Buck's Walk-Off Propels Cougars to State
Rector (21-8) let a five run lead slip away late in the gameThursday, before Garrett Buck singled in the winning run in the bottom of the seventh to give the Cougars a 10-9 win over Tuckerman. The contest was played in the opening round of the 2A North Regional tournament in Marked Tree. The win earned the Cougars a spot in the Class 2A state tournament to be played at Parkers Chapel High School..
In the regional contest, starting pitcher Bam Westbrook retired Tuckerman in order in the top of the first with a strikeout, ground out and line out. Westbrook then led off with a single in the bottom of the first before being caught trying to steal second base. Brian Hufty struck out before Buck got a two-out single. Lawson Ford popped out to end the first inning. The Bulldogs got two runners on after their were two outs before Westbrook got a fielder's choice ground out leaving the runners on base. Kade Scott reached on an error to lead off the top of the second inning for Rector. Hager followed with a single. Scott went to third on a wild throw on a pick-off attempt and scored a few pitches later on a wild pitch to make it 1-0 Cougars. Cade Watson flew out before Austin Clariday and Sam Simmons both struck out ending the second inning.
Tuckerman took advantage of two walks to score a run in the top of the third inning to tie the game a 1. Rector sent 14 batters in the bottom half of the inning and scored eight runs to take a 9-1 lead. Westbrook led off with a double as Hufty followed with a single. Buck singled to score Westbrook before Ford tripled to plate Hufty and Buck making it 4-1 Cougars. Scott struck out as Hager's singled scored Ford. Watson struck out before Clariday doubled to score Hager and Simmons followed with a double to score Clariday making it 7-1 Rector. Westbrook reached on an error before Simmons scored on a wild pitch making it 8-1 Cougars. Hufty walked before Buck singled to bring in Westbrook making it 9-1 Rector. Ford singled only to see Scott strike out looking to end the inning.
The Bulldogs send nine batters to the plate in the top of the fourth inning scoring three runs to cut the Rector lead to 9-4. The Cougars went three up three down in the bottom of the fourth as Hager flew out, Watson struck out and Clariday grounded out keeping the score 9-4 Cougars. Hunter McNeely replaced Westbrook on the mound after a lead off walk in the top of the fifth. Tuckerman scored a run on a sacrifice fly with two outs to make the score 9-5. Rector again went down in order in the bottom of the fifth as McNeely flew out, Westbrook lined out and Hufty struck out looking to keep the score 9-5 Cougars. Tuckerman scored four runs in the top of the sixth to tie the game at nine before Hager came on to pitch for Rector. Hager gave up a lead off hit and walk to his first two batters before retiring the next three batters. Buck reached on an error leading off the bottom of the sixth as Ford followed with a single. Scott popped out, Hager reached on a fielder's choice that forced Buck at second base and Watson lined out to end the inning with the score still 9-9.
Tuckerman got a two-out single in the top of the seventh before Hager coaxed a fly ball out for the third out. Clariday singled to start the bottom of the seventh inning and went to second on a balk. Simmons struck out before Westbrook was intentionally walked. Hufty drew a walk to load the bases as Buck singled to score Clariday giving the Cougars the 10-9 win in dramatic fashion.
Hager got the win in relief as he pitched two innings giving up only hit while walking one and striking out two. Westbrook started and went four innings as he gave up five runs on three hits with eight walks and three strikeouts. McNeely pitched one inning giving up four runs on two hits.
Buck collected four hits on the day to go along with two runs scored and three RBIs for the Cougars. Ford added three hits, a run scored, two RBIs and a stolen base, Hager had two hits, a run scored, a RBI and two stolen bases, Westbrook had two hits and two runs scored, Clariday and Simmons each had a hit, run scored and a RBI, Hufty had a hit and run scored as Scott had a run scored.
Rector squared off against Riverside in the semi-finals as the Rebels got a little payback from the district tournament with 12-1 win this past Friday. Hager took the loss for the Cougars as he pitched six innings giving up 12 runs on 14 hits. He walked one and struck out two. Hufty pitched one inning giving up no runs and allowing no hits. Westbrook had a hit and RBI at the plate for Rector as Clariday had a hit and run scored. Scott collected two hits with Simmons, Watson, Ford and Hufty each getting a hit each.
"As a team we had eight scattered hits, we just couldn't string them together," Coach Robert Dorman said. "We didn't show up and make plays; just a bad day."
The Cougars fell 6-5 in the third place game to Pangburn this past Saturday and will be the fourth seed from the 2A North Region in the state tournament. Buck led the Rector offense with a home run, run scored and three RBIs as Hufty had a run scored and a RBI. Hager finished with two hits, Westbrook had a hit and run scored, Ford, Scott and Watson each had a hit as Clariday and Simmons each collected a hit and stole a base. McNeely took the loss on the mound as he gave up six runs on seven hits with two walks, six strikeouts and one hit batter in six and one third innings of work. Westbrook pitched the final two thirds of an inning giving up no runs on hits with one walk.
"I was proud of the guys-we came back from a 5-0 hole and could've won but didn't pull it off," Dorman said.
With the fourth place finish the Cougars will face Mt Ida in the first round of the 2A state tourney Thursday afternoon at 3.
"There are 16 teams left and we're one of the 16. Everyone is going to be extremely good," Dorman said of the challenge ahead. "When you get to state if you don't bring your best game every time, you will go home. You're going to have to pitch, play defense and hit. I think we can do this."
A win over Mt. Ida will earn the Cougars a second round contest with the winner of the Magazine-Murfreesboro contest at 12:30 p.m. Friday. The other match-ups in the top of the bracket are Riverside and Palestine-Wheatly and Junction City and Hackett. In the lower half of the bracket the pairings are Woodlawn and Hector, BIC and Ouachita, Conway Christian and Dierks and McCrory and Pangburn.
All four quarterfinals are Friday, with the semi-finals at noon and 2:30 p.m. Saturday. The 2A state championship game will be played at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 21, in Baum Stadium, on the campus of the U of A in Fayetteville.