HARRISON – For the second consecutive Saturday, the Cotter Warriors collected a shutout victory over the Melbourne Bearkatz, this time with a 3-0 win in the semifinals of the Class 3A Region 3 Tournament on Jack Williams Field at the Community First Bank Sports Complex.
Last week, the Warriors knocked off the Bearkatz 5-0 in the semifinals of the 3A-1 East District Tournament — also in Harrison but on Pippin Field. The Warriors then went on to claim the district tournament championship Monday night over Flippin.
Cotter (17-4) will take on the Rivercrest Colts for the regional tournament championship today with the contest starting at 2:30 p.m. Rivercrest defeated Corning 7-3 in Saturday’s other semifinal.
While starting pitcher Colton Neal was successful in keeping the Bearkatz off the scoreboard, the Warriors did not exactly light it up offensively as they had just two hits. But, they took advantage of six Melbourne errors to score their three runs, of which all three were unearned.
In the bottom of the third inning, Shawn White reached on a fielder’s choice and Neal walked. An error scored White, and a single by Brett Walker plated Neal to put Cotter up 2-0.
In the bottom of the fifth, Brandon Beecher reached on a two-base error, advanced to third on a wild pitch and then scored on yet another error for the final run of the contest.
Cotter’s two hits were singles, one by Landon Martin in the second and one by Neal in the third.
Neal went the distance on the mound to pick up the victory. The senior allowed six hits and struck out four, but did not walk a single batter.
The closest Melbourne came to scoring was in the top of the seventh when with two outs, the Bearkatz loaded the bases with three straight singles. Neal bounced back to strike out the final batter of the contest.
All of Melbourne’s hits were singles except for Brian Woolsey’s double in the top of the third.
Friday late first round
It wasn’t the way the Flippin Bobcats wanted to end their season, losing two in a row at the end to put a damper on what was a successful year.
Flippin finished up 15-3 on the campaign, which featured an 8-0 run through the 3A-1 East Conference regular season. Ironically, all three of Flippin’s losses were at the sports complex in Harrison.
The Bobcats had just two errors in Friday’s game — which started late due to a rain delay early in the day and didn’t finish until 11:30 p.m. — but both of those came in a critical fourth inning when Corning scored seven times on those errors, plus two hits, while also getting help via three wild pitches and a balk from Flippin. By the time the top of the fourth was over, Flippin went from trailing by just one run to being down 9-1.
But the Bobcats did attempt to rally over the last three innings. Brenton Butcher and Dean Smyser each had RBI singles in the fifth to cut the deficit to 9-3, and Austin Lack singled in the sixth and scored on a single by McKane Curtis to make it 9-4.
In Flippin’s last at bat in the bottom of the seventh, the first two batters flew out, but the Bobcats did make it interesting after that. Smyser walked, Landy Kopacz singled, and both scored after a hit by Lack and an error on the play by Corning.
Lack then scored on a single by Curtis to make it 9-7. Tanner Theobald walked and a wild pitch moved the runners to scoring position, but Corning pitcher J.J. Rigdon struck out the final batter of the day to save the game for Corning.
Curtis, Lack, Smyser and Spencer Politte had two hits each for Flippin, which had 10 for the game. Theobald, Flippin’s starting pitcher, and reliever Smyser combined for 12 strikeouts and just five hits allowed.