Photos by Kevin Nagle
By Rob Patrick
Asked if he was concerned after the Ashdown AA American Legion team put two runs on the board[more] on three hits in the first inning of his team’s game Wednesday night, Bryant Everett Black Sox Junior Legion coach Tyler Brown declared, “Absolutely not.
“(Starting pitcher) Blake (Patterson) was leaving things up but he battled through it,” Brown continued. “And we knew two runs ain’t going to beat us. You’re going to have to score a lot more than two runs to beat this team. Nobody came in (off the field) and was worried about anything. You shake it off, get those two runs back, add onto that and keep battling, keep competing through all seven innings. That’s what we did.”
In fact, they got more than two in the bottom of the inning and a lot more in the five innings that the game lasted. Everett scored six in the bottom of the first, three more in the third and seven in the fourth on their way to a 16-2 clubbing of the Ashdown team.
Patterson allowed just two more hits in the game and fanned five without a walk to pick up the victory. The Sox lashed 13 hits including Evan Lee’s two-run bomb in the second inning. Lee went 3 for 3 with four runs batted in and three runs scored. Connor Tatum, Trey Breeding and Bailey Bowers each contributed two hits. Bowers drove in three while Tatum and Breeding knocked in a pair apiece.
The Sox, fresh for winning the 2013 Battle of Omaha for 17-and-under teams, improved to 14-0 on the season going into Monday’s game at home against Cabot.
“In Legion, after a big trip, you always worry about those hangover games,” said Brown, who played for the State champion Black Sox Senior team last year. “But we got into this game and we started off hot just the way we ended in Nebraska, which is a good sign.
“I’ll tell you right now, this is a bunch — all 17 of them — that can just play, every one of them,” he stated. “And they all play together well. They get up there and they have a plan at the dish, whether it’s to bunt the baseball to the first-base line, hit and run, whatever’s needed. They square the ball up and they get it done.
“Fielding-wise, we’re getting better every day,” the coach continued. “You could see early in the year, we were making stupid mistakes but we’re getting better — outfield, infield, everything — making the routine play. That’s what we’re preaching on, ‘We’ve got to get y’all better, get y’all ready, especially for District, State and Regionals.”
Patterson retired the first two batters on five pitches to start the game but then Ashdown’s Starnes York lashed the first of his two hits, a solid single to left. Drew Akins cracked a double down the left field line to drive him in. Akins took third on the throw to the plate and scored from there on a single to right by Ty Cobb (obviously not the long deceased, original Hall of Famer).
But when Austin Cross tried to bunt his way on, Patterson made a nice play off the mound and nipped him at first to retire the side.
After that, a double by York in the third and a single by Cobb in the fourth was all Ashdown would muster.
Of course, the bottom of the first took a lot out of them as Bryant bashed the ball. Tatum led off with a shot up the middle for a single then Holt yanked a single through the hole to left. Lee was hit by a pitch from Ashdown’s Josh Reynolds, loading the bases for Patterson who worked a walk to force in a run. Breeding then ripped one inside the line at third for a two-run double to give Bryant the lead.
Bowers singled in Breeding to bring up Brandan Warner who hit a sharp grounder to third. Akins made a nice play on the ball and threw to second to try to start a doubleplay. His throw, however, forced second baseman Hunter Currence off the bag then the relay to first was late. Bowers, unaware that he was not forced out, started to leave for the dugout. Brown yelled for him to get back on the bag and he made a dive for it only to be tagged for the first out of the inning.
Warner would advance to second on a wild pitch. A balk got him to third then Dakota Besancon drove him in with a sacrifice fly to make it 6-2.
Patterson retired the side in order in the top of the second and the Sox went back to work in the home half. Tatum was issued a four-pitch walk as he led off again. On a hit-and-run play, he got to second when Holt bounced to third.
That brought up Lee, who was out in front of a pair of pitches from Reynolds, cuing them foul. But, with a 1-2 count, he had the right-hander gauged. He turned on the next pitch and drilled it over the boards in right for a two-run homer.
Patterson followed with a single then Breeding reached on an error and Bowers singled in a run to make it 9-2.
Reynolds was relieved by Austin Bearden who got the final two outs of the inning.
Jordan Gentry led off the third with a single to right. Tatum tried to bunt him to second but his soft liner between the mound and third was speared by Bearden, who made a diving catch. He threw to first to double off Gentry. Holt flied to center to send it to the fourth.
Cobb singled to start the fourth but Patterson struck out Cross and got Luke Ford to ground to Gentry at second. He made the play, tagged Cobb as he went by and threw to first to end the inning in spectacular fashion.
The seven-run fourth started with a double by Lee on a hot shot that took a wild hop over the head of Austin Ashley at short and found the gap. It would end with Lee rapping a two-run single.
In between, Breeding bounced one up the middle that Ashley flagged down with a dive behind second. Breeding beat it out for a hit. And when Bowers drew a walk, the bags were filled for Warner who came through with an RBI single up the middle.
With two down, Gentry drew an RBI walk and Tatum lashed a two-run single to right-center.
Holt pulled a hard grounder to third that Akins made a nice play on but his throw was off the mark and Holt reached as Gentry scored to make it 14-2.
Ashley came in to relieve Bearden at that point and, on his second pitch, Lee supplied the final blow.
Patterson struck out Bearden to start the top of the fifth then retired Currence and Ashley on three pitches to close it out.
BRYANT EVERETT 16, ASHDOWN 2
Ashdown ab r h bi Black Sox ab r h bi
Ashley, ss-p 3 0 0 0 Tatum, ss 3 3 2 2
Olson, c 2 0 0 0 Holt, rf 4 2 1 0
York, rf 2 1 2 0 Lee, cf 3 3 3 4
Akins, 3b 2 1 1 1 Patterson, p 3 2 1 1
Cobb, lf 2 0 2 1 Breeding, c 3 2 2 2
Cross, cf 2 0 0 0 Bowers, 1b 2 1 2 3
Ford, 1b 2 0 0 0 Warner, 3b 3 2 1 1
Reynolds, p 1 0 0 0 Besancon, lf 2 0 0 1
Bearden, p-2b 1 0 0 0 Gentry, 2b 2 1 1 1
Currence, 2b-ss 2 0 0 0
Totals 19 2 5 2 Totals 25 16 13 15
Ashdown 200 00 — 2
BRYANT 630 7x — 16
E—Akins 3. DP—Ashdown 1, Bryant 1. LOB—Ashdown 2, Bryant 3. 2B—Akins, Breeding, York, Lee. HR—Lee. SF—Besancon.
Pitching ip r er h bb so
Reynolds (L) 1.1 9 8 7 2 0
Bearden 2.1 7 6 5 2 0
Ashley 0.1 0 0 1 0 0
Patterson (W) 5 2 2 5 0 5
Balk—Reynolds. HBP—Lee (by Reynolds). WP—Reynolds 2, Patterson.