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PREP BASEBALL: LR Christian wins first championship

by Sam Lane | May 21, 2023 at 3:37 a.m.
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CONWAY -- The state high school sports year came to an end Saturday night, and it ended in fitting storybook fashion.

Little Rock Christian beat Valley View 4-3 on a ninth-inning walk-off to win the Class 5A state baseball championship at Bear Stadium.

With the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the ninth, Cade Bowman stepped to the plate for Little Rock Christian (31-3).

The younger brother of University of Central Arkansas shortstop Reid Bowman had the chance to make his own mark on the same field his brother does weekly.

Down to his last strike, Bowman hit a single to center field that scored Cole Davis, clinching Little Rock Christian's first baseball state championship.

"I'm on top of the world right now," Bowman said. "It's our first state championship ever. I'm just really proud of us. We worked hard all season, and we knew we'd get here.

"This is the kind of stuff that you dream about as a little kid. We [he and his brother] both played here today, and we won a state championship. It's just awesome."

UCA defeated Eastern Kentucky 2-1 at Bear Stadium earlier Saturday in its season finale.

Little Rock Christian struck first when Tate Collins hit a bloop single to right field, just over the head of the Valley View second baseman to take a 1-0 lead.

Valley View (29-5) took a lead in the fourth inning when Little Rock Christian pitcher Reece Tarini bounced a pitch in front of his catcher that allowed Slade Caldwell to score from third and make it 1-1. Designated hitter Tyler Hoskins followed that with a single to right field, giving the Blazers a 2-1 lead.

One inning later, Valley View struck again with a sacrifice fly to right field that scored Jayde Taylor and made it 3-1.

Little Rock Christian tied the score at 3-3 in the fifth inning thanks to a fielding error by Valley View center fielder Slade Caldwell, followed by Bowman's sacrifice fly to left field.

With the score tied, Tarini and Valley View starting pitcher Eli Creceilus buckled down. The score remained the same until the ninth inning even as both teams went to their respective bullpens.

Tarini totaled 10 strikeouts in 71/3 innings as he neared the pitch limit. He held the Blazers' offense to five hits and two walks.

"Reece has been our guy all year," Little Rock Christian Coach Brandon Eller said "He's been consistent. He's kept us in games. He's given us a chance to win. ... Going into it, we know we're going to win or lose with Reece Tarini on the mound as long as we can."

With a crowd of over 2,000 lining the stands and foul territory of Bear Stadium, Little Rock Christian and Valley View played on the stage they'd expected to be on since Day 1.

"We knew going in that this was the matchup of the year," Eller said. "We've been ranked one and two all year. I think you can tell by how many people were here that this was a game people wanted to see."

Saturday was Little Rock Christian's third trip to the state championship game. After losses in 2008 and 2009, the Warriors got their ring Saturday.

"It doesn't feel real," Eller said. "They wanted to leave a legacy and win the first state title for our school in baseball. ... It's a huge moment for our kids and our school and their friends. And the way we won it, awesome."

Print Headline: LR Christian wins first championship


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