Only one of the area’s longest winning streaks was going to end Monday.
Benton lengthened their winning streak to eight games by snapping Airline’s six-game tear in a 6-0 Tigers’ win.
Ace Aaron Sheppard held a potent Airline (15-8) lineup to three hits in a shutout.
Sheppard paired a slider he often threw in the dirt with his fastball to record six strikeouts in the outing. Benton improved to 18-7.
“I tried to stay consistent and throw strikes,” said Sheppard, a Louisiana Tech signee. “This is a lot of fun because Airline is really competitive.
“My fastball kind of got away from me in the fifth and sixth innings … but I was able to keep them off of my fastball. I’m exactly where I want (in my season), but I want to keep it consistently here and keep it going.”
Sheppard had plenty of run support with Benton’s Cameron Horton racking up three of the Tigers’ nine hits.
Horton hit a slump this past week, especially with runners in scoring position, but the UL-Lafayette signee delivered Monday.
Already up 1-0 in the fifth inning, Horton doubled in Tanner Craft to start a two-run inning in a 3-0 lead. Horton scored on a Jaret Gill single to finish the inning.
“I just kept working hard (through the slump), and I knew it was just a baseball thing,” Horton said. “It felt really good to come out and hit today.
“I talked to my dad about it, and he told me my swing was great and just to keep doing what I was doing.”
Benton tacked on three seventh-inning runs with a Branson Woodward RBI-single (2-for-3) and a Tyler Stephens two-RBI triple.
Airline pitcher Cameron Taylor kept the Vikings around early by working out of a third-inning jam. Taylor allowed a single and three of his five walks, including a bases-loaded walk of Craft to score to Coleman Nerren with no outs.
But Taylor struck out the heart of the Benton lineup — Horton, Sheppard and Gill — to end the inning. He allowed three runs (two earned) on three hits and five walks in four innings, but Airline coach Toby Todd said he’s confident in his left-hander out of the bullpen.
“He was one of our three weekend guys last year, and he helps expand our staff as a left-hander we can bring in,” Todd said. “But we learned two things today — you can’t keep throwing good pitches in 2-1 and 3-1 counts to a good hitting team.
“And we didn’t make (Sheppard) throw his hard slider for strikes. We kept chasing it in the dirt.”