Armorel close to title return


This time, Taylor Hopper finished the deal for Ty Wagganer.

Hopper retired his only batter in the sixth inning with bases loaded and pitched a near-perfect seventh inning to preserve Armorel’s 5-4 victory over Nemo Vista on Saturday in a 1A state baseball quarterfinal at Taylor Field. That sets up a meeting with another 1A perennial power, Taylor, at noon Monday here for a ticket to the state final in Fayetteville.

Taylor blanked Sacred Heart 10-0 earlier Saturday. The two quarterfinal games were rescheduled from Friday after rain made the field at White Hall High unplayable.

Monday’s game will be an interesting tilt between teams who have won six of the last nine 1A championships. Armorel, based in Mississippi County, last won it all in 2011 and is going for its third straight championship appearance, while Taylor tries to add a fifth title since 2004 (and first since 2009) to its collection.

“It seems like we see them every year in the state tournament,” Armorel coach Charlie Brown said. “Coach (Robby) Frizzell does a great job, and we know we’ve got a very tough team ahead of us. I know it will be a great ballgame.”

Hopper, who worked the first five innings of Armorel’s 4-3, nine-inning win against Kirby on Thursday, faced four batters Saturday, and one got on base on an errant throw from third. That runner, Ty Virden, was thrown out at second for the second out, and Hopper struck out No. 9 batter Cody McCoy for the save.

Wagganer, the four-inning closer Thursday, held Conway County-based Nemo Vista (18-8) to four hits and struck out six in 5 2/3 innings. The Red Hawks loaded the bases with two outs with a hit, walk and hit batsman to chase Wagganer, then Hopper got the next batter to fly out.

“Those are our best two (pitchers),” Brown said. “They’ve thrown a lot of innings this year, and they’ve worked very hard to get their arms in shape. They’ve just done a great job for us. They’ve gotten a lot of big wins in pressure situations.”

The stranded runners were among 12 the Red Hawks left on.

“We didn’t get the big hit we needed,” Nemo Vista coach Kyle Payne said. “I thought we came through with it in the sixth, but the right fielder (Peyton Brown) made a great catch down the line, and that really kind of stopped us, but they’re a great team. They were the better team today.”

Armorel tagged Nemo Vista’s Mason Faulkner for seven, but Faulkner fanned five and stranded eight Tigers in a complete game.

“He’s our ace and our stud horse. We were going to ride him, regardless,” Payne said.

Nemo Vista took its only lead in the first when Faulkner, who went 2 for 3 with a walk, drove in the game’s first run on a double. Armorel responded in the bottom half with a run on a Hopper single.

The Tigers added two in the third when Wagganer scored on a passed ball and Ropper drove in Jonathan Porter, who reached on a double. The Red Hawks missed a scoring opportunity when Virden was thrown out at the plate on a 4-3-2 double play, and Armorel went up 5-1 thanks to an RBI double by Ashton Kennedy (2 for 3) and Porter (2 for 2, walk).

But the Red Hawks didn’t go silently. In the fifth, Faulkner scored on a balk, Ryan Andrews hit a one-run sacrifice fly and Ethan Roberts scored on a passed ball. Virden reached first when the first baseman misplayed a routine throw, but Wagganer fanned McCoy to get out of the inning.

Taylor 10, Sacred Heart 0

For the winning Tigers, Chad Whitehead and Logan Vidrun each had two hits and Ben Lane hit a double.

Sacred Heart mustered only three hits in the loss.

Viola 7, Scranton 6

The game resumed after play was stopped in the middle of the seventh inning, and Viola allowed just one walk in the frame in ending Scranton’s comeback hopes.

Viola will take on South Side Bee Branch at 2:30 p.m. Monday at Taylor Field.