Photos courtesy of Paul Dotson
CONWAY — There are some changes to the American Legion Senior (AAA) State Tournament this year. For one thing, all 18 teams in the division were invited as Zone tournaments were eliminated. New pitch limits were mandated and, depending on how many pitches a player throws, mandated rest time too.
The downside of that first change became apparent immediately. In the opening game of the tournament at UCA, the two-time defending State champion Bryant Black Sox played the Conway Applied Velocity Cougars, a team they had already defeated twice during the regular season by a combined 20-2.
It turned out to be worse than that in the seven innings on Friday as the Sox hammered 20 hits to take advantage of 13 walks, four hit batsmen and six errors on the way to a 27-0 debacle.
Conway used seven pitchers, trying to hold the line on its most effective pitchers once the game got away.
Bryant, meanwhile, used four and Alex Shurtleff, Hunter Oglesby, Boston Heil and Seth Tucker combined on a no-hitter, facing one more than the minimum. A walk in the second to Eli Davis was wiped out by a pick-off play from Shurtleff to Tucker. Davis was struck by a pitch in the fifth but was thrown out trying to steal by Bryant catcher Dylan Hurt. Moments later, a walk to D.J. Harmon proved to be Conway’s final base-runner.
None of the four pitchers threw more than 25 pitches, under the limit of 29, which allows them all to be available the next day.
(Those that throw 30-39 pitches have to rest one day before pitching again; 40-49, two days; 50-69, three days; 70-89, four days; and 90-110, five days.)
By the end of the third inning in the Bryant-Conway game, the Hornets had gone through their lineup nearly three times. Conway once. The Sox had built a 13-0 lead by then. Three more runs in the fourth and one in the sixth had them ahead 17-0 before they scored 10 in the seventh even though they had stopped taking the extra base and pretty much going station to station.
Garrett Misenheimer went 4 for 5 with three runs batted in and five runs scored. Logan Allen had three hits and scored four times. Misenheimer reached base six times and Allen, Tucker and Joey Cates each reached five times. Jake East, who waited out four walks and had two hits was on base each of his seven plate appearances
The game began inauspiciously as Allen, Dylan Hurt and Misenheimer each drew walks. With one out, Jordan Gentry cracked a hit to right, chasing home two. On an errant pickoff throw, runners moved up to second and third. East walked then Tucker grounded into a force at second, beating the relay to first as Misenheimer scored.
Tucker and Gentry worked a double steal for a run. After Aaron Orender reached on an error, he left early from first and drew a throw. He managed to stay in the rundown long enough for Tucker to race home to make it 5-0.
In the second, Cates beat out an infield hit and, after a balk, Allen yanked a single to left. Cates held at third as Hurt reached on an error. Misenheimer followed with a towering fly into shallow right. The umpire called the infield fly but the Conway second baseman dropped it. Cates alertly took off from third and scored. Moments later, Austin Kelly got a squeeze bunt down to plate Allen.
The onslaught resumed in the third. East walked and Tucker singled. Orender tried to sacrifice but Conway managed to get a force at third. Tucker and Orender pulled off a double steal, however, then Cates was struck with a pitch to load the bases.
Tucker scored on a passed ball then Allen was plunked to load the bases again.
Hurt singled in one, Misenheimer ripped a liner up the middle to drive in two then Kelly lashed a two-run double into left to make it 13-0.
Cates walked to start the fourth. With two down, Misenheimer drew a free pass. Kelly followed with a grounder to second and it looked like the Cougars might be out of the inning but the second baseman didn’t wait for the shortstop to cover before he threw the ball and it fell harmlessly away. Cates hustled home to make it 14-0.
Gentry walked to fill the bags again then East’s liner to first was misplayed. Both Misenheimer and Cates scored to make it 16-0.
The fifth was the only inning in which the Sox didn’t score even though Allen and Misenheimer each singled.
The sixth started with Gentry being robbed of a hit by centerfielder Christian Hamilton. But East walked once again and Tucker singled past the shortstop. Matthew Sandidge slapped an RBI single to left.
The seventh inning began with Misenheimer’s double. Kelly was struck by a delivery then Scott Schmidt joined the hitting frenzy with a single to load the bases. East’s base hit started the carousel rolling. Sandidge singled in another run and, after a pitching change, Cates walked. Allen singled in East and, with two down, Misenheimer and Kelly each cracked RBI singles. Schmidt doubled in two and East singled in one more.
Another pitching change followed and when Tucker’s grounder to short was kicked, Schmidt scored to make it 27-0.