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Tigers claw Eagles, win Area championship

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WEST–The Malakoff Tigers kept their playoff run alive with a sweep of the Rogers Eagles in the Area round of the playoffs May 14-15 at West High School.
The two teams came out and battled May 14 to begin their three-game series. Malakoff took a close game one by a 4-3 score before completing the sweep with an 8-3 win over the Eagles May 15.
The Tigers took the first lead of the night in the top of the second inning on a solo home run by Brandon Nations. The Eagles responded with an RBI double in the bottom half of the inning to tie the game 1-1.
Malakoff pushed back in front on a two-out RBI single by Wes Hustead as the Tigers took a 2-1 lead. The Tigers increased their lead to 3-1 with a big insurance run on a sacrifice bunt by Hustead in the top of the sixth inning.
A Riggin Smith sacrifice fly in the top of the seventh proved to be the winning run as the Eagles added two RBI singles with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning but couldn’t get the tying run across as the Tigers took game one, 4-3.
Alan Benhardt got the win on the mound for the Tigers with 6.1 innings of work, allowing three runs (1 ER) on one hit. Benhardt struck out 10 batters while walking three.
Hustead picked up the save for the Tigers with .2 innings of work, allowing no runs on two hits.
In game two, the Tigers jumped out to a 2-0 lead early with single runs in the bottom of the first and second innings. 
The Eagles tied the game with two runs in the top of the third inning.
Malakoff retook the lead with a three-run bottom half of the third inning. The Eagles closed the gap with a single run in the top of the fifth inning as they trailed 5-3. 
The Tigers ended any comeback hopes for the Eagles as they tacked on three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to seal the 8-3 win and a series win. 
Nations worked three walks with Benhardt and Hustead each driving in two runs in the win for the Tigers.
Nathan Jones got the win for the Tigers as he went four innings for Malakoff, striking out five Eagles batters.
The game two victory was the Tigers’ 30th of the season as they moved to 30-6 overall as they remain the No. 3-ranked 3A baseball team in the state.
The win gives Malakoff the Area championship as they advance to the Regional quarterfinals. 
Malakoff will take on the No. 1-ranked Troy Trojans in a three-game series beginning with a doubleheader May 19. 
First pitch for game one is set for 5:30 p.m. with game two beginning 30 minutes after game one. Game three, if necessary, has yet to be decided when it will be played due to the possibility of inclement weather.