By Rob Patrick
HOT SPRINGS — The lively bats of the Everett Black Sox made a timely return from the[more] Twilight Zone that was Sunday, July 14, at the Zone 4 Junior American Legion tournament at Lakeside High School Field.
After scoring two runs in a 6-2 loss to the Little Rock Cobras — their first setback of the year after 23 straight wins — and just two more in a 2-0 win over Sheridan on Sunday, the Sox, who averaged nearly 10 runs a game during the regular season exploded for 18 runs on 16 hits on Monday afternoon to not only eliminate the weary-armed Lakeside Rams but clinch the last of the three bids from the tournament for the Junior Legion State tourney at Cabot starting this weekend.
The Sox were set to return to the tournament Monday night at 7:30 p.m., to play in the loser’s bracket final against either Texarkana or Little Rock, whichever failed to win in the winners bracket final Monday evening.
That would leave two teams to battle for the Zone tourney title on Tuesday.
Eleven of the 12 Sox that got into the game had hits led by Evan Lee who went 3 for 3 with five runs batted in. Hunter Oglesby had two hits and knocked in three while Dalton Holt cracked two hits and scored five runs.
Lee also started the game on the mound and threw just 34 pitches over the first two innings, allowing a scratch hit, walking one and striking out four. Once the Sox built an 11-0 lead going into the bottom of the third, manager Tyler Brown brought in Trey Breeding who promptly set down all nine batters he faced to close out the one-hit shutout.
Brown had set up his pitching for the tournament so that his top guys, Blake Patterson and Lee would be available for the winners bracket final and the championship game, respectively. But the stunning loss to Little Rock threw a wrench into the plans. Not that it was the fault of starting Bailey Bowers in that game on Sunday. Four of the Cobras’ six runs were unearned.
As it turned out, Patterson tossed the complete game shutout on Sunday night to keep the team's hopes alive then Lee started in the game that wound up clinching the trip to State. Brown indicated that Lee felt like he could return on Tuesday if needed after throwing so few pitches.
The lefty might have been out of the game earlier but the Sox’ lead after the first inning was just 2-0. Drew Tipton led off the game with an infield hit on a chopper to third, Holt smacked a single to left and Lee lined one up the middle for an RBI single. Holt dashed to third and Lee rolled into second when the throw from the outfield sailed over the cut-off man’s head.
Devin Dupree drew a walk to load the bases. Oglesby hit a bouncer to short and picked up an RBI when, after the force at second, he was able to beat the relay to first to avoid the inning-ending doubleplay. Hot scored.
But Lakeside lefty Blayne Porterfield got out of the inning with no further damage. And he retired the first two in the second before the wheels came off. He walked Tipton and Holt, uncorked a wild pitch to put them in scoring position and surrendered a two-run single to right by Lee.
A stolen base and a wild pitch got Lee to third as Patterson walked. He swiped second and a wild pitch followed that allowed Lee to score. With Patterson at third, Dupree walked and Porterfield gave way to another lefty, Tanner Rice. Dupree took off from first and Lakeside tried to work a play to keep Patterson at third, but the catcher’s throw to the shortstop was errant and Patterson scored easily.
On the next pitch, Oglesby cracked an RBI double. Moments later, Harrison Dale traded places with him when he pulled one inside the bag at third for a two-bagger that made it 8-0.
In the top of the third, Brandan Warner singled to left to start a three-run outburst. Tipton hit a grounder to second but Warner beat the throw to the shortstop on the fielder’s choice. The duo worked a double steal and Holt drew a walk to fill the sacks for Lee again. And he came through again, lacing a single to center to drive in two more.
Patterson bounced into a force at second but Dupree singled up the middle to plate Holt, making it 11-0.
Lakeside wound up going through five pitchers in the game. Andrew Spakes came in to get out of the third but, in the fourth, he ran into trouble as well. His walk to Warner got things started. Tipton singled to left then an error allowed Holt to reach, loading the bases for Breeding. Warner scored on a wild pitch as Breeding walked to load the bags again. This time, Patterson one-hopped the left-field fence for a double that cleared the bases.
Jordan Gentry singled and Blake Spilker took the mound. His second pitch was skied to right by Oglesby for a sacrifice fly. Connor Tatum walked then errors on balls hit by Bowers and Warner made it 17-0.
Holt and Breeding greeted Lakeside’s fifth pitcher, Kyle Lightsey, with back-to-back doubles to complete the scoring. The lefty worked around two-out hits by Oglesby and Tatum to end the inning.
Breeding, who only needed 19 pitches to get nine outs, breezed through the bottom of the inning to close it out against the demoralized Rams.