By Michael Lindsay
The Upperman Bees were down to their final strike Monday evening, but that didn’t stop them from overcoming a 3-run deficit to defeat Stone Memorial 5-4 in extra innings to open District 7-3A play.
“In 7-3A, it doesn’t matter how good we think we are or who the opponent is, every team is going to fight,” said Upperman head coach Wes Shanks. “Coach Trent Stokes had his team prepared and they were fighting. They took advantage of a few mistakes. I’m proud of our team, but they understand we’ve got a long way to go.”
Caden Colson picked up the win on the mound for the defending Class 3A champion Upperman Bees. The senior pitcher came in as relief and surrendered only 2 hits in 4 innings while striking out 6.
“The depth of our pitching staff is tremendous,” Shanks said. “I praise them all the time. Caden Colson, who came on in relief, is a starter on competitive weekend games and started last year in district competition. He’s no stranger to high-intensity games. His fastball was working and cutter was moving well.”
Stone Memorial’s Braden Looper went 7 complete innings, giving up only 3 hits while striking out 4 batters.
“Looper was around the dish and doing great,” Shanks said. “He was making us hit the ball, and his team was making plays. Kudos to them for coming right at us. He had a perfect game through 3 innings, but our guys didn’t quit.”
Stone Memorial jumped on the board first as the Panthers scored 3 runs in the bottom of the first inning. A Nick Osmun grounder scored Wade Wilson before back-to-back singles from Nolan Wyatt and Killian Diem scored Looper and Brandon Elmore, giving SMHS a 3-0 advantage.
Upperman responded with 2 runs in the top of the 4th inning as Caden Shanks found home via a Panther error before an Alec Wilson single scored Tyler Jared, making the score 3-2.
Stone Memorial tacked on another run in the bottom half of the fourth as a Wade Wilson sacrifice fly scored Rayce Boston to give the Panthers a 4-2 lead.
Upperman pulled within a run in the top of the sixth inning as Jared made it home following an Alec Wilson single, making the score 4-3.
Stone Memorial took their 1-run advantage into the top of the 7th inning, where Looper retired the first two Bee hitters to put his team within one out of a victory.
With two outs on the board, an SMHS error allowed Upperman’s Ty Stanton to reach first safely.
On the ensuing at-bat, Caden Shanks was down to his final strike before delivering a 2-out single to bring Stanton home and tie the game at 4 runs each.
“Big-time players come through in big situations,” coach Shanks said. “Ty Stanton gets on due to an error, but you execute when you get an opportunity.”
Neither team found home for the rest of the 7th, sending the contest to extra innings.
Upperman scored in the top of the 8th inning as a Jared single scored Eli Huddleston, putting the Bees ahead 5-4.
Stone Memorial would load the bases in the bottom of the 8th inning before Colson forced a Panther fly-out to right, sealing Upperman’s 5-4 comeback victory over Stone Memorial in game 1 of 2.
Monday’s extra-inning thriller won’t be the last time these teams meet as they’re scheduled to face off in Baxter at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
“We try to make our conference games like a college series,” Shanks said. “You want to win the series or at least split it, and you can’t do that without winning game one. We’re going to go try and win the series. It’s a 0-0 ball game. Every district game matters.”