Lonoke's Remington Bullets used stellar defense, solid relief pitching and timely hitting to take a lead and held off a late Pangburn surge to escape with a 5-3 victory once pitcher Blake Gooden induced a groundout to first base, leaving the bases loaded.
Pangburn Lowery Surgery (21-6), consisting of players from Rose Bud, Pangburn, Midland, Harding Academy, Riverview and Searcy, out-hit Lonoke 11-5 but left six runners stranded in scoring position on Tuesday at Riverview High School.
The Bullets (10-7-1), who lost their first meeting with Pangburn earlier in the season, collected eight walks and left eight runners in scoring position.
“Leaving runners in scoring position was our problem tonight,” said Pangburn Coach Len Poe. “We didn't really have a lot of errors but we left the bases loaded twice. It seemed like tonight we hit the ball right at them. They made a couple of highlight film plays.
“The shortstop [Gooden] made an awesome play and the left fielder [Shane Pepper] made a shoe-string catch and that killed us in both of those innings. Some nights it just doesn't fall your way. That's a good baseball team we played. They did what they needed to do to win and it fell their way tonight.”
Facing Pangburn starting pitcher Sidney Owens, who has signed to play college baseball at Northeastern St. in Oklahoma, the Bullets took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning as Gooden walked, moved to second on a passed ball and scored on a wild pitch.
Owens avoided more trouble with a strikeout and groundout, leaving the bases loaded.
Pangburn answered with one run on three hits in the top of the first inning as Caleb Spears led off with a single and moved to third on a hit-and-run single by Chase Hopkins, who ripped the ball through the open hole on the right side.
Spears scored on a double steal as Lonoke opted to cut down Hopkins at second before Owens drilled a double to deep left field. Lonoke starting pitcher Shane Pepper, who made a dazzling diving stab in left field later in the game, worked out of the jam by inducing a groundout and fly-out.
Tied at 1-1, Pangburn looked poised to take the lead in the bottom of the second as Hunter Poe stroked a single to right center and JR Miller followed with a double to the gap in right center. After Pepper walked Dalton Passmore to load the bases, the Bullets turned to southpaw relief pitcher Josh Mathis.
Mathis pitched out of the jam with the help of a 6-2-3 double play turned by Gooden and catcher Madison James.
Lonoke picked up four of its five total hits in the top of the third, starting when Lane Moore singled to right center with one out. Guy Halbert then pulled a single through the hole on left side and Madison James beat out an infield single, which loaded the bases for Gage Johnson, who crushed a 2 RBI triple to the alley in deep right center.
Page 2 of 3 - After Mathis walked, Pangburn turned to ace pitcher Miller, who put out the fire by retiring Christian James on a ground ball to Poe at second.
Trailing 3-1, Brett Caples laced a double over third base and into the left field corner with two out in the bottom half of the third, but Mathis recorded a strikeout to get out of the frame.
Miller sat down the Bullets in order in the top of the fourth frame, but Mathis pitched around a two-out single by Passmore in the bottom half.
In the top half of the fifth, Miller allowed two consecutive walks before bouncing back with a pair of strikeouts, stifling the Bullets with a sharp breaking curveball.
Mathis retired Pangburn in order in the bottom of the fifth and Miller, who struck out eight in 4 1/3 innings of relief, pitched around a two-base throwing error in the sixth.
In the bottom of the sixth, Pepper robbed Skylar Litaker of extra bases by coming up with a diving grab on a tailing line drive to left field. With two out, Poe laced a double down the right field line, but Mathis retired Miller on a sharp groundout to Moore at first base.
Leading 3-1, Lonoke added two important insurance runs in the top of the seventh as Moore led off with a single through the hole on left side, stole second and moved to third on a throwing error.
After Moore scored on a passed ball, Madison James drew a walk, advanced to second on a passed ball and scored on a stolen base turned error, using a quick slide to slip past the tag of catcher Alec Bourgeois. Miller retired the next two, including one by strikeout.
Down to its final three cracks, Passmore led off the bottom half of the seventh with a single to left field. Spears added a one-out single through the hole on left side, causing Lonoke to relieve Mathis with Gooden, who immediately plunked Hopkins.
Owens found a hole on the left side for an RBI single that scored Bourgeois, who reached on a fielder's choice. Gooden fired back with a strikeout, but needing one more out to seal the victory Gooden plunked Litaker, scoring Spears as Pangburn pulled within two at 5-3 with two out and the bases still loaded.
Poe stayed alive with three foul balls while working a full-count before grounding out to Moore at first base as Lonoke held tight for a 5-3 win.
“That's a split with them and I am not satisfied with that but I think we played well,” said Poe. “We just couldn't get the ball hit in the hole when we needed it. We hit the ball well, but we just hit it at somebody tonight and sometimes that is just the way it rolls.”
Page 3 of 3 - Spears led Pangburn with 2 hits and 2 runs scored, while Owens, Poe and Passmore also collected 2 hits. Moore paced Lonoke with 2 hits and 2 runs scored, while Madison James finished 1-for-1 with 3 walks.
Johnson's two-out, two-run triple along with Mathis' relief pitching, plus Gooden and Pepper's defense made a big difference for the Bullets. “Both of our relief pitchers [Mathis and Gooden] came in and threw good,” said Lonoke Coach Steve Moore.
“I was proud of them. We played good defense behind them and as long as you play good defense it usually works out. Our defense definitely made the difference in the game and we scored just enough runs to win. We made a few less mistakes. That was a big two-out hit by Gage,” added Moore.