MOUNTAIN HOME — Eureka, Mo., is the home of Six Flags Mid-America but, on Wednesday, June 16, it was the Bryant Black Sox Senior American Legion team that felt like they’d been taken for a ride.[more]
Trailing 4-3, the Sox were mounting a rally when they came up in the sixth inning of Monday’s pool play opener at Cooper Park, one of the sites of the 24th Twin Lakes Classic. Lucas Castleberry drew a lead-off walk and Tyler Brown sacrificed him to second to put him in scoring position for the top of the Sox batting order. Chris Joiner drew a free pass then Caleb Garrett, with the third baseman back and a lefty pitcher on the mound, hit a drag but towards third. The pitcher got to it but his throw to first appeared to be a step late only to have the umpire at first call him out.
Despite a lengthy protest by Bryant coaches Darren Hurt and Wayne Taylor, the Sox had runners at second and third with two down instead of having the bases full with one out and the heart of the lineup coming up.
“He was safe by a full step, maybe two,” Hurt said later. “That’s when I almost got thrown out of the game. If you know Wayne, when he reacts the way he did, I knew I was right on what I saw. It wasn’t close.”
Still, with two in scoring position, the Sox’ best hitter Hunter Mayall was coming up. A rare thing then occurred, Mayall struck out.
“He struck out looking on a high curve ball,” Hurt related. “I don’t know if that was because I’d just gotten off the field from arguing with the field umpire but they rung us on a ball that I had no idea how he called it a strike.”
The Sox got another shot in the seventh but a two-out walk to Brennan Bullock was all they could muster.
The difference in the game wound up being a one-out solo homer by Eureka’s Aaron Vogt in the bottom of the fifth that snapped a 3-3 tie. It was one of just two earned runs that Bryant pitcher Jordan Taylor allowed.
Patrick Jacobs went the distance for Eureka but almost didn’t get out of the first inning. The Sox jumped on him for two runs. Joiner opened the game with a single to right and moved up on Garrett’s slow roller to the right side. Mayall singled him home then base hits by Taylor and Brady Butler brought in the second run. With runners at first and second and just one out, Jacobs got a visit from his coach who had a reliever warming in the bullpen.
But the lefty got out of the jam, fanning Bullock and getting Landon Pickett to bounce to third.
“We were on him,” Hurt said. “But he settled in in the second inning and shut us down. We gave him a quick inning in the second. But we were hitting him in the first and I thought we were on him. But he wound up throwing a heck of a ballgame. His fastball was good. He threw fastball, change-up, curveball and he had a pretty good hook. He used it mainly to get the lefties.”
Taylor worked around a two-out triple in the bottom of the inning but the Sox went down in order in the second.
Eureka took a 3-2 lead in the home second. A lead-off double by Korey Wisdom and a grounder had a runner at third. Adam Driggs singled him in to make it 2-1. Austin Lewis followed with a blooper to right that Butler nearly made a diving catch on but the ball bounced out of his glove for a single. With runners at first and second, a grounder to third that might’ve been good enough for an inning-ending doubleplay was booted. The ball got through and the tying run came in. With two down, another grounder to third resulted in a wild throw that allowed the third run to score.
In the third, Mayall reached on a one-out error and took second on an errant pickoff throw but was stranded as Jacobs got Taylor on a liner to left before fanning Butler.
Taylor worked around an error in the bottom of the third and the Sox pushed across a tying run in the top of the fourth. Bullock was hit by a pitch to start the inning. He stole second and, after Pickett fanned, Castleberry drew a walk, Brown blooped a single to left to load the bases and Joiner walked to force in the run.
With the bags still juiced, however, Jacobs was able to escape once more when Garrett flew to left and Mayall skied to center.
“They’re left fielder played us shallow all game,” Hurt mentioned. “And we were only able to burn him once.”
That came in the top of the fifth when, after Taylor’s fly to left was caught, Butler one-hopped the fence for a double. But, again, Jacobs escaped with the game still tied by fanning Bullock and Pickett.
With one out in the bottom of the inning, Vogt, who had smacked four out of five out of the park in the home run derby before the game, unloaded to snap the deadlock.
“It was a very frustrating game,” Hurt acknowledged. “We left some runners on then that call — I wouldn’t even call it questionable — that bad call really was aggravating. But we had our chances to win it.”
The Sox were set to continue play in their pool with a game at 11 this morning against Searcy which outslugged Dunklin County, Mo., 16-11, on Wednesday.