The Benton Panthers used stellar defense and hot bats to reach the semifinals of the Central Arkansas Invitational on Friday night against Sylvan Hills. The Panthers battled past CAC on Thursday, 2-0, before beating Vilonia 10-4 early on Friday.
With the momentum in their favor and playing on their home field, the Panthers could not keep up the good work as they fell 6-3 to Sylvan Hills.
Benton starting pitcher Garrison Roy ran into some trouble straight out of the gate in the first inning, allowing the first two hitters to reach on a walk followed by a single. With two on and none out, Roy settled down and got two quick outs on a sacrifice bunt and a strikeout, putting runners on second and third with two outs. Roy would walk the next hitter to load the bases. With his nerves getting to him and pitches not hitting their spots, Roy found a way to strikeout the sixth hitter of the inning to escape without allowing a run.
Benton returned the favor in the bottom of the first by getting the first two hitters on via a walk and single. Blake Nations, who was pinch running for Krikorian on first, was gunned down trying to steal second for Benton’s first out. Balisterri followed with a strikeout before Carson Holloway grounded out to end the threat in the bottom of the inning.
The second inning did not fare to well for Roy as he gave up three runs on two hits, an error and a hit batter. J.D. Miller led the inning off with an opposite field home run to right to put Sylvan Hills on top 1-0. A throwing error by Roy allowed the next batter to reach base and advance to second. A stolen base put the runner on third with no outs.
Roy settled down once again and struck out his third batter of the game for the inning’s first out. A hit batter put runners on the corners for Sylvan Hills with one out. Roy struck out his second batter of the inning to stall Sylvan Hills for the moment. Just when it looked like Roy was going to escape, a big towering double was stroked off of the fence that scored two to make it 3-0 Sylvan Hills. After a past ball moved the runner to third, a botched hit and run forced the runner to be tagged out at home, ending the inning for Sylvan Hills. Once again, Benton put the first two hitters on base to start the inning but could not answer as they headed to the third inning in a 3-0 hole.
Roy walked the leadoff man in the third and was pulled from the mound, bringing in Brian Krikorian. Brian tallied two quick outs with a line out and a fly out before walking his first batter of the game. He would escape untouched with another fly out to end the inning.
Benton put two more runners on base in the third but could not get any farther than second base for the third straight inning as they continued to fight back against Sylvan Hills.
Over the final four innings, Sylvan Hills added three more runs on six hits. Benton was able to add three of their own in the fifth inning to cut the lead in half. Vincent led the fifth off with a walk. After a fly out by Matthew, a single from Greg Pryor put runners on first and second with one out for Benton.
Balisterri flew out following Pryor to add to his disappointing night at the plate, bringing Holloway to the dish with a chance to make some noise. That is exactly what he did. Holloway waisted not time before jumping on the first pitch, driving it to left center for a two RBI double to give Benton its first two runs of the game. Jordan Britton followed with a very hard hit double to right field to score Holloway.
With head coach Mark Balisterri holding up the stop sign for Britton at second, Britton ran threw the sign and was thrown out at third to end the inning for Benton with the score stuck at 6-3. Thats where the score would end as Benton could not climb out of an early hole as they fell to Sylvan Hills. With the win, Sylvan Hills moved on to the finals of the tournament in Little Rock last night.
The loss sent Benton’s record to 7-4 on the year.
Pryor led the Panthers with a 3-3 showing at the plate. Holloway led with two RBIS and a run in the contest. Benton put 12 runners on base but only got four past first. Sylvan Hills sent 37 hitters to the plate and put 20 on base in the game.
Roy pitched two inning, allowing three hits and three walks while striking out four and gave up three runs. Brian pitched five innings, allowing just six hits and two walks while striking out four. He too allowed three runs to cross the plate in the loss.
“He is only a sophomore and he did a good job,” coach Balisterri said.
“He battled and I was proud of him. He made some big plays to get us out of some crunches.” After not hitting the ball for most of the season so far, Benton broke out against Vilonia with 16 hits and 10 runs but went back to their old ways against Sylvan Hills after mashing out only six hits in the contest.
“Their pitcher did a good job competing out there and he threw strikes and was going to make us hit them,” coach Balisterri said.
“They got the big hits when they needed them and we didn’t. We pecked away and had a chance at the end to get back in the game and we just didn’t do it.”
“We just got beat by the better team tonight,” coach Balisterri added.
Benton played Lake Side at 3 p.m. yesterday. Due to print time, the game story for Saturday will not be in the Saline Courier until Monday.