The final week of the regular season looked to be intense for the Eagles faced a local rival and then on the road against the conference leader.
Under the new Arkansas Activities Association rules, not only have the pitch count rules changed game play, but baseball plays in the blended 3A/4A regular season schedule, but will have to debate for conference seeding with teams they have not faced.
To say the system is flawed is an understatement. To give perspective, other than rivalry, the first game of the week meant little against Charleston, who will be in a different conference tournament, while Paris will have to travel to Jessieville for their tournament, a team they have yet to face. The 4A competition near Jessieville is not as strong as Paris has played, with Booneville and Ozark both poised to make noise at the 4A level.
The Eagles needed to be focused on the double header against Lamar, the conference leader and the games that will hold value for the upcoming conference tournament.
Hosting Charleston, the Eagles wanted revenge for one they let slip away on the road. Big innings have done them in several times, and after blowing a big lead there, hosting them was an opportunity to make a statement.
The Eagles were up 4-1 after three innings and liked to have momentum. For Paris, they had to keep all of their pitchers under 50 pitches to have all arms available for the doubleheader on Thursday. While the pitching was solid, Charleston chipped away at the lead, adding one in the fourth, two in the fifth, and two in the sixth to take the lead. Paris would add one in the bottom of the sixth, but with two on in the bottom of the seventh, the Eagles could not get the hit they needed and dropped the game 6-5.
Unearned runs have hurt the Eagles this season, and their lone error led to one unearned run and the difference. The good news, by using four pitchers on the evening, Paris would have everyone available heading to top-seeded Lamar.
It was posted as a double header of seven inning games, though often teams will play two five inning games. Upon arrival, Paris learned Lamar now wanted one seven inning game and one five inning game. It would not be the only act of gamesmanship on the evening, but it wouldn’t matter.
Paris jumped out to the early lead, scoring one in the first. Lamar answered in the second. It would stay that way until the fifth, when Paris would add two more. In the sixth, Jake Schneider came to the plate with the bases loaded and hit one in the gap to left field, clearing the bases with a triple. Toby Inman then stepped up and lined one to right field and the Eagles had a commanding 7-1 lead.
Lamar would add one more before the Eagles finished them off for the 7-2 win. Schneider went 3/4 at the plate, J P Potts and Keiren Jennings each stole two bases and the team swiped seven total. On the mound, Inman was dominant, throwing six solid innings, allowing only one hit while striking out five. Paris had plenty of arms ready for the second game.
In the second game of the doubleheader, Paris jumped out early. Jake Schneider again laced a triple down the left field line, and with one out in the second inning, Paris was up 5-2.
That is when they learned Lamar wanted to institute a three-run limit to the inning, a rule generally used for Junior Varsity games and agreed upon in advance. Paris would have to leave a runner on base with only one out and take the field. Lamar would put up three in the fourth inning to tie the game, but in the top of the fifth, Kris Graham led off with a double, advancing to third on a hit by Schneider and then tagging up on a fly ball to left by Potts to take the lead. Graham then came in to close out the final two outs of the game, and the Eagles swept a doubleheader against the conference leader.
The Friday game against Booneville was rained out, and the Eagles now await the debate for tournament seeding. It seems clear that Lamar and Atkins will take the top two slots, but Jessieville is the host, and looks better on paper having played lesser opponents in the 4A division and has no head to head against Paris. The lone common opponent is Lamar, where Paris won twice and Jessieville lost.
However, expect Paris to be the fourth seed behind the host team in a flawed system. Paris as proven they can compete against anyone in their conference and will be prepared for tournament play. We will post the schedule and brackets as they are released on our Facebook page.