Vikings score early and often to defeat Benton

LUCKY 13: Airline pitcher Tyler Ferguson took advantage of the Vikings’ offensive explosion and shut down Benton.

By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports

BENTON – Don’t try to explain it, because you can’t.

Don’t try to make a prediction from it, because it doesn’t work that way.

Don’t laugh about it or cry about it, because there’s only one way to look at it.

“That’s just baseball,” said Airline baseball coach Toby Todd, who has 706 games under his belt and has just about given up trying to figure it all out.

In one of the feature matchups of the District 1-5A season, Airline scored 13 runs in the top of the first inning against Benton Thursday night. Thirteen. One-three.

There was a passed ball, a wild pitch, a squeeze bunt, two infield errors, two hit batsmen and two excuse-me singles. Every batter in the Vikings lineup scored a run and four scored twice.

The top of the first inning lasted 42 minutes. The entire rest of the game lasted 72 minutes.

Airline went on to win 18-1 and drop Benton out of first place in the district standings. But coaches are nothing if not philosophical, especially after a game like this.

“You just gotta get back on the horse,” Benton coach Dane Peavy said. “Sometimes you just have a bad game and you just have to reset.”

“It’s one to nothing, that’s how I look at it,” Todd said. “We’ve beaten them one time. Now we have to play them again.”

That will take place Saturday (1 p.m., at Airline) and you’d be tempted to say that nothing like what happened in the first meeting will happen again. But with the way the district has played out so far, who knows?

Peavy found himself huddling together with his team in front of the third base dugout before they even came to bat. There’s not a handbook on what to say when you give up 13 to start the game.

“I didn’t anticipate that and I don’t think anybody in the park did either,” he said. “But all you can do is stay positive and try to scratch and claw to try to get as many at-bats as possible.”

On the other side of the field, the most forgotten player in the park was about to make his first appearance in the game. They say that a double play is a pitcher’s best friend, but how about being staked to a 13-run lead before you ever take the mound?

“My mindset is always that it’s 0-0,” said Vikings right-hander Tyler Ferguson. “I just went out there and pitched like nobody had scored yet and I had to do my thing.”

Ferguson retired the first five batters he faced before getting out of bases loaded jams in the second and fourth innings. He allowed one unearned run and only two hits in throwing 82 pitches. Even without the 13-spot in the first, he still got more than enough run support in the other four innings.

“Before the game, I kind of figured some things out with my stride and how to be more accurate,” Ferguson said. “I mostly attacked with the fast ball.”

The Vikings onslaught actually started with a whimper. Leadoff batter Matthew Scripture reached on an error, followed by Clayton Brandon being hit by a pitch with two strikes. That was followed by a strikeout.

“When the leadoff guy gets on, it just sets the tone,” Todd said. “Look how close we are to doing nothing (in the top of the first). But instead of folding right there, we found a way. And I really think when we got the suicide squeeze down (by Caleb Hemmings four batters later), that just solidified that we could do some things.”

The Vikings did a lot of things and most of them involved hitting. Hemmings had four hits, Mason Morgan had three and Brandon and Keegan Lehr had two each. Lehr had three RBI on a bases-loaded double and Morgan and Carson Carey each had a pair of RBI.

Airline is now 8-3 in the district (16-10 overall) and in a tie for second with Benton (8-3, 18-10-2). Both sit one game behind Parkway.

Photo by JOHN JAMES MARSHALL