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Cardinals Fall Apart
Fifth-inning outburst by Ola seals Jonesboro loss

By Zack Huffman

zhuffman@news-daily.com

When Brad Blount stepped up to the plate, it looked like the fifth inning might proceed just as unproductively as the fourth for Ola.

The Mustangs already had one out and they would need to stay focused if they were going to stay alive against Jonesboro, who was only trailing by two runs.

The rain, which blanketed the earlier innings, had subsided just enough to ensure that weather would not cut the game short.

With three balls and two strikes against him, barring fouls, Blount was likely facing his last pitch of the inning.

Fate was on Blount's side as he swung the bat and sent the ball soaring over the fence at Jonesboro High School.

"I was just trying to make contact to put the ball in play. When they come, they come," said Blount. "It felt pretty good. It got everybody going and fired up."

Blount's home run, his first this season, set off an explosive inning that saw all but one of the players in Ola's lineup cross home plate for a total of 10 runs, giving the Mustangs a decisive 13-3 region win over Jonesboro in five innings.

"Any time you can end a game before seven innings it's pretty good," said Ola coach Ryan Parejko. "It shows the kids are working hard and playing hard."

Drew Cox and Cameron Lewis opened the scoring for Ola in the first inning, giving the Mustangs a two-run lead before Jonesboro had the chance to take the offensive.

Antonio Allen worked his way home before the end of the first inning to award Jonesboro its first run of the game.

Pitching remained strong for both sides early in the game, despite the wet conditions. Chris Smith and Drew Cox started on the mound for Jonesboro and Ola, respectively.

Both teams went scoreless in the second inning.

Ola slipped in another run in the third inning to stay ahead of the Cardinals by two after Bobby Woodall was sent home.

The Mustangs narrowly avoided a bad situation in the fourth inning, throwing out runners at home plate on two separate occassions.

Going into the fifth inning, Ola had just one more inning to hang onto its lead to earn the win in the event that the game was ended early due to inclement weather.

Instead of rain, the game was flooded out by excessive runs.

Blount nailed a home run to start Ola's fifth-inning scoring drive. From there, Ola loaded the bases, and all it took was a steady series of short plays to move each player around the bases.

"I was afraid they would all start swinging out of their shoes. Once one person hits it they all want to hit one," said Parejko, whose fears subsided as his team slowly racked up the runs with a series of small offensive plays. "If you take quality at bats and just put the ball in play, good things will happen."

Ola's momentum continued with five singles and six walks for a total of ten runs in the fifth innings.

"Our walks killed us," said Jonesboro coach Raju Patel.

By the time the final Ola player was struck out the damage had already been done.

Jonesboro faced a 13-1 deficit coming into the bottom of the fifth inning. If they had any hope of avoiding an early loss under the mercy rule, the Cardinals would need at least three runs.

Jonesboro's first batter of the inning, Christopher Reese, struck out, followed by Brandon Beal who hit a pop fly to center fly for a second out.

When Patrick Land came up to bat, Jonesboro had just one runner on first base.

Land hit a solid double to the backfield, sending Brandon Marshall to third.

Marshall stole home after Woodall threw a wild pitch past the catcher.

Land stole third, then was sent home by Shikael Villaflore's single.

Before Jonesboro could cut Ola's lead to a single digit, its final batter struck out, sealing the game for the Mustangs, 13-3.