Bossier City, LA---On June 8, 2010, Jason Bland’s brave battle with cancer ended, but his memory remains a bright spot for so many in the Shreveport-Bossier community. In his honor, Airline High School hosts the annual Jason Bland Memorial Tournament, which tonight was highlighted by a dramatic come from behind 6-5 walk-off victory by his beloved Vikings (6-3) over the visiting Benton Tigers (7-4) on the opening night of the tournament.
Vikings starting pitcher Bryson Connell (1-0) tossed a scoreless 1st-Inning and was spotted an early 4-0 lead after the Vikings offence capitalized on three free passes from started Brock VanHoy and added five stolen bases and an RBI-single from senior third baseman Dalton Burrell.
The Tigers threatened in the second inning after a leadoff single by Brennan Blaylock was followed by a double from Cameron Ross putting runners at first and second with no outs. Freshman second baseman Cole Tabor stole a base hit away from Tanner Timms snagging a line drive destined for right-center field for the first out of the inning. Connell then struck out JT Brice and forced a flyout to first baseman Will Tynes to end the inning.
VanHoy tossed a scoreless bottom half of the 2nd-Inning and the Tigers responded by taking advantage of back-to-back hit-by-pitches to begin the 3rd-Inning. Brennan Blaylock belted a two-RBI single left field scoring Clint Lasiter and Cole Horton to cut the lead to 4-3.
Cade Scott tied the game at 4-4 in the 4th-Inning after reaching base via hit-by-pitch and scored after a wild pickoff attempt at first base and a misplayed catch by Burrell at third. Scott also scored the go ahead run in the 6th-Inning after reaching second on a wild throw from Connell on a ground ball and advanced home on a one out RBI sacrifice fly to center field from Horton giving the Tigers a 5- advantage.
A leadoff double in the bottom of the 6th-Inning from Cole Broadway seemed to sway the momentum back to the Vikings. Scott however, who came on in relief of VanHoy, made a diving catch on a popped-up bunt attempt off the bat of Lucas McKain, and then fired a strike to second base to double-off Broadway, sending the Tigers into an ecstatic frenzy on and off the field.
Vikings reliever Tyler Thurman tossed a scoreless 7th-Inning to keeping the Vikings deficit at 5-4, setting the stage for a dramatic comeback from the Vikings. Hayden Travinski belted a leadoff single to left field and gave way to courtesy Jamal Martin at first base. After a failed bunt attempt from Connell, Scott induced forced a flyout to shortstop for the first out of the inning. Scott followed by striking out Burrell for the second out, bring to the plate Chris Lutterman.
Lutterman hit a hard groundball to the left side of the infield that was deflected off the glove of Maranto to extend the inning. Down to the last strike with junior outfielder Hayden Lope at the plate, Lope lined a single to center field scoring the speedy Martin from second to tie the game at 5-5.
“VanHoy struck me out on a breaking ball my last at bat and once I was down 1-2 in the count, I committed to what I thought I was going to get, I got it, and I didn’t miss it,” said a smiling Lope.
After a mound visit from Tigers Head Coach J.D. Stephens, Broadway wasted no time and delivered a game winning double to left-center field.
“I felt like we were allowing them to attack us at the plate all night and in that situation I needed to be aggressive. The first pitch was there and thankfully I put a good swing on it and found a way to help our team win tonight,” commented Broadway.
Despite allowing seven hit-by-pitches and committing six errors on the night, the Vikings found a way to do just enough to keep the game within striking distance and find a way to win late in the game.
“Tonight is not how you draw it up as a coach. We struggled on the mound, defensively, offensively, and made some costly baserunning mistakes, but we never gave in. The guys never put their head down, they kept competing, and they found a way to win. Obviously we expect more of ourselves, but I am happy for them tonight. It is good to see we have that kind of fight in our dugout,” commented Vikings Head Coach Toby Todd.
Blaylock finished 3-for-3 with two RBI and a run scored and Ross was 2-for-3 with an RBI to lead the Tigers offense. VanHoy collected seven strikeouts in 5.0-Innings while allowing four runs (one earned) on three hits.
The Vikings offense was led by Broadway who finished 2-for-2 with two doubles, a run scored, and the game winning RBI. Travinski added two hits and Lope finished 1-fo-4 which was highlighted by the game tying single in the 7th-Inning.
Connell tossed 5.33-Innings allowing five runs (three earned) on six hits and six hit-by-pitches while collecting eight strikeouts. The Vikings unsung hero for the night was on the mound as Thurman helf the Tigers scoreless over the final five outs in relief allowing just one hit while earning his second victory of the year.
“Tonight was special, and tonight’s game will be one that our guys will remember for a long time, but, Jason Bland and his family will remain in our hearts and memory forever,” concluded Coach Todd.
The Vikings will play host to Texas High School tomorrow night with first pitch slated for 6:30pm. Stay tuned to www.airlinebaseball.org all your Vikings news and updates.
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Vikings Battle to 6-5 victory over Tigers in Bland Memorial opener
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