By Rob Patrick
JONESBORO — “Are you tying? Are you tying?! There’s not tying in baseball!”[more]
It’s telling just how important any given game is to showcase and extended high school baseball teams that tying is somehow okay. On Saturday at the Red Wolves Classic, which featured a 29-team conglomeration of showcase, extended high school and American Legion teams, the Bryant Black Sox Senior Legion quad played a showcase team based in Marion, which came in with a 7-4-3 record this summer.
That’s seven wins, four losses and three ties.
And they wound up with a fourth no decision when, after the two teams played even, 1-1 through seven innings, the game was called.
No biggee, right? After all, in showcase ball, the emphasis is on “show” — or should that be “$how?” It’s not as much about competing as a team as it is about showing out individually for scouts. (Scouts who will tell you flat-out it doesn’t matter which summer baseball you play, if you can play they’ll find you. It’s what they do.) Who cares who wins or if anybody does for that matter.
And extended high school ball? That’s just one practice game after another. It’s all about next spring.
Legion, meanwhile, may have its own flaws but the teams ultimately compete for Zone, State, Regional and World Series championships. Every game is building towards that, developing as a team as well as individuals, and competing.
Over the top? Unfair?
Perhaps but that’s what comes to mind when a baseball game — designed for as many innings as needed to determine a winner — ends in a tie.
Sure, Arkansas State University, which put on the Classic (which was actually a tournament until this year), wanted to keep on schedule but . . . at the expense of not determining a winner?
The game, what there was of it, was a splendid pitching duel between Bryant’s Hayden Daniel and Marion’s Caleb Martin. Through four innings, Daniel had Marion’s Toppers shut out on three hits with five strikeouts and no walks. And two of those who reached had been retired on the base paths, one picked off by Daniel, the other thrown out trying to steal by catcher Hayden Lessenberry.
Martin, meanwhile, had the Sox shackled on four hits with two walks and two strikeouts. Bryant had runners in scoring position in three of the four frames stranding five.
Both gave up a run in the fifth then went back to throwing up zeroes. Daniel allowed four hits, a walk and an unearned run while striking out eight. Marion’s Bailey Burford reached on an error to open the top of the fifth, Caleb Marconi sacrificed him to second and he scored on a single by Garrett Garner.
After that, the Toppers’ lone base-runner came on a one-out walk in the top of the seventh.
“’Petey’ (Daniel) threw great, again,” noted Sox manager Darren Hurt. “The pitching has just been so good. It’s keeping us in every game. That’s what I told the guys, ‘Just scratch him some runs along the away.’ He’s out there just pitching unbelievable the whole day.”
Bryant had its chances. The Sox wound up with nine hits but stranded eighth. The lone run came with a two-out uprising in the bottom of the fifth. Ozzie Hurt stroked a single to left, Tyler Nelson blooped a double down the left-field line and Lessenberry singled through the left side for the RBI. Nelson, trying to score on the play, was thrown out at the plate.
In the sixth, Marcus Wilson beat out an infield hit, was sacrificed to second by Austin Caldwell but got no further. In the bottom of the seventh, Korey Thompson opened with a single to left, advanced on Trevor Ezell’s bouncer to the right side, took third on Hurt’s groundout to first then got no further after a long battle between Martin and Nelson ended with a fly to left.
And the game was over.
Hurt, Lessenberry and Nelson each finished with two hits for the Sox. Nelson had doubled in the first with two down. Lessenberry shot a single past Marconi at short, taking second when the Toppers threw to the plate as Nelson held at third. But they got no further as Martin got Wilson to pop out.
In the second, Chase Tucker walked and, on a run and bunt play, reached second as Caldwell got the bunt down. Cody Gogus walked and a wild pitch got them to second and third but Thompson flew to shallow center and Ezell took a called third strike.
Hurt doubled to open the third. With one out, he tried to sneak home when Lessenberry hit a high hopper to second but Toppers’ first baseman Nick Wright relayed home in time for an inning-ending doubleplay.
Martin pitched around a two-out infield hit by Caldwell in the fourth.
“I’ve never tied a baseball game,” said Sox manager Darren Hurt. “Anyway, we came out flat. It’s hard. You come up here thinking you’re playing in a tournament where you can win something. You play good (Friday) and you find out you can come out here today and play a game and go home.
“That’s not an excuse,” he added. “But that’s the way it was. We were flat, showed up and went through the motions. We didn’t execute anything offensively whatsoever.”
Hurt said he was told at the pre-game meeting at the plate with umpires that it would be seven innings and no more.
“I told the kids when it was the fifth inning and we were in a 1-1 tie, ‘I’m not here to tie. We need to find a way,’” he related. “(In the seventh) Thompson does a great job of getting on and from there we just didn’t get it done.”
Now 10-1-1 this season, the Sox return to play on Monday at 6 p.m., with a nine-inning game against Cabot at Bryant High School Field.