Photos courtesy of Mike Adam
PINE BLUFF — Hayden Lessenberry blasted home runs on consecutive at-bats, one that banged[more] off the Taylor Field scoreboard to cap the scoring in the opening game and another that cleared the scoreboard to start the scoring in the nightcap.
Those clouts highlighted a sweep of Pine Bluff Simmons by the defending Senior American Legion State champion Bryant Black Sox.
The teams were scheduled to play a seven-inning game and a five-inning contest but Bryant won the first game 12-0 in five then, with the Sox leading 7-1 after four innings of the second contest, Pine Bluff threw in the towel.
Combined, the Sox thus would’ve had a 19-1 win in nine innings.
Tyler Nelson tossed a two-hit shutout in the opener. Hayden Daniel worked three innings of the second game and Tryce Schalchlin pitched the fourth. Bryant manager Darren Hurt had hoped to get a couple of innings of work for Schalchlin but Pine Bluff was done.
The Bankers were evidently short a few players, only listing 10 on the line-up card. They used five pitchers over the nine innings and they combined to surrender 18 walks, two hit batsmen, and 15 hits.
“It’s never easy when we come here,” Hurt said of Taylor Field and the Zone 4 rival Pine Bluff team. “But we came out and hit the baseball and Nelson threw a gem. I think he set the tone for both games. They couldn’t square him up. He threw really well, which is what we need to see.”
Lessenberry was 3 for 5 in the two games with six runs batted in. Lead-off man Trevor Ezell, fresh from a 4 for 5 night at Cabot on Monday, came to the plate seven times in Tuesday’s twinbill and reached base six of those.
“(Lessenberry) was sure squaring it up tonight,” Hurt acknowledged. “He was hitting it hard. And we’ve got to have that production. He’s replacing (Landon) Pickett (last year’s RBI leader) in the four hole and, heck, he’s right on pace to pick it up. Between him and Ezell at the lead-off spot — he’s getting on base almost every time right now.”
The team is 3-0 going into a Friday’s trip to play a doubleheader against Russellville at Arkansas Tech University, the school which has signed Sox’ stars Marcus Wilson and Nate Rutherford.
“We’ve still got a little work to do,” Hurt said. “Last year, we didn’t have to work at it, chemistry-wise, because we had (Hunter) Mayall and he was such a leader. He was the enforcer. I didn’t have to do a whole lot as far as keeping everyone in line. This group is going to take a little more hands-on.
“I love the talent,” he asserted. “If we can find enough arms, offensively we’re going to be able to score runs. Replacing the guys that we were going to have to replace from last year, that was my biggest concern. But I’m not really concerned at this point. We’ve just got to find the arms.”
In Tuesday’s opening win, Nelson struck out seven and walked one. He gave up an opposite-field single to Josh Dardenne with one out in the first and a bloop single to Nick Hefly in the third. The lone walk came in the fourth.
Hefley managed to get to third after a wild pitch and a groundout but was stranded.
Sox shortstop Ozzie Hurt robbed Pine Bluff’s Garret Dedman of a hit on a liner up the middle to end the fourth. Daniel turned in a nice play to end the game, running down a long drive off the bat of Simmons’ Chris Bryan.
Bryant used six hits to take advantage of 11 walks, five distributed by Dardenne, the starter, in three-plus innings, and six by reliever Jaylen Jackson in 1 2/3.
A four-run second got the scoring started. Wilson walked and Daniel lofted a single into shallow right. The duo worked a double steal and, with one out, Cody Gogus and Korey Thompson drew walks to bring a run in.
Though they each came to the plate three times, neither Gogus nor Thompson had an official at-bat. Gogus walked three times and Thompson twice. He also had a sacrifice, which was misplayed as part of a two-run fourth.
A wild pitch allowed Daniel to score then Ezell pulled a single into left to chase in Gogus. Thompson came in when Hurt bounced into a force at second.
Nelson made a bid for extra bases with a long drive to right-center but Bryan flagged it down to end the inning.
Josh Dardenne hit Lessenberry with a pitch to start the third but retired the next three.
In the fourth, however, Gogus walked and Thompson got a nice bunt down that Chris Connelly charged in to grab. But he had to rush his throw and it was wild, allowing Gogus to reach third and Thompson to get to second. Ezell knocked them both in with another base hit, making it 6-0.
Jackson relieved and issued walks to Nelson and Lessenberry but the Bankers escaped by turning a 1-2-3 doubleplay.
It started again, however, in the fifth when Daniel walked. And though he was picked off, Jackson proceeded to issue free passes to Chase Tucker, Gogus and Thompson. After Ezell flew out to center — the only time he was retired all night — Hurt hit a soft liner up the middle for an RBI single and Nelson swatted a base hit to left to drive in a pair.
That set the stage for Lessenberry’s first bomb, which rattled off the scoreboard beyond the left-field wall, making it 12-0.
In the second game, Ezell was hit by the very first pitch from Pine Bluff starter Chris McCullough. Hurt sacrificed him to second and, with two outs, Lessenberry unloaded again, this time a towering drive that cleared the scoreboard for a 2-0 lead.
After Daniel retired the side in order in the bottom of the inning, the Sox plated five runs, chasing McCullough along the way.
Another walk, this time to Thompson got it starter. Ezell drew a free pass and Hefley relieved. With one out, Nelson shot a single to center to plate Thompson. Ezell sprinted to third.
With Lessenberry at the plate, Hefley used the first-to-third pick-off move, which the Major Leagues have outlawed, officially making it a balk move. And since Legion plays American League rules, the balk was called after urging from Bryant’s first-base coach Jason Thompson. Ezell scored to make it 4-0.
Lessenberry eventually singled to left. Wilson followed with a walk to fill the bases and, with two down, Tucker walked to force in a run. Austin Caldwell then capped the uprising with a two-run single to right, the first of his two hits in the game.
Pine Bluff managed its lone run of the night in the bottom of the second when Jackwon walked, stole second, took third on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Dedman. Hefley, who had walked, got to third on the hit and Dedman stole second to get into scoring position. But Daniel struck out McCullough and Bryan to end the inning.
He would work around a two-out hit batsman in the third then Schalchlin needed just nine pitches to ease through the bottom of the fourth, which turned out to be the end of the night.