Craft, Grubbs key Benton to first-round win

Craft, Grubbs key Benton to first-round win


Craft, Grubbs key Benton to first-round win


Benton opens playoffs with win over Franklin Parish.

Benton opens playoffs with win over Franklin Parish.

BENTON – Center fielder Wade Grubbs provided speed and savvy at the top of the lineup and Tanner Craft stymied the opposition’s bats to lead the sixth-seeded Benton Tigers to a 6-1 LHSAA Class 4A first-round playoff win over the 27th-seeded Franklin Parish Patriots at Benton Field Tuesday afternoon.

The Tigers (18-11) will host the winner of the Crowley-Morgan City playoff in a best-of-three series beginning Friday at Benton.

Craft sparkled on the mound, hurling a complete game with five strikeouts while only allowing two hits – one of which was an infield single. The only run he allowed came as a result of two uncharacteristic Benton errors in the sixth inning.

“It (the win) is a credit to my team, though,” said Craft, a senior for the Tigers who stretched his record to 8-2 on the season. “I’m definitely not going out there and striking out everybody. Great defense behind me, and, of course, it’s always easier when you get some run support behind you. That’s why I love my team, and, you know, we’re moving on.”

Grubbs was a major factor in that run support. The senior leadoff hitter got the Benton offense off to a good start with a shot down the third-base line for a double in the first and came around to score on Sam Simmons’ two-out RBI single. Connor Jack Smith followed with a double to score Simmons, staking Craft to a 2-0 lead before he had hardly broken a sweat.

“It’s pretty important (to get on base) because the hitters behind me can hit pretty good and move me around,” said Grubbs. “When you’ve got a guy like Tanner on the mound, you want to get off to a good start, because he can make those runs stand up.”

Grubbs, who combined with Simmons for four stolen bases, continued to apply pressure on the basepaths in the fourth. Cody Norris, who went 3-for-3, hit the first of his two doubles with one down and moved to third on a ground out. Noticing the third baseman playing deep, Grubbs rolled a perfect bunt down the line, scoring Norris on the fielder’s choice to give Benton a 4-0 lead. While the Franklin Parish players were still collecting themselves, Grubbs moved all the way to third base.

“He (Grubbs) did that all on his own,” said Benton coach Jaime Stephens. “He saw the third baseman playing back and signaled to us that he was going to lay down the bunt. That kid has one of the highest baseball IQs of any kid I’ve ever been around.”

In addition to the offense provided by Grubbs, Simmons, and Norris, Smith drove in a pair of runs and Taylor Ward doubled and knocked in a run for the Tigers.

Kenyon Major took the loss for the Patriots (14-14) while shortstop Austin Bloucher scored Franklin Parish’s only run.

“We ran into a tough pitcher out there,” said Franklin Parish coach Rick Berry, who will return all but one player to next year’s team. “We had hoped we could get to him, but, other than that one inning when he had a couple of errors behind him, he was nearly unhittable. That’s a tough team over there, and we fought them hard, but they were better (Tuesday).”


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