Lonoke’s baseball Jackrabbits evened their season record last week with three wins.
Chris Foor’s team swept a conference doubleheader from Episcopal Collegiate, 13-2 and 12-2, and blew past Batesville in a non-conference game, 11-3, to move to 3-3 for the season.
“I thought we matured a lot,” said Foor, the first-year Jackrabbit coach. “We started to have some real good senior leadership, and the little things we’ve been working on — they’ve started to understand their importance, and they’re executing. That makes a huge difference.”
Lonoke, which was scheduled to play a conference doubleheader with Joe T. Robinson on Tuesday, will visit Little Rock Central (0-6 at press time) on Thursday.
“They are going to hit the ball very well,” Foor said of the Tigers. “They return a lot of players from last year’s state tournament team, and they have one pitcher who is very good.”
The Jackrabbits will head into spring break after playing host to England on Friday.
“I know absolutely nothing about England except we’re in close proximity and we both had free dates,” Foor said Sunday. “It worked out good, although it makes for a busy week. Four varsity games in one week is a lot.
“But there will be no break once we come back from spring break. The more we can get going at this point, the better it’ll be. We’re trying to hit our stride on conference games. But more than that, we want to be in our stride for the district, regionals and the state tournament.”
In the first game against Episcopal last week, Lonoke went up 2-0 after the first inning, 9-0 after three and 12-2 after four. The Jackrabbits added another run in the fifth to finish with 13 runs off four hits with no errors. Episcopal had two runs and five hits while committing three errors.
“Kade Stuart threw wonderfully,” Foor said. “His ball-to-strike ratio was something like 4-1, so when you can get in the zone like that and get ahead, they’re on the defensive the whole night. Casey Martin started us off 3-for-4 in the first game and ended the day with six stolen bases. When you get that out of your lead-off hitter, it’s a good day.”
In the second game, the Jackrabbits fell behind 2-1 after one but closed strongly with a seven-run fourth. They finished with 12 runs off eight hits to Episcopal’s two runs, two hits and seven errors.
Freshman designated hitter Christian Cooper went 3-for-4 to set the tone for the Jackrabbits. Sophomore Daulton Smith hit a three-run home run. Senior Haven Hunter picked up the win after falling behind early.
“After the first inning, it was lights-out,” Foor said. “He was throwing 3-2 breaking balls painting the corners.”
The coach said the Jackrabbits did not make an error in either game.
“I thought Episcopal had some really good pitching,” he said. “Their volunteer pitching coach is (former Major League pitcher) Cliff Lee, and I thought their starting pitchers and their No. 2 in the second game could compete with just about anybody. You could tell that overall they were just well coached.”
Against Batesville, the Jackrabbits went up 4-0 after one, saw the Pioneers close within 4-3 in the top of the second and then added single runs in the second and third, three in the fourth and two in the fifth.
“Keith Lingo started for us and struck out four of the first six batters he faced,” Foor said. “Typically, Batesville is a (Class) 5A contender, usually in the upper echelon, and you know you’re going to get a well coached team that knows how to win. Keith got a big two-out double that scored two runs for us.
“We didn’t strike out very much, and in that game again we had no errors. We didn’t have an error all week.”
Those stats suited Foor’s 8-year-old daughter Rylee, “a big Jackrabbit fan.”
“She comes out to as many games as she can get to,” he said.