After being delayed a day due to rain, the Bearcat baseball team locked horns with the Monticello Billies in the quarterfinals of the 4A state tournament in Lonoke last Saturday.
Both teams scored an early run in an unconventional manner, and Booneville pitcher Brady Brasher got two outs after a leadoff single in the fifth. But the next three batters got hits, resulting in three Monticello runs and giving them all the momentum. They eventually went up 6-2 and thwarted a seventh-inning threat to send the Bearcats to a season-ending loss.
Booneville (25-8) still has much to be proud of this season, with a school record for wins and a regional championship under their belt. But they and the Bearcat faithful will have to wait until next season to make another run at the state title game. Three players—Hayden Fennell, Brady Brasher and Wyatt Rongey—have graduated, but those that remain will feel they have unfinished business to take care of next year.
Monticello 6 Bearcats 2
Brady Brasher pitched the first two innings with little trouble, giving up only a walk. Booneville mounted a threat off Monticello starter Gabe Martins with two outs in the second as Carson Ray and Blakley Cobb got singles on consecutive swings, but Martins struck out Cam Brasher to end the inning.
The Billies then picked up a run without benefit of a hit in their half of the third. Logan Gilliam drew a two-out walk; a pickoff attempt by Brady Brasher then flew off into right field. With foul ground abundant at Lonoke’s park, it took some time for Booneville to get it in and Gilliam headed for third. The throw to try and retire him also got away and MHS was on the board.
The Bearcats struck back in the bottom of the fourth with a double steal. Trent Wooldridge doubled off the left field fence and was sacrificed to third. Ray then drew a walk and after a 1-1 pitch, he led far off the bag, diverting Martins’ attention. Wooldridge took off for home and easily beat the throw.
The fifth inning proved to be the Cats’ undoing. Ty Henderson led off with an infield hit and was bunted over. Brady Brasher then struck out Mason Morgan, but Hunter Lane advanced Henderson with another infield hit. Gilliam singled in one run and took second on the throw, and Clint Pigott followed with a two-RBI single.
Booneville got one back in the sixth on an unusual sacrifice fly. Brady Brasher doubled and after Wooldridge hit a short fly ball on which the BHS pitcher could not advance, Mike Hesson smacked a drive to deep right field. The right fielder caught it, but his momentum almost took him over the fence and by the time he recovered, Brasher had rounded third and scored without a play.
But Monticello grabbed that run back, plus another, in the seventh. With one out, Lane singled and stole second. Brasher struck out Gilliam, but Pigott struck again with an RBI single. The Billies subsequently loaded the bases, but Brasher induced Nick Griffin to fly out to Hesson in right.
The Cats were not quite finished yet for in the bottom of the seventh, Cam Brasher led off with a walk and Wyatt Rongey was hit by a pitch. Hayden Fennell then singled to center—his third hit of the game—but it was not far enough in the outfield to score Cam Brasher and so the bases were loaded. That was all for Martins and Morgan came on in his place. He got Brandon Ulmer and Brady Brasher to hit grounders on which there was a forceout at the plate, and then he struck out Wooldridge to end the game.
In his final game, Fennell finished 3-for-4, with Brady Brasher and Wooldridge each collecting a double and scoring a run. Brady Brasher struck out four, two coming at critical junctures, and Ray was 2-for-2 with a walk. But the Cats committed three errors and Monticello played mistake-free ball in the field.