Benton baseball players were confident they could make their second straight quarterfinals appearance, but nobody expected it would be with a 12-0 five-inning win Tuesday against district rival Northwood in the Class 4A second round.
Senior Jordan Shaffer threw his first career playoff no-hitter, and the No. 4 Tigers dropped 10 runs in the first inning for the runaway victory against the No. 13 Falcons.
Benton (28-8) will host No. 5 St. Michael on Monday at 4 p.m. St. Michael beat No. 12 Eunice 8-6.
Shaffer worked around five walks, but he struck out six and retired the last eight Falcons.
“Shaffer did a great job with his misses. I know he had some walks, but even his misses were around the zone,” said Benton coach J.D. Stephens. “If we have that kind of effort from him the rest of the way, we’re going to be fine.
“I don’t mind the walks, especially with (Northwood’s) hitters because you don’t want them to beat you with one swing.”
Shaffer, who had a 10-0 lead when he stepped on the mound for the second inning, said he didn’t expect the margin of victory.
“I don’t think anybody expected this,” said Shaffer, who led off Benton’s offense with a double and drove in a run at the plate. “But we came out of the gates hot, and my arm felt good.
“I just threw it up there and let the defense work. Baseball is a crazy game and anything can happen.”
Northwood starter Cole Barnette, who steadied the ship in a comeback win against Breaux Bridge, surrendered three runs on an error and two bases-loaded free passes.
Timmy Yelverton didn’t fare any better as Benton’s Aaron Henigan and Leflett recorded RBIs to push the score to 5-0.
Wade Grubbs and Cameron Horton each drove in two runs in the next two at bats to lead 9-0 before Taylor Ward singled in the final run of the inning.
The Tigers recorded five of their six hits and five of their 11 free passes in the first inning.
Neither regular season matchup (a 5-4 Northwood win or a 4-2 Benton win) had as many combined runs as Benton’s 10-run first inning.
Cameron Horton scored two runs and drove in two with a triple in that inning.
“We had really great (batting practice) today, and we expected to score some runs,” Horton said. “But we know they are a really strong team with a bunch of good hitters in their lineup.
“We just came out all fired up, and we executed.”
Northwood’s Deauton Delgado was the third pitcher of the inning, and he and Justin Gaskin allowed two runs in the final 3 1⁄3innings.
Every Benton batter recorded an RBI with Grubbs (2-for-3, 2 RBIs) and Horton (2 RBIs) leading the way.
Northwood (24-8) won its most games since 2005 (also the program’s last quarterfinals appearance), and that’s what Falcons coach Darrien Dukes communicated to his team.
“It’s been a four-year process from where we came from when I got here,” Dukes said. “Winning playoff games, especially at home – we won a lot of baseball games with these guys.
“I do know we’re better than that. I know (Barnette and Yelverton) are better than that. We just didn’t hit spots, and you can’t leave baseballs around the waist against a team like this. I don’t know if the quick turnaround hurt them, but we got out of the gate slow and couldn’t come back from it.”