Not only did the Dierks Outlaws say “goodbye” Monday to a successful baseball season that saw the team finish with an impressive 27-5 record, they also bid farewell to their head coach, Stephen Sprick.
“I am very proud of the way this group competed all year,” Sprick said Tuesday morning, the day after his Outlaws faltered 6-2 to the Woodlawn Bears in the 1A state tournament semifinals and his seniors graduated.
“The seniors on this team all had great years and will be missed. This group won 27 games this season including 17 in a row. They won the district title for the third time in four years and won the school’s second regional title. This was a great year for the seniors and I to go out.”
Sprick announced he has accepted a position with the Horatio School District where he will be an assistant baseball coach and the football team’s defensive coordinator.
Sprick led the Outlaw baseball team for four years and collected 74 wins, three undefeated conference championships, one regional tournament championship, three district tournament championships and was chosen as Coach of the Year three times.
The Outlaws entered the state tournament last week with a bye as the top seed from Region 4 before making short work of the Omaha Eagles (3rd place in Region 1) 17-0 with a shutout performance by pitcher Jarett Fox.
Fox allowed only one hit from the Eagles and registered six strikeouts and walked one.
The Outlaw bats collected 17 hits to match their 17 runs with Lane Woodruff leading the way with four hits and two RBIs. Adding to the hit and RBI totals were Zane Cox (3-3), Jacob Sharp (2-3), Blayn Turner (1-1), Fox (2-3), Caleb Adams (4-1) and Grant Strasner (1-1).
The win over the Eagles advanced Dierks to face the Viola Longhorns (3rd place place in Region 2), who they also quickly dispatched, 13-2, to reach the semifinals against tournament hosts, the Woodlawn Bears, in a gamed pushed from Saturday to Monday by wet weather.
The Bears entered the tournament as the top seed from Region 5.
Reece Michaels pitched Woodlawn to the semifinal win by limiting the Outlaws bats to only five hits while his team collected 11 hits off four Outlaw hurlers – Woodruff, Strasner, Sharp and Turner. The Bears batters were patience at the plate and walked eight times and struck out six times.
Michaels posted eight strikeouts and walked only one Dierks batter.
Dierks held a 1-0 lead over the Bears until the third inning when they began chipping away and gained a 2-1 advantage going into the fifth inning. The Outlaws tied the game up at 2-2 when Cox led off with a walk. Sharp followed up with a single to advance Cox to second. Cox swiped third and was able to score on a groundout by Woodruff.
The run would prove to the Outlaws’ last one of the season as the Bears tacked on four runs in the fifth to seal the game at 6-2.
The Dierks hitters against the Bears included Sharp, Woodruff, Turner, Caleb Adams and Cale Adams. Strasner was credited with the second-inning RBI.
The state tournament games were played at both Woodlawn High School and historic Taylor Field in Pine Bluff. Taylor Field was built in 1939-40 with funding support from the Works in Progress Administration.
The venue was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010 and played host until 1955 to minor league baseball teams.
The 2017 Dierks Outlaw roster under Sprick and Assistant Coach Dustin Bissell included:
Jed Morrow, Caleb Adams, Lane Woodruff, Grant Strasner, Jacob Sharp, Blayn Turner, Skyler Allen, Bradley Lowery, John Cothren, Jesse Martin, Zane Cox, George Thomas, Jarett Fox, Brayden Howrey, Jase Jackson, Peyton Frachiseur, Colton Strode, Cale Adams, Andrew Hilton, Austin Alexander and Jeff Kompkoff.
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Like their Outlaw counterparts, the Dierks Lady Outlaws closed out their season with a loss in the 1A state tournament.
The Lady Outlaws finished the season with an 18-9 record when they fell to the Armorel Lady Tigers, 7-4, in the second round of the state tournament held in Pine Bluff. Dierks entered the tournament as the third seed in Region 4 and beat Bradford Lady Eagles, the fourth-place team from Region 3, 5-0, to open play.
Dierks’ game against the Lady Eagles stayed close until the fifth inning with the Lady Outlaws holding a slight 1-0 lead. After the Dierks defense and pitcher Alexis Simmons kept the opponent away from the plate, The Lady Outlaws plated four more runs in the fifth inning to ice the game.
Simmons’ shutout performance included four hits allowed, four strikeouts and one walk.
Dierks collected six hits including Madison Burgess with two and two RBIs, Melanie Kesterson with one hit and two RBIs, Halle Mounts with one hit and one RBI, and Emily Whisenhunt and Kynsie Hill with one hit each.
The win moved the Lady Outlaws ahead where they met the Amorel Lady Tigers, champions of Region 2.
Dierks jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning only to have the Lady Tigers come back and tie the game 1-1 in the second inning and then move ahead 4-1 in the third inning. After scoreless fourth inning from both teams, both teams plated three runs in the fifth to put the Lady Tigers up 7-4. Both teams went scoreless in the final two innings, allowing the Lady Tigers to preserve the win.
Simmons again went the distance in the circle for the Lady Outlaws. She gave up nine hits, struck out six and walked none.
The Lady Tigers’ two pitchers allowed seven Dierks hits. Kesterson led the way with two hits and two RBIs. Mounts and Burgess added two hits and one RBI each and Hill added one hit.
The Lady Outlaw roster under Coach Brad Bray included: Melanie Kesterson, Taylor Hill, Breanna Mounts, Halle Mounts, Alexis Simmons, Haley Sevier, Kyra Helms, Annaliese Stamps, Madisyn VanBibber, Kennedy Boeckman, Danielle Smith, Blair Garner, Madison Burgess, Melissa Little, Delaney Eckert, Kynsie Hill, Emily Whisenhunt, Jaycee Runnels, Savannah Morris and Melonie Barnett.