Lonoke’s baseball Jackrabbits sported new jerseys for the final stretch of the season, which began Tuesday with the opening round of the 4A-2 District Tournament at Baptist Prep.
The sixth-seeded Jackrabbits (6-22) faced No. 3 Central Arkansas Christian (13-8) with the winner advancing to the district semifinals Thursday at 7 p.m. and to the Class 4A East Regional next week.
The jerseys honor Crystal Payne, a young mother of two injured recently in an ATV accident; and Kristina Lewis, daughter of Roy Don Lewis, who runs Lonoke Municipal Ball Park — the Jackrabbits’ home.
“His daughter was diagnosed with lymphoma, and we want to do what we can for our community,” Jackrabbit coach Chris Foor said. “The boys each bought a jersey, and we are going to do yard work, get them groceries — whatever they need. I’m proud of the boys. This was something they wanted to do for the community — for Kristina and for the Paynes.
“We’ll wear them all the way through, we hope to the state championship, but we’ll go as far as we can go with them.
“That’s the whole point of being a coach. You always try to win ball games, but the big thing is the lessons they learn.”
The Lonoke-CAC winner moves on to the 7 p.m. Thursday semifinal against the winner of the first-round game between No. 2 Southside Batesville and No. 7 Riverview.
The top half of the bracket includes top-seeded Baptist Prep against the winner of the play-in game between No. 8 eStem and No. 9 Helena-West Helena Central and No. 4 Stuttgart against No. 5 Heber Springs. Those survivors will play in Thursday’s 4:30 p.m. semifinal.
The championship game is set for 7 p.m. Friday with the third-place game at 4:30 p.m.
Last week, the Jackrabbits swept eStem by a combined score of 34-3 (21-3 and 13-0). In the first game, Lonoke went up 3-1 in the first inning and 13-1 after two. The Jackrabbits added three runs in the third and five in the fifth. Matthew Sumner, Dalton Smith and William Risner each had two RBIs.
In the second game, Lonoke was effective offensive with two runs in the first, four in the second, two in the third and five in the fifth. Chase Rogers led the offense with four RBIs and two hits, including a home run. Connor Linton and Risner added two RBIs each.
Later in the week, Lonoke lost to Stuttgart, 17-4; and North Little Rock, 8-2. The Jackrabbits led the Charging Wildcats 2-0 before North Little Rock tied it in the third and went ahead in the fifth. Kade Stuart’s three hits (including one double) led Lonoke.
“It was really close until the fourth or fifth inning,” Foor said. “We’d gotten to the point where we were running low on pitchers, and the walks started catching us. Noah Mulligan looked great on the mound. He battled great.”
He said he thought the Jackrabbits were in a good place heading into the district tournament.
“Realistically, the CAC games both came down to one inning,” he said. “We have some confidence with that, plus we’re getting healthy. For the first time all year, we’ve got every single varsity player available. That’s starting to build confidence at the right time.”