By Rob Patrick
HOT SPRINGS — Early in the season, the Everett Black Sox AA American Legion team of Bryant downed the[more] Benton Everett team 9-1. And, on Thursday night in the rematch, the Sox handed their rivals a 14-3 thumping before the lights went out at Bill Perry Field.
So when the two teams met the very next day in the opening round of the Lakeside wood bat tournament, it was no real surprise the Black Sox weren’t quite as intensely engaged as coaches Jimmy Parker and Mark Akers may have liked. And behind a nice pitching performance by right-hander Tyler Hamilton of Benton, Bryant found itself trailing 3-0 with one out in the top of the fourth and the bases loaded for Benton.
Parker turned to Cody Gogus, the team’s slugger with five home runs on the season, to take a turn on the mound in relief of starter Zach Cambron. Gogus struck out Grant Posey and induced a fly to center off the bat of Michael Higgenbotham to get out of the jam then went on to allow just two baserunners the rest of the game.
The Sox, sparked by Wes Akers’ second three-hit game in a row, rallied to tie by the end of the fifth inning.
Hamilton tired and Benton turned to Zach Caplinger who had been catching in the 95-degree heat to that point. Bryant erupted for four runs in the bottom the sixth and claimed the come-from-behind win, 7-4.
They’ll advance to the winners bracket semifinals tonight at 7:30 p.m., against either Lakeside or a team from Cabot.
“It was tough to get focused up,” Parker acknowledged. “It started from the first pitch and, basically, we didn’t wake up until about the sixth. But you expect that. They’re kids.”
The coach lauded the work of Gogus in relief. The right-hander allowed just one hit — a one-out double by Higgenbotham in the seventh — and walked one in 3 2/3 innings. He struck out six.
“Cody Gogus came in and threw probably his best game since he’s been pitching with us last year and this year,” he noted. “It was by far his best outing. He located his fastball, hit his spots well. He got out of the big jam when it was 3-0. He’s known for his bat but he’s got a live arm too.”
Gogus added a couple of hits too and Jason Hastings contributed a key two-run single in the sixth.
Bryant threatened in the first when Akers beat out an infield hit and Gogus doubled with two down but Hamilton got Harrison Dale to fly to center to end the inning. He then retired the Sox in order in the second after his teammates had eked out a run.
Cody Fortner doubled down the left-field line for Benton’s first hit off of Cambron, leading off the second. A wild pitch allowed him to take third and he scored on a bloop single to right by Dylan Pierce.
Cambron kept it to that when he bounced off the mound to flag down a pop-up bunt by D.J. Walker. With a throw to first, he doubled off Pierce. The lefty struck out Jordan Allred then worked a 1-2-3 third.
Hamilton pitched around a one-out double by Trevor Ezell in the bottom of the third.
Benton’s fourth started with a walk to Tyler Turbyfill. Hamilton singled and Fortner walked to load the bases with no outs. A run scored when Pierce tapped out to short then a second run came home on an error to make it 3-0. A walk to Allred loaded the bases and Gogus came on to relieve.
The Sox broke through against Hamilton with some help in the bottom of the fourth. Gogus’ single got past Pierce in right allowing him to get to second. Dale followed with a grounder to short that drew a wild throw that went in the dugout allowing Dale to take second while Gogus was awarded home.
Dale moved up on a bouncer to short by Chase Tucker then scored on a groundout by Korey Thompson to make it 3-2.
After issuing a lead-off walk in the top of the fifth, Gogus struck out the side and the Sox tied it in the home half. C.J. Phillips reached when his grounder to second was booted. He took second on a wild pitch but remained there with two out. Akers worked the count to 2-2 then lashed a double into the gap in left-center to drive in the tying run.
Gogus fanned two more as he eased through the top of the sixth then Caplinger, on the first pitch of the bottom of the frame, hit Dale. Tucker then got a sacrifice bunt down. Walker charged in from third to field the ball but he throw to first was dropped and Bryant had runners at first and second along with building momentum. A bunt single by Thompson loaded the bases but then Hamilton retired the next two.
But the top of the Bryant order came through. Ezell was hit by a 3-1 pitcher, forcing in the go-ahead run the Hastings cracked a single up the middle to plate Tucker and Thompson. Akers capped off the scoring with an RBI single to left.
“Akers is on fire,” Parker declared. “We’ve got a tough lineup. They can get it going up and down, and that’s what I was waiting for today. I played it real conservative early, didn’t do a lot of bunting because I wanted to let them try to hit their way out of it. There towards the end, I told them we were going to get into it and the kids executed.”
The Sox improved to 16-3 on the season with the victory.
BRYANT EVERETT BLACK SOX 7, BENTON EVERETT 3
Benton ab r h bi Bryant ab r h bi
Higgenbotham, ss 3 0 1 0 Ezell, ss 3 1 1 1
Caplinger, c-p 3 0 0 0 Hastings, lf 4 0 1 2
Turbyfill, cf 2 1 0 0 Akers, dh-1b 4 0 3 2
Hamilton, p-2b 3 1 1 0 Gogus, 1b-p 4 1 2 0
Fortner, lf-c 2 1 1 0 Dale, 3b 2 2 0 0
Pierce, rf 3 0 1 2 Tucker, cf 2 1 0 0
Walker, 3b 3 0 0 0 Thompson, 2b 3 1 1 1
Allred, 1b 2 0 0 0 Caldwell, rf 3 0 0 0
Posey, 2b 2 0 0 0 Phillips, c 2 1 0 0
Lockeby, lf 1 0 0 0 Breeding, c 1 0 0 0
Cambron, p 0 0 0 0
Totals 24 3 4 2 Totals 28 7 8 6
Benton 010 200 0 — 3
BRYANT 000 214 x — 7
E—Caldwell, Pierce, Higgenbotham, Phillips, Posey, Allred. DP—Bryant 1. LOB—Benton 6, Bryant 6. 2B—Fortner, Ezell, Akers, Higgenbotham, Gogus. SB—Turbyfill, Ezell, Caplinger. S—Tucker.
Pitching ip r er h bb so
Hamilton 5 3 0 5 0 2
Caplinger (L) 1 4 0 3 0 1
Cambron 2.1 3 2 3 5 3
Gogus (W) 3.2 0 0 1 1 6
HBP—Dale, Ezell (by Caplinger). WP—Cambron 2, Hamilton.
Bryant Everett 7, Benton Everett 3