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Cavemen stop Jackrabbits in regional first round

Christian James congratulates teammate Blake Gooden after Gooden scored on a single by Guy Halbert in the fifth inning against Cave City on Saturday. (Photo by Mark Buffalo)Buy Photo
Christian James congratulates teammate Blake Gooden after Gooden scored on a single by Guy Halbert in the fifth inning against Cave City on Saturday. (Photo by Mark Buffalo)
Lonoke’s Zack Risner delivers a pitch against Cave City while a steady rain falls during Saturday’s regional tournament game at Heber Springs. (Photo by Mark Buffalo)Buy Photo
Lonoke’s Zack Risner delivers a pitch against Cave City while a steady rain falls during Saturday’s regional tournament game at Heber Springs. (Photo by Mark Buffalo)
Lonoke right fielder Guy Halbert fields the ball against Cave City. (Photo by Mark Buffalo)Buy Photo
Lonoke right fielder Guy Halbert fields the ball against Cave City. (Photo by Mark Buffalo)

HEBER SPRINGS — There will not be another magical run to the state championship game for the Lonoke Jackrabbits baseball team.

The Cave City Cavemen ended Lonoke’s season with a 6-4 win over the Jackrabbits in the first round of the Class 4A East Region tournament Saturday. Lonoke ends its season at 17-7.

A year ago, the Jackrabbits finished third in the regional and advanced to the Class 4A state title game, where they lost to Shiloh Christian 4-0 at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.

Lonoke coach Darrick Lowery said the loss was disappointing for him and his team.

“It’s one of those things that you hate that you have a bad day on that particular day,” he said, referring to the first round of the regional tournament. “It’s definitely not what we wanted or expected. It’s one of those things that happens. It’s part of the game.”

Lonoke got off to a a good start, leading 3-1 after two innings. The Cavemen scored in the top of the first. John Battles led off with a single and went to second on a wild pitch. He scored on a double by Justin Ramos.

The Jackrabbits scored twice in the bottom of the frame. With one out, Christian James singled and went to third on a double by Blake Gooden. James scored on a balk. Gooden scored on a triple by Madison James.

Lonoke’s Nick Watson led off the second with a single and eventually scored on a ground out by Shane Pepper.

Cave City tied the game at 3-3 with two runs in the top of the third. Clayton Pounds led off with a single. Two batters later, Trenton Coles singled. After Ramos reached on an error, Devin Burns singled, driving in Pounds and Coles to tie the game at 3-3.

The Cavemen then took advantage of poor defense in scoring three times in the fifth to lead 6-3. Scoring were Battles, Coles and Ramos.

Lonoke cut the deficit to 6-4 in the bottom of the fifth. With two outs, Gooden doubled to left field and scored on a single by Guy Halbert.

After a scoreless sixth, Lonoke’s final shot came in the bottom of the seventh. With two outs, Gooden doubled down the right field line. He rounded second base but was thrown out at third by about five steps to end the season.

Lowery said his team was in the right spot in the lineup — the top of the order — to start the seventh inning.

“We had come back in those situations before,” he said. “Our first two guys go down fairly quickly. When he [Gooden] comes up, he hits one down in the corner. With his speed, you know he’s got a chance to go to third. I sent him on to third because I knew their kid was fairly deep. He had to make a pretty good throw. Unfortunately, he made an almost perfect throw.”

Lowery said he was trying to get something “sparked” on that play.

“A couple of the rallies we had in the fourth and fifth innings, they [Cavemen] squashed them pretty good,” he said. “We were trying to get some confidence and get something going.”

Lowery said he took at chance with his team down two runs.

“We had our big hitters coming up,” he said, referring to Halbert and Madison James. “Who’s to say that anything good would happen or anything bad would happen. That’s just part of the game. We took a chance and it didn’t work out.”

Risner got the loss as he allowed all six runs — three of them unearned — while striking out four. Gooden pitched the last three innings. He gave up only one hit while striking out three.

Gooden led the Jackrabbits with three hits — all doubles. Christian James, Halbert, Madison James and Watson had one hit each.

The Jackrabbits left five runners on base.

Lonoke ends its season at 17-7.

“There are definitely some positives come out of it,” Lowery said. “We beat some really good teams this year. We played well at times. We just had that bad day at the wrong time.”

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