Consistency, for any team in just about any sport, is often the last hurdle in their development. It’s how a team can win game one of a doubleheader 20-2 then lose the second one 7-5. It’s how the team plays in tight games. It’s how a team doesn’t lay down when they’re behind, even behind big. It’s how the team stays solid when they’re up big.
On that last point, the Bryant Black Sox 17U Junior American Legion team may have taken a step forward on Wednesday night when, in a couple of blowout wins against an overmatched Lake Hamilton Junior team, they didn’t get sloppy or nonchalant. They closed out the 18-0 and 13-2 wins more closely to the way head coach Ozzie Hurt wanted.
“I liked that we won,” Hurt stated. “It was good to get two wins.”
The Sox were coming off a 2-3 showing at the annual Chad Wolff Classic in northwest Arkansas where they lost their first three then salvaged a pair of wins that, with Wednesday’s results, established a modest four-game win streak going into The Hagan, a showcase tournament in Memphis this weekend. Bryant, now 8-5-1, will open on Friday against a Memphis Tigers team.
“The two games that we lost on the first day, we’re right there in them,” Hurt recalled regarding the rough start at the Wolff Classic. “They just don’t know how to win.
“You know, when we’d get in spots where we should win, and we just wouldn’t,” he explained. “I think the first game we played, they had the bases loaded and two outs. We had a chance to get out of an inning. We picked a kid at third, but we dropped the ball and then throw it over the catcher’s head or something. It’s like, anytime we have a chance to win, we never do.”
Then there was the doubleheader in Sheridan the week before when, indeed, the Sox won 20-2 then lost 7-5.
“I think it all starts with the way that they play,” Hurt said of his team. “We’ve had multiple spots where we just didn’t play the game the way the game is meant to be played and it kind of cost us. And that goes for even the bench guys.
“We have a 2-0 lead in the fifth inning and everybody’s relaxing because Brandon Thomisee’s thrown 40 pitches through four innings,” he recounted. “Everybody’s relaxed and hanging out and feeling good. I think their focus and the way that they go about playing the game is something that will help them.”
Lessons for a team in the middle of the process.
Bryant 18, Lake Hamilton 0
Will Hathcote, Luke Dreher and Tyler Bates combined on a two-hit shutout over five innings. Hathcote surrendered a one-out single to Zac Pennington in the second but catcher Ryan Riggs threw Pennington out when he tried to steal second. Ben Varner singled against Dreher with two away in the third. Bates pitched the fifth and worked around an error that allowed the lead-off hitter, Pennington aboard. But Bates they struck out the side to finish the contest.
Offensively, the Sox did a good job of taking advantage of Lake Hamilton gifts: seven errors, five walks and a whopping eight hit batsmen.
Bryant had eight hits including two by Jaxon Ham, who drove in three runs. Connor Martin had two hits and three ribbies as well. J.T. Parker knocked in a pair.
The Sox took a 4-0 lead in the first, all with two down, Parker got the inning going with a single up the middle then both Connor Martin and Hathcote were plunked by pitches from Pennington, the Lake Hamilton starter. Dreher waited out an RBI walk then so did Colby Morrow. That brought up Ham who stroked a liner to the gap in right-center for a two-run single that capped the uprising.
In the second, an error and another hit batsman spelled the end of Pennington’s moundwork. Eden Fite relieved and the defense let him down. Martin had an infield hit to drive in a run then Parker came in on a wild pitch. Both Hathcote and Dreher reached on error before Morrow delivered an RBI single to right.
Dreher scored on a passed ball after Ham had walked. Lawson Speer drew a free pass to load the bases with one out. Riggs walked to force in a run then Parker made it 11-0 with a sacrifice fly against the third Lake Hamilton pitcher Kohen Manley.
The onslaught continued in the third when the Sox scored seven more runs. Martin and Hathcote each had two-run singles along the way. Ham singled in another run while four Bryant batters — Morrow, Jordan Knox, Riggs and Parker — were awarded first when they were struck by Lake Hamilton pitchers.
Bryant 13, Lake Hamilton 2
Lake Hamilton had its only lead on the night when, in the top of the first, Pennington singled then avoided a tag on a rundown after he was picked off first. With two down, Varner singled him home.
Bryant, however, countered with an eight-run burst in the bottom of the inning.
Lawson Speer’s hustle double opened the inning. Riggs walked and, after they worked a double-steal, they both had to hold as Parker’s grounder to the right side drew an errant throw that didn’t get far enough away for the runners to advance.
With the sacks full, Martin yanked a two-run single to left. Gavin Burton followed with his own two-run single to make it 4-1. Courtesy runner Caleb Greiner stole second and, after Hayden Thompson singled, Morrow delivered an RBI knock to make it 5-1.
A wild pitch that the Lake Hamilton catcher, Cody Raddell couldn’t find allowed both Thompson and Morrow to score. Later, Riggs contributed the crowing blow with an RBI single to right to make it 8-1.
Sox starter Drew Hatman issued a lead-off walk to Jerry Kilpatrick to start the top of the second, but Martin speared a liner off the bat of Hunter Williamson and tossed to second to double up Kilpatrick who had advanced on a wild pitch.
Burton walked to start the Bryant second. Thompson reached on an error the Morrow one-hopped the wall in right at Bryant High School Field for an RBI double. Cade Parker picked up an RBI with a grounder to short. Speer’s two-out single plated Morrow to make it 11-1
In the third, Braxton Prather was on the mound for the Sox and Martin robbed Raddell of a hit, ranging behind second to gobble up the grounder. Though Prather hit a batter, he then picked him off first.
But a pair of walks followed and Greiner relieved, inducing a comebacker that he turned into an inning-ending doubleplay.
Lefty Brent Davis prevented the Sox from adding to the lead in the third, working around a pair of walks with the help of a nice running catch of a pop by Varner outside of third. Davis struck out two.
In Bryant’s fourth, Jordan Knox legged out a bloop double, then raced to third on a short wild pitch as Speer walked. Riggs picked up an RBI with a grounder to second. Martin’s two-out RBI single made it a 13-1 lead.
Thomisee relieved Greiner in the top of the fifth. A walk, a hit batsman and a one-out error produced Lake Hamilton’s second run before Thomisee struck out the last two to end the game.
Morrow, Speer and Martin each had two hits in the game for the Sox.
By the way, the games were the first played at BHS field since the Hornets played there for the only time on March 2.