PREP BASEBALL: Felder leads Har-Ber to 6A final

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CABOT -- Ross Felder put on a show Saturday afternoon at Cabot High School to punch Springdale Har-Ber's ticket to the 6A state baseball tournament final.

As a hitter, the junior University of Arkansas commitment went 2-for-4 with 2 RBI and a run. As a pitcher, he threw six hitless innings before allowing a pair of home runs in his final frame of Har-Ber's 8-3 win over Rogers Heritage.

"Ross is a competitor. He's been our guy all year long," Har-Ber Coach Dustin Helmkamp said. "He's been steady, pitched in big ball games for three years now. I mean, it's what you just expect to see when you see him pitch."

Felder went toe-to-toe with Heritage starter Cade Miller for the first two innings thanks, in part, to the 1-6-3 double-play he started to end the top of the first inning.

In the third inning, Har-Ber (27-6) loaded the bases with its first three batters. Felder drove two of them in with a single to right field, giving the Wildcats a 2-0 lead. Two batters later, Luke Cornelison made it 3-0 with a sacrifice-fly to left field, and Cole Carleton made it 4-0 with a single up the middle to chase Miller from the game.

In the sixth inning, back-to-back bases-loaded hits from Felder and Austin Jones pushed the Wildcats lead before Kaleb Keller's RBI single up the middle added two more, making the score 8-0.

"We try to preach, no matter the game, to have quality ABs," Helmkamp said. "The last three to four weeks, they've been doing well with having quality ABs. It's just good to see them continue it."

Heritage (24-9) didn't go out quietly. Brett Renfrow started the top of the seventh inning with a solo home run to left field, breaking up the no-hitter and making the score 8-1. After a defensive error, Persian Austin Jr. hit a home run that bounced off of the center fielder's glove to make it 8-3.

Har-Ber is back in the state championship game after falling to Bentonville in the 2022 semifinals.

"It's exciting however you get there," Hemlkamp said. "Only two teams have that opportunity, and it's very challenging for anyone to get there. [I] feel blessed with the opportunity that these young men have."

All four semifinal teams were from the 6A West, and all six of the West teams made the quarterfinals.

"We got a really tough league," Helmkamp said."... Playing through it, one through nine can beat you. Whoever it is will be a good team, and it will be a good ball game."

Bentonville 5, Rogers 1

In three games during the regular season, Rogers beat up on Bentonville for three wins and a 27-2 score differential.

Saturday night, the No. 3-seeded Tigers got their revenge and put an end to the No. 1 Mounties' season and their 16-game win streak.

The Tigers (22-12) got to scoring early, taking a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning thanks to a Brooks Hasenclever RBI single.

Rogers (26-4) loaded the bases in the second inning, but Bentonville's Eli McCall struck out Keller Christenberry to end the threat. But in the third inning, Cooper Anderson hit a solo shot to right field to get Rogers on the board at 1-1.

After a fourth inning pitching change for Rogers, Bentonville scored on new pitcher Madden Dillard's first pitch. Casey Christ hit it up the middle, scoring two runs to make it 3-1.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Christ saved the Tigers' lead with a basket catch over his left shoulder to end the inning. Rogers had the bases loaded prior to the catch.

JJ Spafford gave Bentonville two insurance runs in the seventh inning with his two-run home run over the left-field wall.

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