SPORTS EDITOR'S NOTE: This is part of a series evaluating how local teams performed against top teams in the state. Prairie Grove reached the Class 4A State quarterfinal round in baseball before losing, 4-0, to eventual Class 4A State champion, Lonoke, while Morrilton (17-12, 7-0 4A-4) upset East No. 2 Joe T. Robinson, 8-6, in the first round at state before losing 6-1 to eventual Class 4A State Runner-up Ashdown in the state quarterfinals.
GRAVETTE -- Prairie Grove freshman Owen Davenport didn't have to wait long before getting a chance at redemption on Saturday, May 6, starting the next game of a doubleheader in regional play.
Davenport didn't let a disappointing finish when he couldn't close out a 4A North baseball semifinal ruin his day. He rebounded with a strong performance against Morrilton to lead the Tigers to a 7-2 victory and third place at regionals.
"Owen did a great job today. He was able to throw his curve ball and his fastball and he was locating. He stayed under control. That's something we've been working on with him. When he's able to do that and throw strikes," said Prairie Grove coach Mitch Cameron.
Davenport came on in relief late in the semifinal game against Dardanelle (a 6-5 loss). Half an hour later he started and threw well in the consolation game in the 4A North Regional at Gravette.
"It's big for his psyche, it's big for his mentality, knowing that he can come back. He threw some quality pitches but they hit it hard," Cameron said.
Against Dardanelle, Davenport was inserted into a tie game with two outs and two runners on. He walked the first batter he faced, then gave up a single that scored the winning run for the Sand Lizards.
"You have to move on from outing to outing. You have to have a short memory as a pitcher. You can't remember stuff in the past. I was throwing strikes against Dardanelle. They just found a hole against me," Davenport said.
He looked sharp out of the gate against Morrilton, holding the Devil Dogs without a hit in the first five innings to offset five walks.
"Coming into the next game I was already high, ready to go and I was feeling good. I was doing my thing, keeping myself loose, feeling good, letting my stuff work," Davenport said.
With the Tigers manufacturing five runs in the first inning to give Davenport something he could work with, the pressure to perform relaxed a tiny bit.
"It took a lot of pressure off. It made it a whole lot easier. I was just able to throw strikes and let everything work. They were going to help me out so I might as well help them," Davenport said.
Prairie Grove added a run in the top of the fourth on Ryder Orr's RBI single to make the score 6-0.
Tiger reliever Caleb Carte induced a 6-4-3 double play after giving up a leadoff walk in the bottom of the sixth. The next batter reached on an error and scored when Caden Meeter recorded the Devil Dogs' first hit of the contest on a single.
Prairie Grove took a 6-1 lead into the seventh. Each team scored a run in the final inning.
Orr was hit by the first pitch of the inning to get on base and after an out, Carte calmly took ball-four after reaching a full count. Linn hit a fly ball into left field for the second out with the runners holding, but a run scored when a pickoff throw went past first with Bryce Ledgerwood batting.
Morrilton's Jackson Dixon had to be thrown out on a dropped strike three. Maddox Hogan tripled, and scored on Luke Carner's single. Carte struck out Landon Boyer, and after an infield hit was bobbled allowing a second runner to get on base, he induced a groundout to earn the save with the Tigers winning 7-2.