Benton avoids stinger, gets past Jackets

BENTON - The Benton Panthers came into Friday’s match against the conference leading Sheridan Yellowjackets looking to continue their winning ways after routing Texarkana on Tuesday. That is exactly what the Panthers did as they beat the Jackets 5-0 to move into a tie for first in the 6A South.

Though the Panthers got past the Jackets, the scoreboard was full of zeros until the bottom half of the sixth inning. Coulton Lee shut down Sheridan for seven innings on his way to tossing a complete-game shutout to get Benton to 3-1 in conference play and 10-4 overall.

Lee started the game with a three-up, three-down performance, forcing three straight fly outs on Sheridan. Benton couldn’t get anything in their half of the first as they sent just four hitters to the plate.
Greg Pryor tallied the games first hit with a single in the first.

Other than one other hit in the third, this time by Matthew Krikorian, Benton was shut down and out for the first through fifth inning. Grady Finley, Sheridan’s starting pitcher, went three up, three down in the second, fourth and fifth inning.

Lee allowed at least one runner to reach base in all but the first, fifth and sixth innings.

It wasn’t until the sixth inning that Benton finally broke through and scored five unearned runs to beat the Jackets.

Justin Vincent led the inning off with Benton’s ninth fly out of the game. Krikorian reached on the next at bat after an error on Sheridan’s shortstop Nick Ware. Pryor followed by reaching on another error, this time by first baseman Ryan Taylor, to put two on with one out. Ryne Besancon scored two batters later after a third error by Sheridan to put Benton up 1-0 in the sixth. Brooks Balisterri flew out for Benton’s second out in the inning, bringing Carson Holloway to the plate with a chance to add an insurance run for Benton. After a single, Pryor scored to make it 2-0 Benton.

Jordan Britton followed with an RBI double to add to Benton’s lead making it 3-0. Another error put Jack James on base and scoring another run to make it 4-0 Benton. Lee added an RBI single to score Benton’s final run of the game to give the Panthers the 5-0 win and move them into a tie for first place.

“Sheridan was leading the conference; we both hit the ball hard early,” Head Coach Mark Balisterri said. “It was a very well-pitched ballgame by both pitchers who had really good defense behind them.”

Benton turned two double plays on the night. One was a 1-6-3 turn just two pitches after a ball was lined off of Lee’s leg in the fourth.
Lee ended his night after giving up three hits while striking out four in the win.

Krikorian, Pryor, Holloway, Britton and Lee each had one hit for Benton on Friday. Both pitchers combined to force 22 fly balls in the game.
After the game, coach Balisterri was excited to be leading the conference in a three-way tie with Sheridan and Lake Hamilton.

“This gives us an opportunity to go through the first half of the conference race at 4-1 against the five top teams in [6A],” Coach Balisterri said. “There are three or four teams that can beat each other. I don’t think one or two wins really makes a difference. If you lose three or four then you are probably going to finish third. If we can lose no more than two, I think we will still win the conference.”

Benton will play White Hall at home in non-conference action before taking on JA Fair on Tuesday on the road. First pitch is set for 4:30 p.m. against White Hall and 5 p.m. versus Fair.