NORFORK – The long ball hasn’t been in Cotter’s arsenal most of this season, but the Warriors clubbed a pair of early home runs Monday to ignite a nonconference victory.
Senior Ryan Roberts and freshman Landon Martin each supplied two-run homers — with Roberts driving in six runs on the day — as the Warriors rolled to a 21-3 win over the Norfork Panthers at Fireball Reynolds Ballfield.
The Warriors improve to 12-3 overall on the season and are idle until Saturday when they play in the semifinals of the 3A-1 East District Tournament at Harrison. Cotter earned a No. 2 seed in the tournament with a 16-3 victory over Mountain View on Saturday, giving the Warriors a 7-1 league mark.
Cotter is assured of no worse than a conference runner-up finish and is still in the running for a co-championship if Mountain View were to defeat Flippin today. The district begins Wednesday, with quarterfinal action Friday and semifinal play on Saturday, to where Flippin and Cotter each have received byes.
The Panthers fall to 6-10 overall and open play in the 1A-2 North District Tournament on Thursday. Norfork, a No. 4 seed, will face No. 5 Calico Rock, which it has defeated twice this season. The Panthers went 5-5 in league play.
The Warriors pounded out just 12 hits against the Panthers, but five went for extra bases. Cotter also took advantage of 10 free passes offered by three Norfork pitchers. Cotter matched its season home run total with its two homers on Monday.
Cotter needed just one hit to take a 3-0 lead in the first inning, thanks to a homer by Martin. A pair of walks were followed by a fielder’s choice, and one run scored on a passed ball. Martin then lined a home run over the right-field fence for a three-run lead.
Cotter’s Colton Neal, meanwhile, cruised on the mound early, facing just 10 batters over the first three innings and allowing a pair of hits — one of those retired on a pickoff throw.
The Warriors had a big third inning, scoring 10 runs on seven hits. Cotter sent 15 batters to the plate, and Roberts started the uprising with a line-drive, two-run homer over left field following a base hit by Neal.
The Warriors scored their final eight runs of the inning with two outs. Martin reached on a two-out error, and a slew of unearned runs would follow. Dawson Burns singled and Maddux Adams was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Jarrett Plumlee singled home Martin and Burns to make it 7-0.
Brandon Beecher reached on a dropped fly ball that allowed Adams and Plumlee to score. Shawn White walked and Neal reached on another error, loading the bases again. This time, Roberts supplied a two-run double to right field, making it 11-0.
Brett Walker followed with a two-run single to push the lead to 13-0. Norfork’s Wyatt Chapman took the loss, allowing eight hits and 13 runs — only five earned — over three innings. Creed Chapman took over the pitching duties in the fourth, but Cotter greeted the left-hander with a trio of runs on three singles.
Adams, Roberts and White each had base hits, and White’s drove in a run, giving the Warriors a 16-0 lead.
Norfork avoided the run rule, however, plating three of its own in the bottom of the fourth.
Wyatt Chapman walked, Creed Chapman singled and Brock Belding doubled home a run. Austin Stinnett followed with a single to center to plate another run. Grant Casey had a RBI fielder’s choice to make it 16-3. After six consecutive batters had reached safely for Norfork, Neal escaped the inning with back-to-back strikeouts.
Cotter received four straight free passes — two walks and two hit-by-pitches — to open the fifth before Creed Chapman was replaced by Belding on the mound. The fourth free pass brought home a run, and Beecher brought home another with a sacrifice fly to make it 18-3.
Adams scored on the Panthers’ sixth error of the game, and Roberts smacked his third two-RBI hit of the day — a double to right-center — to stretch the lead to 21-3.
Neal worked around a two-out double in the bottom of the fifth to nail down the win. The right-hander struck out seven and scattered six hits and three earned runs over five innings in the victory.
Roberts went 4 for 4 with a walk and six RBI to lead Cotter, while Martin was 2 for 3 with two RBI and Plumlee was 1 for 2 with three RBI for the Warriors. Belding and Creed Chapman each went 2 for 3 to lead Norfork at the plate.
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