Cats squander chances in loss
BERRYVILLE -- Berryville continued its downward spiral in the 1-4A Conference standings with a 5-3 loss to Gravette Thursday afternoon, falling to 5-7 overall and 0-5 in league action.
The Bobcats have not been an easy out this year, pushing every team to the brink. But wins have been tough to obtain, especially in conference outings. It generally comes down to one play, or series of plays in Thursday's case, that is the difference in the outcome.
"It is encouraging that we have been in every single game," Berryville coach Matt Sayer said. "But that's like almost winning the lottery. It doesn't mean much. We talk about it after every game that we were this close or if that had happened. But the bottom line is we aren't winning games. And we should be."
The Cats collected just there hits behind another quality outing from senior left-hander Anthony Noftsger. Noftsger went the distance, scattering eight hits, walking four and striking out seven.
"I would say it was another step forward for him tonight," Sayer said of the lefty. "He seems to get better every time he throws. He is still throwing too many pitches. He was up in the zone early and he got hit pretty hard. But he has turned into a good pitcher. His mound presence has improved. He could be a very good pitcher. We need that transformation to materialize soon."
What the Cats really need is run production. Berryville has averaged 2.6 runs per game in division affairs.
"You expect guys to be successful, especially the ones that have gotten it done in the past," said Sayer. "The bottom of the order is doing what the bottom half needs to do. We just aren't taking care of business at the top. We have shuffled the order around and will continue to shuffle it to find something that will work."
After falling behind on a Gravette solo home run in the first inning, the Cats tied the score in home half of the third when Noftsger doubled down the left-field line with one out. Jared Osnes entered as a courtesy runner and scored on a Tyler Coatney single.
The Lions reclaimed the lead in the fourth but Berryville responded with a run in the bottom of the frame for a 2-2 score. But the Cats left the bases loaded after having the bags full with no outs. Donnie Hoppe, Matt Manley and Luke Mock all reached by walks and Austin Lehr singled to plate Hoppe. But Noftsger and Tyler Coatney fanned and Tate Ferguson flied out to second base to end the threat.
"We have the bases juiced and nobody out and we score one," Sayer said. "All you have to do is put the ball in play. That's how we scored the next inning. You have to put the ball in play and make the other team field it."
Gravette added two runs in the fifth as Berryville committed two errors on one play, a double-steal that went sideways. Coatney's throw to second escaped through the infield to allow the runner from third to score and Lehr had trouble grasping the handle in center field, allowing another run to score from first base.
The Cats closed the gap to 4-3 in the fifth when Avery Logan reached on an error and scored on a Jeff Adams RBI groundout. Noftger was stranded at second base in the sixth and Gravette added an insurance run in the seventh, putting the game away with a 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh.