BENTON — The Izard County Cougars made their first ever trip to the 1A state baseball championships Saturday night.
The Cougars met the 2019 champions and conference rivals the Viola Longhorns in Benton.
Six badly timed errors put the game out of reach for the Cougars and allowed the Longhorns won 11-4.
Head coach Billy McBride said “we had to limit our mistakes and we just made too many, and they took advantage. We had to limit their runs, and we just didn’t do a very good job of that.”
McBride thought the errors came from a combination of big game jitters and being off a week in between games. “Viola, they put the pressure on you. They’re fast and have good athletes up and down the lineup. They force you into those mistakes,” McBride said.
The Cougars capitalized on the Longhorn’s own mistakes to open up the game. Chase Orf drew a walk after eight pitches to start the game.
Noah Everett ripped a double to right to move Orf. After a throwing error Orf scored and Everett ended up at third. Everett scored two pitches later on a passed ball to make it 2-0 in favor of the Cougars.
The Longhorns earned their first lead of the game in the home half of the first. The Cougars’ four errors allowed the Horns to plate five runs.
After that it was all Longhorns. They scored another run in second, three in the third and two in fourth for 11 total runs.
The Cougars showed some life at the plate in the top half of the fourth. With two outs Coby Everett drew a walk to give the Cougars this first base runner of the inning. Caleb Faulkner launched a ball into the left field wall. Faulkner ended up on second and Everett scored. Zach Simmons roped a single to bring Faulkner in to score and give the Cougars their fourth and final run.
Viola Pitcher Mason Luna went six and two thirds innings. He allowed two earned runs on four hits and threw the max 110 pitches. He was named the MVP of the game.
One area the Cougars beat the Horns in was runners left on. Most of the time when the Cougars got baserunners, they brought them home. Viola left 11 runners stranded while Izard County only left two runners aboard.
McBride finished his interview by saying “I’m proud of this bunch. We’re losing five senior who had great careers here, not just in baseball, but also in basketball. We wanted them to go out on top.”