Three Rivers pitching was on a roll coming out of the American Legion state tournament last week.
On Wednesday, that roll continued on the plains of Hastings, Nebraska, and flattened Texarkana, Texas in the first round.
Dan Merrill tossed a one-hitter, striking out 10, in a 2-0 win for the Bandits in their first-ever Mid-South Regional tournament game. He walked four.
But the Bandit offense didn’t get him any help, for a while. More on that momentarily.
Merrill, who two-hit Shawnee over 6 2/3 innings in the Bandits' state tournament opener, retired the first eight batters he faced before an error at third by Carson Foreman and a walk put two on in Bryson Rhodes and Chris Lyles, respectively.
Then, Marzavian Riles lined to right for the only hit of the game for Texarkana, but a base running blunder ended the inning. Lyles never broke stride rounding second and with Rhodes hung up at third, the confusion resulted in a rundown on Rhodes between third and home for the final out of the inning.
“I’m thankful for my defense,” said Merrill. “Team effort.”
Merrill walked two in the fourth, the only ineffective moments for a repertoire that leaned on a slider and curve, but got one of those two base runners wiped off by a double play started by Connors State-bound second baseman Darren Daniels on a grounder. Merrill had a string of five straight strikeouts before a five-pitch walk in the sixth, then ended the inning with a strikeout.
“Just kept the same mentality,” the NOAH grad from Broken Arrow who is headed for Northeastern A&M. “I had faith my guys would get me runs at some point.”
Finally, they did.
Three Rivers, which had just three hits to that point off left-hander Dakota Frachisuer, finally got on the board in the seventh.
Grant Yates led off with a line-drive single to center, then advanced to second on a passed ball before scoring on another ground ball single to center by Brock Hendrix.
Tyson Fourkiller’s liner fell into center after Hendrix was moved up on a bunt by Sam Replogle, but Hendrix was thrown out attempting to score.
Fourkiller moved up on a passed ball, and Daniels walked. That brought to the plate Foreman. Hitless in his first three trips, Foreman singled off right-handed reliever Brayden Ross to right to score Fourkiller and make it 2-0.
“(Frachisuer) was good. We struggled with him,” Three Rivers coach Mike Whitten said. “But fortunately, and I’ve been preaching all about execution, we get the hit, get the bunt down slowly work into it and get a run. Then we get some insurance with Carson. He’d been lefty-lefty until they put the right-hander in. I like our chances there.”
In the bottom of the seventh, Merrill got Texarkana in order on a strikeout and two groundouts.
Fourkiller, out of Stilwell and headed for Connors State, was 3-for-3. Yates was 2-for-3. In addition to Hendrix (1-for-3) and Foreman (1-for-4), the Warner grad who led the team in hitting entering the game, Nick Sizemore also had a hit in four trips.
Texarkana fell to 32-9-1 with the loss. Three Rivers (28-6) will play Fremont, Neb., an 8-2 winner over Sedalia, Mo., at 4:30 p.m. Thursday.