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Jackrabbits knock off Stuttgart, Clinton to win district tourney

The Lonoke Jackrabbits baseball team won the 4A-2 district tournament Monday, beating Stuttgart in the championship game. (Photo by Carol Risner)
The Lonoke Jackrabbits baseball team won the 4A-2 district tournament Monday, beating Stuttgart in the championship game. (Photo by Carol Risner)

The Lonoke Jackrabbits avenged their only conference loss by beating Stuttgart 8-5 in the finals of the 4A-2 district tournament Monday at Heber Springs.

The Jackrabbits knocked off Clinton 4-2 in the semifinals earlier in the day.

The games were originally scheduled for Saturday but were postponed because of rain Friday and Saturday. Tournament officials originally cancelled the tournament and Lonoke had scheduled Sheridan in a non-conference game for Monday. However, Sunday afternoon, conference officials rescheduled the tournament and the Jackrabbits came out on top, earning the top seed in the Class 4A East Region Tournament on Friday.

“It was a big deal to us because it had been a while since we had played a game,” Lonoke coach Darrick Lowery said of playing the district tournament. The Jackrabbits hadn’t played since beating Clinton on April 26 in the conference finale.

“We definitely wanted to play before regionals and getting the opportunity to possibly win the district tournament was a bonus,” Lowery said. “I’m extremely proud of our kids for how they fought in both games. Both opponents played extremely well. Getting a No. 1 seed going into the regionals is also a big accomplishment.”

Lonoke will play former conference foe Cave City in the first round Friday at noon in Heber Springs. If Lonoke wins, the Jackrabbits will play in the Class 4A state tournament next week in Harrison. A year ago, Lonoke made it to the state title game.

“Friday is huge for us … it is win or go home,” Lowery said. “We’re definitely ready for Cave City and excited about the chance to go back to the state tournament.”

If Lonoke beats Cave City, it will play in the semifinals Saturday against the winner of Brookland and Southside Batesville at noon. The third-place game is Monday at noon. The championship game is Monday at 2:30 p.m.

In the win over Clinton in the semifinals, Lonoke scored single runs in the first and third innings. Shane Pepper walked and scored on a sacrifice fly by Guy Halbert in the first inning. Halbert singled and scored on a triple by Madison James in the third.

Clinton tied the game with two runs in the top of the fourth. Lonoke then scored single runs in the fifth and sixth innings to get the win. Pepper doubled and scored in the fifth. Garrett Spears singled and scored on a triple by Pepper in the seventh.

In the championship game, both teams scored two runs in the first inning. Christian James was hit by pitch and scored. Blake Gooden singled and scored on a single by Zack Risner.

Stuttgart scored single runs in the third and fourth innings to lead 4-2.

Lonoke took a 6-4 lead with four runs in the top of the fifth.

With two outs, Madison James walked and Risner singled. Nick Watson followed with a double to drive in James and Risner. Spears drove in Watson with a single and eventually scored himself.

Stuttgart cut the deficit to 6-5 but Lonoke scored twice in the top of the sixth. Gooden singled and scored. Halbert reached on an error and scored.

Jackrabbits pitching then retired the final nine Stuttgart batters. Christian James pitched the fifth and sixth innings while Gooden threw the seventh.

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