Catholic ends Van Buren's season.

BENTONVILLE – The Catholic Rockets took advantage of their opportunities on Thursday afternoon and then held on.

Catholic lefty Evan Hiatt made them count in a 3-1 win against Van Buren in the opening game of the Class 7A state tournament at Bentonville.

Hiatt, a junior who has committed to the Arkansas Razorbacks, struck out 13 batters and led 3-0 when he had to leave after reaching his pitch limit with two outs in the bottom of the seventh.

Ethan Holmes walked against reliever Tate Stine with two outs and went to second on an error before scoring on Ethan Rauser’s sharp single to right. On the play, though, Van Buren ran into the final out on the bases.

“Evan Hiatt is pretty good and when we had to take him out, they capitalized,” Catholic head coach Dustin Strube. “We didn’t make a couple of pitches when we needed to, and they made a couple of plays, and one thing leads to another and we’re in a jam.”

Catholic (19-12) will play 7A-Central winner Cabot on Friday in the second round.

“Fortunately, we made a heads-up play at the end to salvage this thing,” Strube said. “That’s what it’s all about this time of the season.”

Van Buren (18-6) touched Hiatt for base runners the first four innings but to no avail.

“He’s good, and when you get opportunities and put the ball in play against him you have to do something with it,” Van Buren head coach David Loyd said. “Today, we didn’t do it. We just didn’t overall play very well, but you’ve got to give credit to him because he had a lot to do with that.”

Landrey Wilkerson singled to lead off the bottom of the first and the third innings. Each time, Chase Moore followed with a walk, but Hiatt retired the next three batters each inning.

In the second inning, Bryson Patrick coaxed a two-out walk but was stranded.

Trevor Johnson walked to leadoff the fourth inning, and after a walk moved to second on Patrick’s single. Again, Hiatt retired the next two batters.

“He got into some jams, but made big pitches to get out them,” Strube said. “His pitch count got up there and that’s why we had the situation there at the end because we got into those jams. His pitch count (goes) up and then we had a dispute about what the official count was. Luckily, we made a play.”

Catholic was told an incorrect pitch count after the sixth inning and then was told of the corrected one after he reached 113 pitches on the second batter of the seventh. The single-game limit is 110, but a pitcher can finish the batter he’s on when he reaches the limit. He actually went into the seventh with 105 pitches and retired Wilkerson on a 1-2 count before also retiring Moore also on a 1-2 count.

Catholic notched an unearned run in the third inning on a two-out error on a strikeout with Jack Foster scoring for a 1-0 lead.

Cameron Tissue doubled with an out in the fifth inning and promptly scored on a single by Eric Moll, and Moll went all the way to third on an error on the play. He scored on a two-out single by Luke Wewers for a 3-0 advantage.

“We just make too many mistakes,” Loyd said. “We had some opportunities and just didn’t take advantage of them. We didn’t play very well. We put it in play and had some opportunities, and that’s what we’ve been doing knocking in runs with guys on base. Today, we weren’t able to do it, and it came back and got us.”

Van Buren stranded 10 in the game but didn’t go down without a rally in the seventh when the Pointers scored their lone run.

“It was a super year,” Loyd said. “It’s disappointing when you lose that last game, but you’ve got to look back at the great year this team had and the seniors had. I’m real proud of them for what they were able to accomplish. We had a lot of young kids who got a lot of experience who are coming back, so hopefully, it will carry over and we’ll have another good year next year.”