By Rob Patrick
The last time the Sport Shop Black Sox, Bryant’s AA American Legion team, lost a game, it was[more] struggles in the field as much as anything that cost them in their 12-2 loss at Cabot on June 10. Since then, the fielding has tightened up, the pitching’s been solid and the bats have come to live, producing a seven-game winning streak in which they outscored their opponents 59-23.
But on Saturday, the defensive lapses surfaced again. In a game in which one fewer error and one more timely hit would’ve turned the tables, the Sox had their streak snapped by Sally’s Body Shop, the Hot Springs Village AA team, 5-4.
The Sox out-hit the Villagers 6-5 but five errors undermined their efforts at the plate against a tough right-hander Mark Rucker, a former star at Lake Hamilton High School. The patient Sox worked for six walks to go with six hits against Rucker, who needed 124 pitches to get through six frames. Mason Chapmond relieved in the seventh and retired the side in order to pick up a save.
Bryant starter Justin Emmerling went the distance and deserved a better fate than picking up the loss. He scattered five hits, walked two, hit two and struck out three on 85 pitches in seven innings. But only one of the Hot Springs Village runs was earned.
The Sox had rallied in the bottom of the fifth to tie the game 4-4. In the sixth, HSV’s C.J. Williams drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch then Josh Mitchell found the gap for a double. But Emmerling got Dylan Anderson to tap out in front of the plate with Bryant catcher C.J. Phillips making a sparkling play to hold the runner at third and fire to first in time for the out. Emmerling then struck out Steven Love. He appeared to be out of the jam when he got Andrew Seamor to hit an infield grounder but an errant throw allowed Seamor to reach as Williams scored to snap the deadlock.
In the home sixth, the Sox got something going when Michael Martindale beat out a slow roller to short. With Andrew Kincaid at the plate, Martindale tried to steal. The stolen base has been a big part of the Sox’ success this season. In one game, they stole 11 bases. In fact, they’d already swiped four against Hot Springs Village despite the efforts of catcher Briar Jackson, the starter at Lake Hamilton this spring.
But Jackson threw out three would-be base-stealers and picked off another runner in Saturday’s game, including Martindale on his sixth-inning try.
Rucker fanned Kincaid but then Daniel Darbonne beat out an infield hit into the hole at short to give the Sox life. But Jackson chased down Devin Fuquay’s foul pop to end the inning.
Emmerling hit Jackson with a pitch with one out in the top of the seventh but the Sox turned a doubleplay off a bouncer to Darbonne at second. Shortstop Dakota Besancon made the turn and Kincaid stretched out to get the relay in time.
But the Sox were unable to muster anything against Chapmond in the bottom of the seventh.
Sport Shop was hardly intimidated by the tall, lanky, hard-throwing Rucker. They struck for two runs on him in the bottom of the first. Phillips led off with a walk and Besancon singled to center. Emmerling walked to load the bases for hot-hitting Hunter Oglesby who shot a single to center to drive in the first run. Weston Jones made it 2-0 with a sacrifice fly to deep center.
But then Emmerling, who leads the team with 13 steals, was caught trying to get into third and Oglesby was picked off after moving up to second trailing Emmerling.
Meanwhile, the Bryant hurler shackled the Villagers on one hit over the first three innings. In the fourth, however, an error allowed Chase Anderson to reach to lead things off. Jackson walked and Tyler Robertson was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Williams who singled up the middle to get his team on the board. Mitchell followed with a chopper that Emmerling leapt to get a glove on but no one could make a play as a second run scored.
With the game tied and the infield in, Emmerling got Dylan Anderson to hit a two-hopper to Jones at third. Rushing to try to make a play at the plate, Jones bobbled the ball. When he recovered it, he only had time to get a force at third.
Love slapped a single to left but when Mitchell changed his mind as he rounded third, the Sox got him in a rundown after left-fielder Chase Brooks hit the cutoff man. He was tagged by Jones for the second out.
Emmerling ended it there by striking out Seamor.
In the top of the fifth, HSV added a run without a hit as Chapmond reached on an error, advanced to second on a wild pitch, took third on a grounder to the right side by Chase Anderson and scored on Jackson’s sacrifice fly.
But the scrappy Black Sox scrambled to tie it in the bottom of the fifth. Darbonne drew a lead-off walk and Caleb Chaffin sacrificed him to second. Phillips walked then Besancon beat out a bunt hit when Rucker fielded the ball and had no where to throw once he saw that Darbonne was nearly to third.
With the sacks full, Emmerling hit a grounder to third, resulting in a force there as Darbonne scored. And when the throw back to the mound got past Rucker, Besancon and Emmerling alertly advanced to second and third.
Oglesby’s infield hit plated the tying run and, after he stole second, the Sox had two in scoring position with two down. But Rucker wriggled out of it inducing a grounder to short to send it to the sixth.
Now 9-5, Sport Shop is set to visit Sheridan on Monday, July 1.
HOT SPRNGS VILLAGE SALLY'S BODY SHOP 5, BRYANT SPORT SHOP 4
Sally's ab r h bi Black Sox ab r h bi
Seamor, cf 4 0 0 0 Phillips, c 2 1 0 0
Chapmond, 2b-p 4 1 0 0 Besancon, ss 3 2 2 0
C.Anderson, ss 4 1 0 0 Emmerling, p 3 0 0 1
Jackson, c 1 1 0 1 Oglesby, rf 3 0 2 2
Robertson, 3b 3 1 1 0 Jones, 3b 2 0 0 1
Williams, lf 2 1 1 0 Martindale, cf 2 0 1 0
Mitchell, 1b 3 0 2 1 Kincaid, 1b 3 0 0 0
D.Anderson, rf-2b 3 0 0 1 Darbonne, 2b 2 1 1 0
Love, dh 3 0 1 1 Brooks, lf 1 0 0 0
Dauber, rf 0 0 0 0 Chaffin, ph 0 0 0 0
Rucker, p 0 0 0 0 Fuquay, lf 1 0 0 0
Totals 27 5 5 5 Totals 22 4 6 4
HSV 000 311 0 — 5
BRYANT 200 020 0 — 4
E—Besancon 2, Emmerling, Darbonne 2, Robertson. DP—Bryant 1. LOB—Hot Springs Village 6, Bryant 5. 2B—Robertson, Mitchell. SB—Phillips, Besancon, Oglesby 2. S—Chaffin. SF—Jones, Jackson.
Pitching ip r er h bb so
Hot Springs Village
Rucker (W) 6 4 3 6 6 6
Chapmond (S) 1 0 0 0 0 1
Emmerling (L) 7 5 1 5 2 3
HBP—Robertson, Jackson (by Emmerling). WP—Rucker 2, Emmerling 2.