By Rob Patrick
HOT SPRINGS — The Everett Black Sox AA American Legion team of Bryant had played a Lakeside[more] Rams team twice this season before Monday night but both times it was the Rams’ Junior team. While that may have been just fine since the Sox’ players are all Junior team age (17-and-under), on Monday, they got a chance to take on the Rams’ AA, a team they may see again at the AA State Tournament starting July 13 in Bryant.
So it was with some intent that the Everett team came into Monday’s action and with some satisfaction that they came away with a 9-5 win over the AA Rams on their home field.
Granted, both teams had players missing including both lead-off batters, Trevor Ezell for Bryant and Jacob Bradshaw for Lakeside. (They were taking part in an underclassman all-star showcase in northeast Arkansas.)
So if you had told Bryant manager Jason Thompson before the game that, without his leading hitter, and with middle-of-the-order sluggers Wes Akers and Cody Gogus going hitless, his team would score nine times, he might not have believed it.
But Thompson’s team got two hits each from Devin Dupree, Chase Tucker and Korey Thompson. Jason Hastings drove in three runs with a pair of sacrifice flies and a base hit to go.
“It was a very good win,” Thompson stated. “We’ll be seeing those guys in less than two weeks. With a little bit of a mixed lineup tonight, I thought the guys stepped up and we produced one through nine. We moved the ball. We got the bunts down when we needed to and we played the baseball we’re capable of.”
Tucker, in his longest stint on the mound this season, turned in four solid innings with just one hiccup. Hastings closed it out.
“You know, we’ve been flirting with using Chase here and there,” Thompson mentioned. “We started throwing him, I think, during the Lakeside tournament two weeks ago. He’s got a nasty slide piece and, when he comes out committed and wants to throw — we got him up to 85, 88 pitches or so and we put him one ones. When he walked the first one (in the fifth), we decided to get him on out.
“Hastings only threw 50-some pitches on Friday and we wanted to go on and get this win against these guys,” he added. “They’re a good club. Jason didn’t have the same stuff he had on Friday but he threw the ball well and he keeps it down, gives us a chance to win.
“I think Chase did an outstanding job and Jason did a great job as usual and I couldn’t be prouder of everybody hitting the baseball,” Thompson summarized. “We just came out and played like we’re supposed to and I think that’s a good sign going into next week.”
The Sox, now 20-5, are off until Monday, July 9, when they’ll take on the Sylvan Hills Senior team at 6 p.m. The next night, they’ll wrap up the regular season against Harrison at UCA in Conway.
Everett built a 4-0 lead on the Rams. In the first, Korey Thompson singled off the glove of third baseman Taylor Street then, with two out, Lakeside starter Austin Softley hit Gogus and Harrison Dale to load the bases. A walk to Tucker, who was on base all five times he came to the plate, forced in the first run.
Softley, who played centerfield left-handed in the Junior game, started on the mound throwing right-handed in the AA game. And throughout the game, he switched back and forth. He worked through the lineup then switched throwing left-handed in the middle of the second inning. He stayed lefty in the third then went back to the right side for the fourth and lefty in the fifth and until he was pulled with no one out and the bases loaded in the sixth.
As impressive as that was, he walked eight (five as a lefty), hit three batters (two as a righty), and surrendered six hits (three each).
Tucker pitched around a two-out walk to Taylor Parker and a single by Garrett Garner in the bottom of the inning and, in the second, the Sox added a run. C.J. Phillips walked to lead off the inning and Austin Caldwell sacrificed him to second.
Softley switched to the port side at that point and unleashed a wild pitch to get Phillips to third for Hastings, who delivered his first sac fly to make it 2-0.
Tucker struck out the side around a two-out walk in the bottom of the inning and Bryant added two in the third. With Softley still pitching as a southpaw, Tucker was struck by a delivery then he and Dupree executed a hit-and-run perfectly. Dupree smacked a single through the vacated spot at second and Tucker sprinted to third. Phillips drew another pass to load the bases then Caldwell hit a roller towards Street at third. His only play was at the plate but his throw got past catcher Josh Walker and Tucker was in. Dupree and Phillips moved up to second and third as Caldwell reached. Again Hastings lifted a sacrifice fly to left and it was 4-0.
Lakeside, broke through with one out in the bottom of the third. Walker walked and Parker plugged the gap in left-center for a double. Both scored when Garner pulled a 1-1 pitch down the third-base line for a triple. Tucker struck out Spencer Hecke but a wild pitch allowed Garner to score to make it 4-3. Dupree flagged down a liner to right off the bat of Tye Boudra-Bland to end the inning with the lead intact.
The Sox answered with two more in the fourth against the right-handed Softley. After Gogus was robbed of a hit on a diving play by Garner, ranging over from second into shallow right, Dale reached on a throwing error and the Sox made the Rams pay for the miscue. A pair of wild pitches allowed Dale to advance to third and Tucker smacked an RBI single to left. Another wild pitch had Tucker at second when Dupree crushed a sinking liner that hit the third base bag flush and ricocheted into shallow left. Tucker scored and it was 6-3.
The Bryant right-hander surrendered a double to Cameron Winston in the bottom of the inning but, he picked him off then retired the next two for his easiest inning of the night.
After the Sox were set down in the top of the fifth, Tucker walked Softley to start the fifth and Hastings took over. Walker greeted him with a single. Softley tagged and went to third on Parker’s long fly to Dupree in right. With Garner at the plate, Walker took off on a steal attempt. Trey Breeding, relieving Phillips behind the plate, gunned to second and Softley began a dash toward the plate. But Thompson cut the throw off short of second and fired back to Breeding in time to nail him and chose off the run.
Garner was hit by a pitch, moments later, but Hastings fanned Hecke to send the game to the sixth.
Dale’s solid single to center and walks to Tucker and Dupree spelled the end of Softley’s moundwork both left-handed and right-handed. Street relieved and recorded the first out on strikes. Caldwell, however, lifted a sacrifice fly to right and Hastings stroked a liner to right-center for an RBI single to increase the advantage to 8-3.
Lakeside kept its hopes for a comeback alive in the bottom of the inning, matching Bryant’s deuce. Boudra-Bland walked and Winston singled. Hastings fanned Bo Ritter then got Street to hit a chop over the mound that Thompson got to. But he and Dale missed connections on the flip to second and all hands were safe. Hastings misfired on a pickoff attempt and Boudra-Bland scored.
With two down, Walker singled to center to plate pinch-runner Maurice Godoy but when Street tried to come in from second, Tucker gunned him down at the plate to end the inning.
And, in the seventh, Tucker belted a two-out double, took off for third on a pitch in the dirt and drew a wild throw. He scored to make it 9-5.
Breeding turned in a hustling play to help snuff out a Lakeside rally in the bottom of the seventh. Parker grounded to Akers at third. But his throw got past Gogus at first. Parker took off for second but Breeding, backing up the play with a sprint up the line from behind the plate, retrieved the ball and fired to Thompson, who had the ball waiting for Parker.
Hastings finished it with a fly to center and a liner to second.
BRYANT EVERETT BLACK SOX 9, HOT SPRINGS LAKESIDE RAMS 5
AA American Legion
Black Sox ab r h bi Rams ab r h bi
Hastings, cf-p 3 0 1 3 Softley, p-1b 3 0 0 0
Thompson, ss 3 1 2 0 Walker, c 3 1 2 1
Akers, 3b 4 0 0 0 Parker, ss 3 1 1 0
Gogus, 1b 4 0 0 0 Garner, 2b 3 1 2 2
Dale, 2b 4 2 1 0 Hecke, cf 4 0 0 0
Tucker, p-cf 2 4 2 2 Boudra-Bland, rf 2 1 0 0
Dupree, rf 4 1 2 1 Winston, lf 3 0 2 0
Phillips, c 0 1 0 0 Godoy, pr-lf 0 1 0 0
Breeding, c 1 0 0 0 Carter, 1b 1 0 0 0
Caldwell, rf 2 0 0 1 Ritter, 1b-3b 1 0 0 0
Street, 3b-p 3 0 0 0
Totals 27 9 8 7 Totals 26 5 7 3
BRYANT 112 202 1 — 9
Lakeside 003 002 0 — 5
E—Street, Parker, Dale, Hastings, Walker. LOB—Bryant 13, Lakeside 6. 2B—Parker, Winston, Tucker. 3B—Garner. SB—Dupree, Phillips. S—Caldwell. SF—Caldwell, Hastings 2.
Pitching ip r er h bb so
Tucker (W) 4 3 3 4 4 6
Hastings (S) 3 2 1 3 1 2
Softley (L) 5 8 4 6 8 3
Street 2 1 0 2 1 3
HBP—Gogus, Tucker, Dale (by Softley), Garner (by Hastings). WP—Softley 4, Tucker, Street.