GRAVETTE -- History repeated itself for Gravette's baseball team with the Lions twice winning games by a 4-3 score over a 48-hour span to march their way into the regional finals.
In a classic baseball scenario, the bases were loaded with the game deadlocked at 3-3 with Gravette batting in the bottom of the ninth when Cameron Bedwell drew a walk, bringing the winning run across the plate to send the Lions into the 4A North Regional championship on Saturday, May 6.
Morrilton scored two runs in the first inning and added another in the top of the ninth. Gravette scored one run in the first and sixth, then finished with a two-run flourish to pull off the 4-3 comeback win in the bottom of the ninth.
Gunnar Woolard picked up the victory for the Lions. He allowed one hit and no runs over one inning, striking out one with no walks.
Gravette rallied in the latter innings to squeak by Pottsville, 4-3, on Thursday, May 4, then after rain pushed semifinals originally scheduled for Friday, May 5, back a day, the Lions needed nine innings before they could knock off Morrilton by an identical score on Saturday.
With the Lions trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth, Isaiah Larson tripled down the first base line on a 1-1 pitch. He rounded third, then was waved off by Bearden and dove back to beat a cutoff throw.
"He stepped up and put the ball in play the right way, and then the young guys behind him got on base. We didn't swing at anything we didn't need to swing at. We kept the game slow and that's what we needed," Bearden said.
After a change of pitchers, Carson Williamson walked and Cyric Day was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Hunter Roughton got ahead in the count 3-0, took a called strike, then ball-four to drive in the tying run with the bases still loaded.
Bedwell reached a full count before drawing a walk, which scored the winning run, sending the Lions, their coaches and fans into pandemonium.
Gravette chased Morrilton starter Dom McCoy after two-thirds of an inning when he gave up a run in the first inning that pulled the Lions within 2-1. McCoy left with runners at second and third and no outs.
Caden Meeler came on in relief, throwing seven and a third innings, a stint in which he struck out 16 batters for Morrilton.
Meeler was so effective that Gravette had to manufacture a run in the bottom of the sixth inning, just to gain a 2-2 tie. Hilger singled into left center, eventually advancing to third base. He stole home in a play that stunned the Devil Dogs while giving new life to the Lions.
"I wish I could say a whole lot about it, but that was all on my catcher Rhett Hilger. He had been reading it, reading it, reading and he knew at that point in time we were in gamble mode and he picked the right time to go and, man, we're thankful for it because we needed a big run right there," Bearden said.
Meeler reached his pitch count and left the mound with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning.
His replacement, Will Jackson, struck out Hilger, but the ball was dropped and Hilger had to be thrown out. Gravette senior McCoy Kildow drove a single past second base, but Jackson induced a pop-up to first base to keep the Lions off the scoreboard in the eighth.
Gravette also got heroic contributions on the mound.
Holden Betz started the game for Gravette. He threw six innings, allowing two runs on three hits while striking out four and walking one. In the top of the seventh, Betz walked the leadoff batter and surrendered a double to put two men on for the Devil Dogs.
Bearden brought in Roughton, who shut down the threat by striking out Braylon Trezvant, Jackson Dixon and Maddox Hogan to leave two runners in scoring position stranded.
"He's been that guy for us all year. Every time he's done it and got strikeouts for us and I even looked at my assistant coaches and said to him, "Listen, we got to go get some strikeouts right here,' because that's what we needed and he knew we needed it, and, man, he stepped up big just like he has for us all year," Bearden said.
Roughton went two innings in relief for Gravette. After a leadoff single by Luke Carner in the top of the eighth, he struck out Duncan Blakely and Dominick McCoy, sandwiched around a fielder's choice that advanced Carner to second.
In the top of the ninth, Roughton walked Meeler, Morrilton's leadoff man. August Stobaugh singled to put two runners on base for the Devil Dogs.
Bearden pulled Roughton and went with Gunnar Woolard, who nearly got the Lions out of the inning without damage by inducing Kedrick Foster to hit into a double play. Bearden had gone out to the mound with no outs and told Woolard to trust the guys behind him.
"That was a huge, huge lift off of our shoulders. He bought in and he went back at it and those guys made a play for him," Bearden said.
Dixon reached on an error as Morrilton scored a run to snatch a 3-2 lead. Woolard ended the inning with a strikeout. The Lions loaded the bases, walked in the tying run, and walked in the winning run with the bases still loaded to pull a win out of the fire. Hilger led Gravette at the plate, contributing two hits in four at-bats.
Jackson took the loss for Morrilton. He allowed one hit and two runs.