Sheridan sophomore Brandon Arledge entered the Class 5A state baseball tournament semifinal game against White Hall having hit one triple in 55 plate appearances. In back-to-back trips to the plate Monday, the Yellowjackets' designated hitter lined baseballs to the gap and found his way to third base on both occasions.
Kip Tracy also had an intriguing extra-base hit Monday at Everett Field. The Benton junior came in as a pinch hitter and connected on a one-ball, two-strike offering in the sixth inning that resulted in a run-scoring double to give the Panthers a two-run advantage against Little Rock Christian.
When it comes to any game involving 5A-South rivals Benton and Sheridan, expect the unexpected. And when the two teams play each other, expect more of the same.
"I love playing against Sheridan," Tracy said. "The atmosphere is just so real. It's hyped up, and I like it like that."
Benton (23-5) and Sheridan (25-5) will face each other at 3 p.m. Friday at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville for the Class 5A state title. The Panthers are making their third consecutive appearance in the state championship game and their fifth overall. The Yellowjackets are making their fifth appearance in the state finals and fourth since 2012.
The two baseball powerhouses met in the 2015 title game, a wild affair that Sheridan won 10-9.
On paper, Friday's game should be a pitchers' duel, but that has not been the case in either of the two meetings between the teams this year. Sheridan won 9-2 on March 15. Benton captured a 10-0 victory on April 16.
"They've got a great pitcher, and we've got two or three guys who can go out there and compete," Benton Coach Mark Balisterri said.
Tyler Cacciatori, a 6-5 junior right-hander who has committed to the University of Arkansas, is penciled in as Sheridan's starter. He retired 15 of the 16 batters he faced against White Hall on Monday, allowing only a two-out single in a 10-0, five-inning victory. He was efficient, throwing 59 pitches.
"We played good defense behind him, and that takes a lot of pressure off," Sheridan Coach Mike Moore said. "Some pitchers go up there and think they have to strike everyone out. The pitch count goes way up, and that just puts more stress on the pitcher."
Benton will counter with 6-2 senior Jessie Barker, who threw seven shutout innings vs. Russellville in Friday's quarterfinals and three more shutout innings against Little Rock Christian in the semifinals.
Moore is hopeful his team can get more offensive production like Arledge provided on Monday.
"He wasn't our DH until about a month ago," Moore said of Arledge. "We couldn't find anyone to take that spot. We cycled it through about three guys and gave them opportunities. This was actually his second time through. He's had a couple of hits in big situations."
"When I hit them like that, I'm thinking double," Arledge said. "But they went to the wall, and coach was waving me to third."
Tracy's double against Little Rock Christian was almost as unexpected.
"Kip hasn't hit in a varsity game in almost three weeks," Balisterri said. "He was our DH and then he wasn't hitting. He's just been there sitting and waiting for an opportunity. We put him in, and he comes up with a big hit for us."
State finals schedule
All games at Baum-Walker Stadium, Fayetteville
CLASS 2A Woodlawn vs. Junction City, 10 a.m.
CLASS 4A Shiloh Christian vs. Nashville, 12:30 p.m.
CLASS 5A Benton vs. Sheridan, 3 p.m.
CLASS 6A Springdale Har-Ber vs. North Little Rock, 10 a.m.
CLASS 1A Viola vs. Taylor, 12:30 p.m.
CLASS 3A Harmony Grove vs. CAC, 3 p.m.
All games at Bogle Park, Fayetteville
CLASS 6A Cabot vs. Bentonville, 10 a.m.
CLASS 5A Greenwood vs. Sheridan, 12:30 p.m.
CLASS 4A Pottsville vs. Farmington, 3 p.m.
CLASS 2A Quitman vs. Poyen, 10 a.m.
CLASS 3A Genoa Central vs. Rose Bud, 12:30 p.m.
CLASS 1A Hermitage vs. Taylor, 3 p.m.
All games at Razorback Field, Fayetteville
CLASS 5A BOYS Russelville vs. Siloam Springs, 10 a.m.
CLASS 5A GIRLS Little Rock Christian vs. Russellville, noon
CLASS 6A BOYS Springdale vs. Bryant, 2 p.m.
CLASS 6A GIRLS Bryant vs. Conway, 4 p.m.
CLASS 3A GIRLS CAC vs. Harding Academy, 10 a.m.
CLASS 3A BOYS CAC vs. Green Forest, noon
CLASS 4A GIRLS Pulaski Academy vs. Harrison, 2 p.m.
CLASS 4A BOYS Valley View vs. Harrison, 4 p.m.
Sports on 05/16/2019
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