SANFORD, Fla. — What he started on the mound, sophomore Wesley Akers ended at the[more] plate 10 innings later.
Akers’ two-out, bases-loaded single in the bottom of the 10th ended the marathon third-place game at the Florida League High School Invitational Tournament on Friday as the Bryant Hornets rallied from a 5-1 deficit for a 7-6 win over the New Smyrna Beach, Fla., Barracudas Friday.
Senior Tryce Schalchlin tossed 6 2/3 innings of three-hit shutout relief to facilitate the comeback, picking up the victory as the Hornets improved to 11-2 on the season and head back to Bryant after a 3-1 tournament.
The Hornets return to 7A/6A-Central Conference action this Tuesday at home against Little Rock Catholic.
On Friday, New Smyrna took a 5-0 lead in the second inning. After the Hornets got on the board with a run in the home third, the Barracudas added a run in the top of the fourth to make it 6-1. Bryant rallied for three in the bottom of the inning then tied it with two in the home fifth and it stayed that way as Schalchlin and New Smyrna Beach reliever Brandon Amendolare dueled into the 10th.
In the top of the 10th, the Barracudas’ Joe McKee led off with a single and was sacrificed to second by Steven Rogers. But Schalchlin forced them to strand him when he struck out James O’Brien then got Dylan Woods to pop to first.
Joel Ogram became the third New Smyrna pitcher in the bottom of the inning. With one out, Tyler Nelson cracked a double. With two down, Jordan Taylor was issued an intentional walk but then Josh Pultro was hit by a pitch to load the base. Akers, re-entering as the designated hitter, cracked the first pitch for the game-winner.
Head coach Kirk Bock used 17 players in the game. Nelson, Taylor, Dylan Cross and Hayden Daniel each had two hits for Bryant. Daniel drove in four runs.
Both pitchers made strong starts but Akers ran into trouble in the second, issuing a one-out walk. McKee singled then Rogers was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Akers got the second out on a fly to left but Dylan Woods doubled to knock in the first two runs. Amendolare singled to make it 3-0 then Akers came within a strike of getting out of the jam. But an errant pickoff throw allowed Woods to score and, after Jordan Sopotnick, fouled off a pair of 0-2 deliveries, he singled to make it 5-0.
Barracudas starter Tyler Christensen fanned two in a 1-2-3 bottom of the second and Akers rebounded to retire New Smyrna Beach around a two-out hit batsman to set up the Hornets’ first scoring uprising in the bottom of the third.
With one out, Daniel reached second when his drive to right was misplayed. Ozzie Hurt singled then Nelson came through with a sacrifice fly.
In the top of the fourth, a hit and an error allowed Amendolare to reach second with one out. Sopotnick was hit by a pitch and Schachlin got the call to relieve. A walk to Jed Tylutki loaded the bases for Ogram. His sacrifice fly to right made it 6-1.
Bryant’s comeback began with a single by Taylor to lead off the bottom of the fourth. With one out, walks to cross and Chase Tucker loaded the bases. With two down, Daniel was down 0-2 in the count but ripped a two-run double.
A walk to pinch-hitter Blain Jackson kept the inning going for Nelson who singled to make it 6-4.
Schalchlin pitched around a two-out single to James O’Brien in the top of the fifth and the Hornets came the rest of the way back in the bottom of the frame. Taylor got the uprising started again with a single. With one out, Cross followed up with a base hit. With two down, a wild pitch moved the runners up and pinch-hitter Trevor Ezell drew a free pass to fill the bags for Daniel who came through again with a two-run double that knotted the game up.
Amendolare relieved Christiansen and induced a fly to left by Hurt to keep it tied.
The Hornets turned an inning-ending doubleplay after a single by Sopotnick in the top of the sixth. In turn, Nelson reached on an error and Lessenberry singled as the Bryant threatened to take the lead. Taylor sacrificed them to second and third and, with two down, Cross walked to load the bags before Amendolare fanned Tucker to escape again.
Schalchlin eased the the top of the seventh and Amendolare worked around a lead-off single by Tyler Green. In the eighth, the Bryant right-hander had to work around a two-out error and a walk, striking out Sopotnick to send it to the home eighth. The Hornets were retired in order however as the contest extended into the ninth.
After Schalchlin pitched another 1-2-3 frame, Cross led off the bottom ninth with a base hit. Austin Caldwell came in as a pinch-runner and Tucker sacrificed him to second. He could get no further, however, as the Barracudas’ hurler got Zach Graddy and Daniel to fly out to left.
That set the stage for the dramatic finish.
The Palm Beach Gardens Gators wound up winning the tournament, the only team to go unbeaten, defeating Orangewood Christian, 13-1. Despite being in the same pool as Orangewood, the Hornets did not get a shot at playing either of the finalists.