ROGERS — Van Buren didn’t clinch its postseason berth until the regular season’s final week. Little Rock Catholic had its all but official by mid-April.
It looked like it was the other way around Thursday.
Bradley Eversole hit a pair of three-run home runs and worked five-plus strong innings on the mound to push the Pointers into the quarterfinals of the 7A State Tournament with an 8-4 win against Catholic at War Eagles Field in Rogers. The Pointers will play Bryant today at 2:30 p.m. at Mounties Field in the quarterfinals.
Van Buren had put up a run in each of the first two innings and forced Rockets starter Zac Pinter out of the game in the third after Caleb Bauman and Levi Froud walked to start the inning. Reliever Matthew Himstedt dispatched the next two Pointers batters with ease and looked like he would get off the hook.
But Eversole turned on a fastball and sent a laser to left field, hitting the light pole on its way over the wall to provide the game-winning runs. He parked another in nearly the exact same spot two innings later. Another three-run shot. Another fastball.
"I don’t know, I haven’t hit all year. Coach said I could hit this game and I just put the bat on the ball. Straight, right down the middle," Eversole said.
Eversole knew not many would have picked Van Buren to beat a Catholic team that nearly won the 7A/6A-Central. The Pointers simply don’t care. They were all smiles from the first pitch. All laughs afterward.
A 37-run game against Siloam Springs in the regular season’s final series and an eight-run game against a Catholic team that didn’t allow that many during all of conference play? Yep, the Pointers are in the zone.
"It’s probably been about three weeks ago we started playing better," Van Buren coach David Loyd said. "We’re extremely young. Our young guys, it took a while before it felt like they belong here. But they’re good players and once they figured out that they can play at this level, they got some confidence and it turned around for us."
Van Buren carried an 8-0 lead into the fifth before the Rockets touched up Eversole on the mound. He retired just one of the first seven batters of the inning as Catholic plated four runs and trimmed the lead in half. Taylor Anders came on in relief. He needed just two pitches to get a pop out and ground out and extinguish the fire.
Eversole allowed four hits, four runs and struck out three in his 5 1/3 innings. He left to a standing ovation from the Van Buren crowd.
Caleb Bauman went 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs and Levi Froud reached base three times thanks to two walks and a hit-by-pitch and scored a run.
7A State Tournament
Van Buren 8, Little Rock Catholic 4
Van Buren 113 030 0 – 8 6 1
Catholic 000 040 0 – 4 6 1
Eversole, Anders (5) and Hogan; Pinter, Himstedt (3), Boardman (5), Mashburn (5) and Hancock. W – Eversole. L – Pinter. HR: Van Buren, Eversole (2)