With the a top-seed on the line for the upcoming 7-4A district baseball tournament in Ashdown, the Arkadelphia Badgers bats came alive behind a 12-strikeout performance by Braydon Todd to defeat the visiting Bauxite Miners 8-4 on Thursday afternoon on Senior Night at the Arkadelphia Youth Sports Park.
“ I can’t say enough about Braydon Todd,” Arkadelphia head baseball coach Brant Matros said. “He got his foot hurt, but he is just the ultimate competitor and our guys fed off of that and that is leadership. They followed him today and backed him up. Even when they had a couple of big swings that cut the lead in half, our guys responded with more runs so they were fighting for each other and that is good.”
Todd sat down the Bauxite side in the top of the first inning on three straight strike outs.
In the bottom of the first, Eric Groom singled to center field with two outs and scored when Tanner Smith hit the first of three doubles on the day. Arkadelphia led 1-0 after the first.
Todd garnered another strike out and fielded a line drive that knocked his glove off, but he managed to pitch the ball over to Smith at first base to sit down the Miners again in order in the top this second inning. Maddox Breashears singled to left field with one out in the bottom of the second, but Bauxite turned a double play to get out of the inning.
In the top of the third, the Miners got base hit to left field, but was out at second on a fielder’s choice. Todd struck out the next two batters to end the Miners’ threat.
In the bottom half of the third, Alec Ruble doubled to the gap in right-center field and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Matt Green. Groom doubled to the right-center to bring in Ruble, but Groom was tagged out at second.
Bauxite got on the scoreboard in the top of the fourth inning with a lead-off double to left field and a sacrifice ground out to make it 2-1.
The Badgers bounced back in the bottom of the fourth inning with three runs. Smith led off with his second double of the game and his pinch-runner, Staton Whitten, moved to third when Alec Lewis singled up the middle. Turner Pentecost laid down a sacrifice bunt to score Whitten. Breashears was hit by pitch and Joe Rocole reached on an error to load the bases. With two outs, Ruble reached on an error that scored Lewis and Breashears to make it 5-1 Arkadelphia.
Bauxite added two more runs in the top of the fifth inning on a two-run homer, but Todd struck out the next three batters to end the threat with Arkadelphia leading 5-3. The Badgers got one of those runs back in the bottom half of the inning when Lewis tripled with one out. He scored on a sacrifice fly to right field by Pentecost. Breashears followed with a single, but a ground out ended the inning with Arkadelphia up 6-3.
Bauxite got a single in the top of the sixth, but Todd struck out two batters and got a pop fly to Pentecost at second to preserve the three-run lead. In the bottom of the sixth, Ruble was hit by a pitch with one out and scored when Groom doubled to the gap in right-center field. Smith followed with his third double of the game which was to left field to bring in Groom for an 8-3 lead.
Bauxite got a solo home run in the top of the seventh inning, but Groom, in to relieve Todd, got a pop fly to Rocole at third and struck out the final batter to end the game.
“There was an ultimate competitor on the mound today and it starts there every week,” Matros said. “We have had good pitching, but our guys had an energy behind him and they are finding ways in big games to win. We start talking now in scenarios of fatal games and we are going to play a fatal game on Wednesday. You do all this work for one game even though it is not the tradition in baseball, but the way we are set up we play a fatal game. What we understand to be fatal games, is the best time of the year, it is tournament time. They can knock you out or you are playing for something and they understand that. They played today with energy like that and if they play like that on Wednesday, we will be all right. We have to get back some energy, because we play a tough non-conference game on Monday to get us ready for Wednesday.”
After the game, Cole Kirksey, Turner and Groom were honored on Senior Night.
“These guys had a small class, but they have stuck it out,” Matros said. “They have been there when were getting going and turning the corner and they worked for their time. Cole Kirksey has been a spark plug for us. He played different roles for us, in the outfield, pinch-hits, DH’s, runs, he is an on-base guy and just a fighter. Turner is starting to play really good gritty baseball that he can play and Eric is starting to find his swing. He has done a great job on the mound. Those guys put in a lot of hours and time and I am happy for them today, but they all want more.”