Lonoke’s Jackrabbits will be the third seed from the East Regional when they play host to the Class 4A State Baseball Tournament this week.
Lonoke (20-12) will face Pottsville (25-6), third from the North, in the tournament opener Thursday at 10 a.m. The winner will get Nashville, top seed from the South, which has a bye to Friday’s 10 a.m. quarterfinal.
“We are trying to gather information,” Lonoke coach Chris Foor said late Monday upon his team’s return from the East Regional at Trumann. “Supposedly they’ve got a low lefty solid pitcher. They’ve played a lot of the same teams over and over, so I can’t gauge them beyond that. They haven’t played the teams we’ve played. Basically their district and regional is about all they’ve played.”
Quarterfinals will be Friday at 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Semifinals are set for noon and 2:30 p.m. Saturday. The championship will be next week at the University of Arkansas’s Baum Stadium.
In the regional last week, the Jackrabbits, the second seed from the 2-4A, knocked off Brookland, third from the 3-4A, 3-1, in the first round to earn their berth to the state tournament.
“It was a dog fight,” Foor said. “This time of year, that’s what you get into, because you’re not facing anybody’s bottom of the conference. They threw a left-handed with tons of experience, and he was a true pitcher. He threw any pitch on any count. That’s the reason why we set our schedule to play against top-notch competition. There’s no freezing up because we’ve been there before.”
Casey Martin, Kameron Cole, Tallon Swint, Keith Lingo and Dalton Smith provided the offense.
In the semifinals, the Jackrabbits lost to Jonesboro Westside, top seed from the 3-4A, 2-1.
How close did they come in the top of the seventh to take the lead?
“Bases loaded, two outs, full count and Casey Martin at the plate,” Foor said. “It was almost like we had jet lag. Our pitching did very well on strict pitch counts. Seeding is important, and the 1 gets the bye, but you’ve got to have all your guys.”
He said his top rotation of Martin, Haven Hunter and Kade Stuart was good to go.
“We should be set up for arm strength,” Foor said. “Every other region played one game (Monday). Seeding’s important; the 1 gets a bye, but you’ve got to have all your guys.
“I’ll take our 1, 2, 3 against anybody. They’re all 1s on other teams. If we can get some long games out of our starters, that’ll help a lot also.”
Westside scored single runs in the first and sixth; Lonoke pulled within 2-1 in the top of the seventh but couldn’t come closer.
In the third-place game later Monday, the Jackrabbits beat Heber Springs, 12-9.
The game was tied at 3-3 after one inning, and Heber went up 5-3 after two. The Jackrabbits took a 6-5 edge in the top of the fourth, but the Panthers answered with four runs in the bottom of the inning for a 9-6 lead. But a six-run fifth for Lonoke was the difference.
“Our young pitchers came in and battled,” Foor said. “Casey comes up and hits a three-run home run, and Keith Lingo and Kade Stuart got big hits, and we get back to Casey in the fifth with the bases loaded and he hits a grand slam for a 12-9 lead. Haven came in for the last six pitches and shut them down.
“I was very proud of my young guys for battling and our upperclassmen for leading.”
He said his players seemed to come out of a fog late in the third-place game.
“It was our first overnight trip, and we seemed to be under the ball all day until the fifth inning of the second game,” he said. “Even the atmosphere in the dugout was off.”