By Rob Patrick
SHERIDAN — The Bryant Black Sox Senior American Legion team was three outs away from[more] an 11-1 run-rule win over Benton McClendon’s on Saturday at the Zone 4 Tournament at Oliver Williams Field. But Benton rallied and it became a game that wouldn’t die. McClendon’s scrapped back even after Bryant scored another three runs. Though the Sox held on for a 14-11 win, the game ended with the potential winning run at the plate in the bottom of the ninth.
Sox manager Darren Hurt wound up using five pitchers in the game with Ozzie Hurt finally nailing down the last out, by fanning pinch-hitter Hunter McDade with the bases loaded.
Bryant advances to the winners bracket final against Texarkana on Sunday at 4 p.m. The winner clinches one of two bids to the Senior Legion State Tournament in Mountain Home next weekend. The Sox are the defending State champion.
Saturday’s game was complicated by eight errors between the two teams. Bryant used 14 hits to take advantage of three miscues and eight walks. Korey Thompson led the Sox with three hits. Trevor Ezell, Hayden Lessenberry, Chase Tucker and Hayden Daniel came up with two hits apiece.
Benton only worked four walks but clubbed a whopping 18 hits — all singles — including three each by Trey Bishop, Hunter Wray and Alex Wilcox to take advantage of five Bryant errors.
McClendon’s was set to play an elimination game on Sunday at 8 p.m., against the survivor of the Sheridan-Little Rock Vipers game at 1.
Nate Rutherford started for the Sox and pitched three shutout innings, working out of trouble in each frame. Hurt made a nice play to end the first on a short-hop chopper. The Sox turned the first of three doubleplays to end the second and, in the third, Rutherford got out of a base-loaded two-out jam by picking a runner off third.
At that point, the Sox had built a 4-0 lead. In the first Ezell walked and Hurt sacrificed him to second. Marcus Wilson singled then Lessenberry hit a liner to right that ticked off the end of Tyler Massey’s glove as he ran back and leapt unsuccessfully. Ezell scored and, with Wilson at third, Tyler Nelson hit a sacrifice fly to get him home.
In the second, Daniel singled and when Austin Caldwell got a sacrifice bunt down, a wild throw allowed Daniel to score all the way from first. Caldwell nearly made it too but was tagged out at the plate on the relay from the right-field corner.
Thompson singled and so did Ezell. On a double steal, however, Thompson was caught going into third for the second out. Ezell went to third on a wild pitch from Wilcox, the Benton starter, and after walks to Hurt and Wilson, another errant delivery allowed him to score.
Wilcox worked around Tucker’s one-out double in the third and, with some good outfield play particularly from Tyler Lewis in center, retired Bryant in order in the fourth.
Zach Jackson came in to pitch for the Sox in the fourth and struck out the first two batters he faced. Shawn Beesley singled but Massey grounded to first to retire the side.
After Wilson was robbed of a hit on a liner to left by Benton’s Tyler Turbyfill, Lessenberry and Nelson walked. They pulled off a double steal and Tucker picked up an RBI with a grounder to short to make it 5-1.
Benton got the run back and threatened to get more in the bottom of the frame. Consecutive singles by Wilcox, Turbyfill and Lewis produced the run. After Jack James lined out to Nelson, Bishop was hit by a pitch but the Sox turned their second doubleplay to send it to the sixth.
Wilcox pitched around a two-out error in the top of the sixth and, in the home half, Tucker took over on the mound for the Sox. Wray singled and an error on Beesley’s sacrifice attempt had runners at first and second. But the Sox worked a play on Massey’s bunt to get a force at third and Tucker retired the next two on a pop to first and a strikeout, setting the stage for a six-run top of the seventh that had Bryant in position for the run-rule victory.
Wilcox retired the first two in the inning then the floodgates opened up as Nelson’s sinking liner to right was misplayed. Tucker followed with a one-hop shot toward Beesley at third. The ball took a bad hop and hit the third baseman in the face, rolling to the fence in foul territory. Tucker wound up with a double as Beesley scrambled to his feet to fetch the ball.
And, after being checked out by his coaches, the gamer continued to play.
But the Sox scored runs on Daniel’s single to center and Caldwell’s bunt single to make it 7-1. A bunt hit by Thompson loaded the bases for Ezell who drilled one to the gap in right-center for a three-run triple. He would score on a wild pitch before Hurt flew to center on the 128th pitch by Wilcox.
A single by Lewis and a walk to James had started Benton’s seventh. Bishop got a bunt down to sacrifice and when the throw pulled Nelson off the first-base bag, the bases were loaded for Clay Holicer. On a 3-2 pitch, Holicer walked to force in a run, which spoiled Bryant’s hopes for a run-rule win at that point. Wray followed with an RBI single to make it 11-3.
Tryce Schalchlin came on to pitch for the Sox and was greeted by Beesley’s RBI single to left. The right-hander finally got the first out by fanning Massey but Wilcox singled in a run.
With Turbyfill up, Lessenberry caught Wray coming down the line too far on a missed bunt attempt. His throw was saved by Ezell who went to his seat but somehow got a throw back to Lessenberry away as Wray broke for the plate. His throw was in the dirt but Lessenberry short-hopped the ball and swept a tag in time for the out.
Schalchlin came within a strike of ending the uprising there but Turbyfill hit his 3-2 offering up the middle for an RBI single. The Sox got out of it when Schalchlin made a pickoff throw to third. When Turbyfill broke for second, Ezell whipped a throw to Thompson to nab him, ending the inning.
With their 10-run lead whittled to five, the Sox tacked on in the top of the eighth. Again, the scoring all occurred after two were out. Lessenberry had walked with one down but was forced on a grounder to second by Nelson who beat the relay to first to keep the inning alive. He stole second and went to third on a passed ball and scored on a wild pitch as Tucker drew a walk. Daniel worked for a free pass and, after a double steal, Zach Graddy came through with a pinch-hit single to plate a run. Thompson’s third hit, a single up the middle, drove in Daniel to cap off the inning.
And 14-6 seemed safe especially after Hurt pitched around an error and a hit batsman, aided by a nifty doubleplay with Lessenberry making a nice scoop at first.
In the ninth, Lessenberry stroked a double down the left-field line. He was into second with a pop-up slide as the throw came in from Turbyfill, but when he lost his balance and came off the bag, he was tagged out to end the inning.
Wilson made a splendid shoestring catch to rob Wray of his fourth hit to open the home ninth. Beesley beat out a single in the hole at short and Massey drew a walk. Wilcox’s bouncer was just beyond the reach of Ezell at third and went for a hit to load the bases.
Hurt appeared the have another out when Turbyfill hit a grounder to first. Lessenberry tried to start a game-ending 3-6-3 doubleplay but his throw to second sailed and all hands were safe including Beesley and Massey who crossed the plate. Lewis then hit a grounder to Thompson at second. He tried to tag and throw for a game-ending twin-killing but on the tag of Turbyfill, the ball came flying out of the glove, and again all hands were safe, loading the bases.
Hurt got James to fly out to Tucker in right and it appeared the Sox got a break when Wilcox didn’t tag and score. But, on the next pitch, Bishop singled to left, driving in two more runs, cutting the lead to 14-10.
And an infield hit by Wesley Ramsey got Lewis home, cutting the margin to three and bringing up the potential tying run in Wray. He walked on four pitches to load the bases so when McDade came to the plate, he represented the winning run. But, after the batter fouled off a pair of two-strike pitches, Hurt ended it with the strikeout.
BRYANT 14, BENTON 11
Black Sox ab r h bi McClendon's ab r h bi
Ezell, 3b 5 3 2 3 Lewis, cf 4 2 2 1
Hurt, ss-p 4 0 0 0 James, ss-p 5 1 1 0
Wilson, lf 5 1 1 0 Bishop, 1b 3 1 3 2
Lessenberry, c-1b 4 1 2 1 Holicer, c 4 1 0 1
Nelson, 1b-ss 3 2 0 1 Ramsey, 3b 1 0 1 1
Tucker, dh-p-rf 4 2 2 1 Wray, 2b-ss 5 0 3 1
Daniel, cf 4 3 2 1 Beesley, 3b-c 4 2 3 1
Caldwell, rf 3 1 1 1 McDade, ph 1 0 0 0
Schalchlin, p 0 0 0 0 Massey, rf 4 1 0 0
Graddy, c 1 0 1 1 Wilcox, p-2b 5 2 3 1
Thompson, 2b 5 1 3 1 Turbyfill, lf 5 1 2 2
Rutherford, p 0 0 0 0
Jackson, p 0 0 0 0
Totals 38 14 14 10 Totals 39 11 18 10
Bryant 220 010 630 — 14
Benton 000 010 505 — 11
E—Beesley, Massey 2, Tucker, Ezell, Lessenberry, Thompson. DP—Bryant 3. LOB—Bryant 8, Benton 13. 2B—Lessenberry 2, Tucker 2. 3B—Ezell. SB—Bishop, Lessenberry, Lewis, Wilcox, Nelson, Tucker 2, Daniel. S—Hurt, Caldwell, Beesley, Bishop. SF—Nelson.
Pitching ip r er h bb so
Rutherford 3 0 0 4 1 1
Jackson (W) 2 1 1 4 0 2
Tucker 1 4 3 4 1 1
Schalchlin 1 1 1 3 0 1
Hurt 2 4 1 3 2 1
Wilcox (L) 7 11 4 9 5 2
James 2 3 3 3 3 1
HBP—Lewis (by Rutherford), Bishop (by Jackson, by Hurt). WP—Wilcox 4, James 1. PB–Holicer.