By Rob Patrick
BENTON — Evan Lee and Blake Patterson combined to go 7 of 8 with seven runs batted in and[more] five runs scored between them, while Harrison Dale and Dalton Holt combined on a four-hit shutout as the Bryant Everett Black Sox Junior American Legion team buried Benton Sport Shop, 12-0, Tuesday night at Bernard Holland Park.
The win, which improved the Sox to 7-0 on the season going into Thursday’s trip to Ashdown, was also highlighted by the return of Trey Breeding, who got his first at-bat of the season after being out with a stress fracture in his leg. It was an injury he played with, at catcher, without letting on, for the last three weeks of the Bryant High School season.
Lee went 4 for 4 with one of the runs batted in and four of the runs scored while Patterson went 3 for 4 with six RBIs and a run scored. The Sox finished with 11 hits as a team.
“We had two games to get ready for our trip to Omaha next week so we want to get everybody some work,” stated Sox manager Tyler Brown, referring to his team’s trip to a tournament in Nebraska starting June 14. “Today, we weren’t really looking to bunt the baseball or hit and run. We wanted to get our rhythm down at the plate, square a lot of balls up, productive at bats. I feel like we did that.”
Bryant scored in four of the five innings, starting with a three-run uprising in the opening frame.
“Every game so far, we’ve come out ready to play,” Brown noted. “We haven’t really had a slow start yet. I’m very proud of the guys. They come every day and they compete. We continue to get more guys work on the mound, continue to get guys work in at different positions and to continue to get better. That’s what we want.”
Dale worked the first four innings and allowed two hits. He struck out six and hit a pair without surrendering a walk. Holt, seeing his first time on the mound in a while, retired the first two in the bottom of the fifth then gave up a pair of hits before ending it with a grounder to Jordan Gentry at second.
“Harrison was spotting his pitches,” Brown mentioned. “He got a good feel for his breaking ball and he started throwing that thing for a strike and that’s what we want. We want to fill the zone up and let the defense work.
“Holt came in and threw a lot of strikes,” he added. “He threw the ball with good velocity. He got some good breaking balls to fill in. I feel like those two guys are going to help us down the road.”
Lead-off man Drew Tipton, who reached base three out of four times he came to the plate, was hit by a pitch to start the contest. He was forced at second on Holt’s grounder to third but Lee shot a single through the right side and the throw from the outfield was errant, he advanced to third and Lee got to second. Both came in when Patterson drilled a triple to left-center, a drive that just evaded center fielder Luke Ward, who sprinted into the gap.
And when Dale reached on an error, Patterson scored to make it 3-0.
On the mound in the bottom of the inning, Dale pitched around an error, fanning two and getting help from third baseman Brandan Warner, who made a sparkling play to retire lead-off man Jeff Stormear.
Neither team scored in the second with Benton starter Joe Reynolds working around a two-out hit by Gentry and Dale rolled through a 1-3-2 frame.
In the third, Lee got his second hit, a liner up the middle. He stole second, took third on Patterson’s grounder to the right side and scored when Dale’s grounder to short was booted.
Sport Shop threatened to score in the bottom of the inning. A hit batsman and a single had runners at the corners with one out. Stormear took off to steal second and the lead runner headed home as soon as Bryant catcher Bailey Bowers threw through. But shortstop Connor Tatum rifled a return throw to Bowers in time for the out.
A third-strike passed ball had runners at the corners again but Dale struck out Nick Murray to end the threat.
The Sox blew the game open with a five-run fourth, starting with Tatum reaching on an error and steal second. An errant throw on the play allowed him to get to third and, after Gentry walked, Tipton singled him in.
Holt followed up with a double that plated both runners with Tipton sprinting in all the way from first. Lee singled to right and took second when the throw came home to keep Holt at third. A two-run single by Patterson capped the inning, making it 9-0.
In the home fourth, Dale hit a batter with one out. Ward followed with a single down the line in left that Lee tracked down. When the lead runner tried to make it to third, Lee fired in to Warner in time for the tag.
With Ward at second, Dale finished his moundwork with his sixth strikeout.
Bryant completed the scoring in the top of the fifth when, with two down, Tipton walked, stole second and went to third on another errant throw. Zach Jackson earned a walk to set the table for Lee, who doubled in Tipton, and Patterson, who singled in the final two runs.