and then I felt sorry for Mike [Ludwig]. He just ran out of gas. We rode him as long as we could. Those first four innings we fought with them and we hit with them.”
    Gowen is proud of his team’s attitude and work ethic despite an up and down season. “I am proud of these kids, especially these seniors. Especially Mike and Geoffrey [Anderson]. Geoffrey has started for three years and Mike for four years but this was kinda a tough year having to replace a lot of starters but they kept being great leaders, stayed focused and got us playing good and in the state tournament. We were one of the last eight teams playing so it was a great year.”
    After Shiloh took advantage of two errors on potential double play balls while scoring three runs in the top of the second, Heber responded with one run on three hits in the bottom half, starting with a leadoff single by Judson Smith.
    Brooks Morgan then dropped a sacrifice-bunt turned error as Saints’ pitcher Jacob May had trouble picking the ball up and the speedy Morgan beat his throw to first base. Following a well-executed sacrifice-bunt by Harley Hooten, May retired Derrik Fisher on a high pop-up to shallow right field, where Drew Tyler made the play from his second base position.
    With two out and two runners in scoring position, Nathan Martz ripped an RBI single to left field that scored Smith but Josh Stephens cut down Morgan with a strong throw to the plate as Shiloh took a 3-1 lead to the third inning.
    Ludwig, who led the Panthers to a pair of wins over Shiloh in football this season, including a playoff game, retired the Saints in order in the top of the third. In the bottom half, Heber scored one run on two hits as Tyler Dennis beat out a bunt single to ignite the Panthers.
    Page 2 of 2 - Anderson pushed Dennis into scoring position with a sacrifice-bunt, then Michael Kramer drilled a ground-rule, RBI double that bounced over the left field wall and scored Dennis. After issuing a walk to Ludwig, May left runners stranded at first and second with the help of a 4-6-3 double play turned by Tyler and shortstop David Petrino.
    Ludwig sat down the Saints in order in the fourth, including two by strikeout but the Panthers also went down quietly in the bottom half.
    Clinging to a 3-2 lead, Shiloh suddenly put the game away with 12 runs in the fifth, starting with a drag bunt single by  Ben Olsen. Jared Chenier followed with a single to left field then Tyler nailed a 2 RBI triple to the alley in right center, scoring Olsen and Chenier for a three-run cushion.
    The Panthers elected to intentionally walk Petrino and the wheels began to come off as Ludwig plunked the next two batters and walked two more as the Saints built an 8-2 lead, causing Heber to relieve Ludwig with Anderson.
    The Saints took advantage of two fielding errors for an 11-2 lead before Chenier lined an RBI triple to right center, scoring Olsen. Tyler added a one-out, RBI single and Tyler Harris and Joseph Paulino each recorded two-out, RBI singles as the Saints’ lead grew to 15-2 before Anderson got out of the fifth.
    With Heber needing four runs to keep the game alive, May retired the Panthers in order in the bottom of the fifth, including two by strikeout as the Saints marched on to the state semifinals.
     
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