BENTON – Four Benton hitters pounded consecutive singles off two Minden pitchers to open the bottom of the sixth inning and the Tigers used that barrage to get past the Crimson Tide 6-3 in the second round LHSAA Class 4A state playoff contest.
The win allows Benton to advance to the quarterfinals later this week at Teurlings Catholic, a 4-1 winner over Holy Cross.
“Minden put runners on tonight but our guys didn’t panic,” Benton coach J.D. Stephens said. “We just kept getting outs where we could get them. We don’t worry about our next opponent. We just worry about being prepared for the next game and putting our best foot forward.”
Senior Jordan Shaffer was solid on the mound for the Tigers, but he was even better at the plate in the sixth inning. After Peyton Leflett and Andrew Cole singled to open the frame, Shaffer delivered a line shot to right center that scored Leflett and broke a 3-3 tie.
“(The ump) had a pretty tight strike zone up there so I had to just work it over the white of the plate. My fastball and my change-up were really working for me,” Shaffer said. “My first two AB’s, I hit solid balls so I felt really confident going into my last AB. Just went up there, saw the ball, hit the ball and got the job done.”
Aggressive base running by the Tide killed potential rallies early for the visitors when Benton catcher Andrew Cole threw out two runners attempting to steal.
“That’s been our story all year – get runners on and we can’t produce. With a kid like Shaffer on the mound, you’ve got to try to do something to get runs in,” Minden coach Dean Francis said. “We tried to be aggressive, but it came down to defensive plays. We hit the ball well enough to win, but we couldn’t make the plays we needed to win.”
Minden got on the board first when Austin Sumner reached on a fielder’s choice and scored on a single by Hutton Leppert. The Tigers answered in their half of the first when Cole reached on an error and scored on a sacrifice by Cameron Horton.
A Minden error and singles by T.J. Anderson and Leflett allowed Branson Woodard to give Benton a 2-1 lead in the fourth. But Minden went in front 3-2 in the top of the fifth when Mikey James and McCaul Lacobee scored on a Benton mistake. In the bottom of the frame, Aaron Sheppard was hit by a pitch and Aaron Baker’s triple plated him to tie the game.
After Leflett singled to open the decisive sixth, Francis brought in Lacobee to replace Carson Bolyer on the mound. Lacobee promptly gave up three more singles before settling in and striking out three Tigers.
But the damage was done.