By Rob Patrick
SHERIDAN — Can we get a take-back?
In a story posted on Tuesday, it was reported that the Bryant Black Sox Junior American Legion team had[more] clinched a trip to the Junior Legion State Tournament. It had been announced at the Zone 4 Tournament that three teams from Zone 4 would make State. So, it was assumed that those two would include the two teams in the winners bracket finals — Bryant and Hot Springs Lakeside — along with whatever team survives the losers bracket.
Come to find out, however, one of those three going to State is host team Sheridan, which went 0-2 in the Zone tourney. So when the Sox and Lakeside met on Tuesday night, not only was a berth in the championship round of the Zone tournament on the line, but so was a bid to State.
So once the Sox had outslugged Lakeside 16-12 on Tuesday, they could genuinely celebrate a trip to State. Lakeside had to turn around and play Texarkana late Tuesday evening to determine the other State spot. With an 8-6 win, Texarkana will challenge Bryant tonight for the Zone 4 championship, needing to beat the Sox twice to earn the title and the league’s top seed for State which begins in Sheridan this Friday.
Three innings in, Bryant and Lakeside were tied 9-9. Bryant took the lead for good with a four-run fourth. Cody Gogus, on in relief of starter Tyler Green, slowed the Lakeside offense then Tryce Schalchlin, the winning pitcher in Monday’s win over Lake Hamilton, came back to get the last seven outs of the game and earn a save.
The Sox, now 16-3-1, continued to hammer the baseball. They had 16 hits against Lakeside including three by Chase Tucker and two each from Green, Marcus Wilson, Schalchlin, Zach Graddy and Trevor Ezell.
Bryant came to the plate in the top of the fourth with the game deadlocked. Schalchlin got the game-turning rally started with a single then Tucker found the gap with a shot to left-center for a double. Schalchlin scored when Graddy’s grounder to second was booted and, with one out, Daniel Richards cracked a double. Green singled then Richards scored on a balk to make it 13-9.
Lakeside tried to answer one more time in the bottom of the inning. Gogus issued a lead-off walk to Taylor Austin. A passed ball allowed him to take second but Gogus struck out the next two batters before issuing another free pass, this time to nine-hole hitter Austin Softley. Still, it appeared he was out of the inning when he got Jacob Bradshaw to ground to third but an error extended the frame to Garrett Garner who singled in two runs.
With the potential tying runs on the corners, Garner tried to get into scoring position by stealing second only to have Graddy gun him down to end the inning with the Sox leading 13-11.
They added a run in the fifth. Tucker doubled again, Graddy singled and Ezell got the RBI with a groundout to third.
In the home fifth, Gogus hit Spencer Hecke to start the inning but when Josh Walker popped to to first, Hecke was doubled off. But a walk to Bo Ritter followed and Schalchlin was called upon to relieve. Austin greeted him with a single then Taylor Street’s base hit drove in Ritter. But Graddy helped out again, nailing Austin trying to steal third to squelch the rally with Bryant up 14-12.
Green reached on an error to start the sixth. An out later, Wilson slapped a single to right to bring him around. And when Gogus reached on an error, Wilson scored.
Schalchlin and the Bryant defense did the rest. He worked around a two-out double by Bradshaw in the sixth then waded through the heart of the Lakeside order, 1-2-3, in the seventh, finishing with a pair of strikeouts.
Bryant led early too. In the first, Green doubled but was thrown out trying to stretch it to a triple. Walks to Korey Thompson and Wilson followed, setting the table for Gogus who delivered a single. Base hits by Schalchlin, Tucker and Ezell made it 4-0.
Lakeside countered with three in the bottom of the inning. Bradshaw was hit by a pitch and stole second. With one out, Hecke’s single to right was misplayed. Bradshaw scored and Hecke wound up at third. Walker singled him home and, after he stole second, Austin brought him around to make it 4-3 before Green ended the uprising with a strikeout.
The Sox went back to work in the top of the second. Green drew a walk then singles by Thompson and Wilson made it 5-3.
After a pitching change, walks to Gogus and Schalchlin forced in a run and another switch on the mound. Tucker was hit by a pitch and, after Graddy lined out, Ezell’s drive to right was misplayed, making it 9-3.
Lakeside managed a run in the bottom of the inning and then held the Sox in the top of the third. A five-run outburst in the bottom of the third tied the game. Walker singled, Ritter walked and Austin reached on an error. Street walked and Gogus entered in relief. Hits by Carter, Bradshaw and Garner brought the runs around to knot it up before Gogus could work out of the inning.