The Benton and Northwood baseball teams won’t be strangers when they meet for the third time this season Tuesday at Benton for a second-round Class 4A playoff game at 7 p.m.
The squads split the regular season series — No. 13 seed Northwood won 5-4 on April 1 while No. 4 seed Benton took a 4-2 win on its home field April 17 — and Northwood catcher Slade Baker said the rubber match is for much more than bragging rights.
“It would mean a lot to all of us to get to the quarterfinals by beating Benton,” said Baker, who is one of six seniors striving for the program’s first quarters appearance since 2005. “Benton has had our number since we;ve been here, and I think we’ve only beat them twice.
“I remember my freshman season when they beat us (11-1) in the playoffs (2011), and we probably had three hits.”
Benton will face a District 1-4A opponent in the playoffs for the fourth time in five years, and the Tigers are a perfect 3-0. Benton beat Minden 6-3 in the 2013 second round after big first-round wins against Northwood (11-1 in 2011 and 12-0 in 2010).
Senior pitcher Aaron Henigan, who got the win against No. 29 South Terrebonne on Thursday, said Benton’s pitching depth should be an advanatge as the playoffs wear on.
“At least we know we can beat them — they beat us the first game and we beat them the second game,” Henigan said. “I think Jordan Shaffer will be on the mound, and he’ll do a great job.
“It’s awesome that we have five pitchers that can throw strikes with curve balls and change ups, and we can keep teams off balance.”
Northwood beat Shaffer in a low-scoring game in the first matchup, but Baker expects Shaffer to be his “All-State” self on Tuesday.
Coach Darrien Dukes added that three District 1-4A teams (No. 16 Minden travels to No. 1 St. Thomas More on Tuesday at 6 p.m.) still alive is impressive, and a tough district has prepared the Falcons to take the next step.
“They know our kids, we know their kids and the coaching staff knows each other,” Dukes said. “Any time you beat (Benton) once, especially as well coached as they are, you do have confidence from that and so do they.
“There’s a reason why Northwestern State signed Shaffer. He’s got a great arm, and he battles. You’ve got to swing at good pitches and have good at-bats, and our kids did that the first game.”
Northwood had to battle down six runs to Breaux Bridge in the first round, but reliever Cole Barnette slowed the Tigers’ surge by allowing just two runs in the final four innings.
Barnette started the second Benton game while Timmy Yelverton, who started the Breux Bridge game and the first Benton game, could start.
Dukes said he doesn’t know who he’s going to start.