Rogers pitcher limits Van Buren's opportunities in the 7A West conference game.
Mason Mitchell isn’t the ace of the pitching staff for the Rogers Mountaineers, but he pitched like it on April 11, throttling Van Buren and halting the 7A-West co-leading Pointers in a 5-1 win.
“He’s been our second or third guy, but he’s climbing the ladder now,” Rogers head coach Matt Nelson said.
On April 10, Van Buren had to go nine innings to take the opener of the two-game home-and-away conference series but Rogers bounced back the following day.
“They really responded,” Nelson said. “We haven’t been swinging the bats very well, but we were able to get some leadoff guys on and moved the guys around.”
The win kept alive state tournament hopes for Rogers (7-10, 2-6) and knocked Van Buren (14-2, 6-2) from its first-place tie with Fayetteville, which swept Rogers Heritage by a combined 29-0 on April 10 and 11.
Mitchell shut out Van Buren for five innings before allowing a run in the sixth inning. He left after six innings after throwing 104 pitches, including seven strikeouts. The 168-pound senior went to three balls on five batters but retired all five. He threw 66 of his pitches for strikes but got to pitch out of a full windup very little.
“He really battled on the mound,” Nelson said. “It looked like he was on a mission all night, really pounding the strike zone. He was in control of the game, but they had a lot of leadoff guys on. He had to really bear down when he was in the stretch. It seemed like he was going to get in trouble, but with no outs and a man on first he was excellent.”
Van Buren had its chances.
Landrey Wilkerson led off the home half of the first inning with a single, and Evan Jones did the same in the third inning. Ethan Holmes started the fourth with a single, and Jones led off the fifth with a single.
Mitchell stranded all of them in scoring position, including second and third in the fourth inning.
“We’re a real young team,” Nelson said. “We have some freshmen out here, and we’ve been talking about to these guys about mental toughness. In order to pitch out of those leadoff guys, that’s what you’ve got to have right there. He really showed that. He was a great example for the guys, and we followed his lead.”
The Pointers were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position until scoring in the sixth inning.
“We struggled swinging it,” Van Buren head coach David Loyd said. “Their guy threw really well. We just couldn’t get anything going. We had a lot of guys on base. We’ve been getting those guys in, for the most part, all year. It was one of those days when it didn’t happen for us.”
Holmes doubled to lead off the sixth for Van Buren, took third on a wild pitch and scored the Pointers’ only run on Ethan Rauser’s infield single.
Van Buren loaded the bases with two walks and an error in the seventh but didn’t score.
Rogers went meekly at the plate in the first two innings with two straight 1-2-3 innings before scoring four of its last five innings and putting two runners in scoring position in the other inning.
“They just lined up and beat us,” Loyd said. “We didn’t hand it to them, they just played better than we did. We just have to shake it off and get ready for the next one.”
Rogers scored an unearned run in the fourth inning, and Grayson Lee doubled home Luke McFadden in the fourth inning for a 2-0 lead.
Lee led off the sixth inning with a double, McKaydden Templeton was hit by a pitch, and Matthew Watson reached on a bunt single to load the bases. Horton’s sacrifice fly plated Rogers’ third run, and Timothy Howard singled home Templeton for the fourth run.
Templeton also drove in Rogers’ fifth run in the seventh inning after Colin McWhorter doubled to deep right centerfield.