WHITE HALL — The 5A-Southeast Conference baseball race is taking shape.
Two more runs for Monticello, and there would have been another logjam atop the standings.
Co-defending champion White Hall took sole possession of first place Tuesday, handing Monticello its first two conference losses, 10-3 and 3-2. White Hall (12-5, 8-0 in 5A-Southeast) is now the only undefeated team in league play, after Watson Chapel split its doubleheader at Sylvan Hills on Tuesday.
“The first game, we came out and hit the ball really well,” White Hall coach Skip Carr said. “Our second game, we seemed a little flat, but our defense was playing good, running down balls. Tyler (Zuber) was ahead of the count most of the time, and the defense played well behind him.”
It’s the second straight year at least that the Pine Bluff-area schools, Monticello and Sylvan Hills started to play each other with unbeaten records. Last year it came down to a season-finale twin bill between White Hall and Watson Chapel, which the teams split to share the conference title, but Watson Chapel earned the No. 1 seed in the state tournament.
Now, the Bulldogs are in the driver’s seat all alone, and the Billies (11-8, 6-2) are relegated to fourth place in the conference. Sylvan Hills is now second at 7-1 with Watson Chapel third at 5-1.
“If you don’t bring your A-game, you’re going to lose, and we didn’t bring our A-game,” Monticello coach Jim Beasley said. He added the pitching wasn’t on for the Billies in the first game.
Zuber worked 5 2/3 innings in the first game to earn the pitching victory and hit 2 for 4 in Game 2 to lead the Bulldogs’ batting. Tyler Carr worked 5 1/3 innings for the win, striking out four, walking two and allowing two runs on four hits. Chris Smith got the save.
“He’s got a hot bat right now,” Skip Carr said. “Earlier in the year, we were DH’ing (designated hitting) for him, but the way he’s been hitting, we’ve left him in the lineup.”
White Hall outhit Monticello 7-5 in the first game, but each team had six in the second — and left eight runners on base. The Billies left four in scoring position in the final two innings of the nightcap after pulling within 3-2 on a sacrifice groundout by Jordan Hashem.
Smith relieved Carr after Beau Rush singled on the next at-bat and struck out the next two batters to end the sixth. Smith allowed back-to-back singles with one out, but White Hall turned a 4-6-3 double play to wrap up the sweep.
Monticello struck first in the second game with a Cole Connelley home run over left-center field in the first inning. White Hall tied it at 1-1 with Mike Acosta’s RBI single in the second and scored two runs in the sixth on an RBI double by Chris Bryan and an error at shortstop on Tanner Atwood’s at-bat.
Will Naron delivered eight K’s for Monticello, but gave up six hits in the complete-game loss.