By ISAAC BOURNE | The Arkadelphian
DE QUEEN — The Arkadelphia Badgers (14-8) had fans biting their nails in a crucial 2-1 win Thursday afternoon over the Star City Bulldogs (15-7).
After allowing a Star City run in the bottom of the first inning, the Badgers would keep the Bulldogs off the scoresheet for the rest of the afternoon. Led by another pitching clinic put on by Tripp Campbell, the senior pitched all seven innings in a performance that saw him record his fifth win of the season.
“I’m really thankful that God has given me the ability to pitch like I can, and I’m just glad I can go out there and have fun,” Campbell said after the game.
“We had a couple of situations [that] had me a little tired but, you know, Tripp doesn’t trip,” said head coach Drew Loe. “He fished out of it and he gave us a little head of steam, and usually with Tripp, you give us one run, we’re pretty good as long as [he’s] got pitches.”
Heading into the final inning, Campbell was at 93 pitches for the game, just 17 away from the 110 permitted to pitchers before a mandatory substitution. In the bottom of the seventh, Campbell stayed under that number and sent his team to the second round of the 4A South Regional, guaranteeing them a spot in the 4A state tournament in Lonoke next week.
On the scoring front for the Badgers, it was junior left-fielder Zane Hill batting in freshman second baseman Kasey Pye in the third inning to tie the score at one apiece, and catcher Cooper Stephenson bringing junior third baseman KD Young home to give the Badgers the lead in the bottom of the sixth.
Stephenson replaced Hill at catcher after the junior’s move to the outfield during the season. After learning the catcher’s position on the fly this season while being a regular starter for the first time in his high school career, Stephenson was able to record the game-winning RBI to send his team to the state tournament.
“He’s kind of up and down with his bat [this season]… but today, he put the bat on the ball when he was supposed to,” Loe said.
Thursday’s victory sends the Badgers on a date with a familiar foe. Set to take on the Nashville Scrappers (18-6) in the regional semifinals on Friday, the 4A-7 conference opponents will be meeting for a third time this season, Arkadelphia with a 2-0 record against the Scrappers this season. This matchup carries five of the past ten 4A state championships between its two teams, setting the stage for another entry into a prestigious rivalry between two baseball powerhouses.