By Rob Patrick
JACKSONVILLE — The Bryant Everett Black Sox Junior American Legion team started the[more] Gwatney Chevrolet Junior Legion Invitational Classic the way it finished the Lakeside Tournament:
Blake Patterson hammered two doubles and a home run, driving in four runs as the Sox drilled nine hits on the way to a 12-3 win over the Cabot Junior team at Dupree Park's Hickingbotham Field on Wednesday.
Evan Lee added two hits at the plate and hummed a three-hitter at Cabot, striking out 10 in the five-inning contest. Two of Cabot’s runs were unearned.
“I thought we played very well,” said Sox manager Tyler Brown. “We came out and got on them early with six runs and Evan just threw a heck of a game. He got stronger as the game progressed. His fastball, his velo (velocity) was as high as it’s been probably all year. It was just a strong, strong outing.
“Obviously, we played all right on defense,” he added. “That’s something we need to work on but we’re here to get better. We’re here to have a good time and win a lot of games. It’s going to be a fun summer.”
The Everett team improved to 6-0 so far including the five-game sweep to the Lakeside tournament championship. They’re set to continue pool play at Jacksonville on Friday at 7:45 p.m., against a team from Conway. They’ll conclude pool play on Saturday at 6 p.m., against Jacksonville. The top two teams from each four-team pool will advance to bracket play on Sunday.
“We’ve got all nine guys squaring the ball up,” Brown stated. “We’re getting that lead-off runner on and that’s helping out big time. The lead-off hitter gets on and it’s just contagious from there.”
Patterson nearly cleared the right-field fence in that six-run first for the Sox. Cabot starter Seth Cummings struggled with his control initially, issuing walks to Drew Tipton and Dalton Holt. At that point, the game was interrupted by a brief but heavy rain. When play resumed, Tipton and Holt pulled off a double steal and when Lee drew ball four, it got away from the Cabot catcher and allowed Tipton to score.
Lee swiped second and, a pitch later, Patterson unloaded with a high, deep drive that hit off the high fence in right for a two-run double.
A walk to Brandan Warner revved things up again for the Sox. With one out, Harrison Dale cracked a double that plated two, making it 5-0. Connor Tatum followed with a long fly to center. Dale tagged and went to third and, when the throw got past the third baseman, he scored.
Braden Jarnigan led off the bottom of the first with a walk on a close 3-2 pitch. He stole second, took third on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Josh Kelpine. As Lee struc out Kayde Ridgeway, Kelpine stole second. He was able to score from there when a ball hit by Jaret Pitchford was misplayed.
Lee walked Liwo Garcia on another close 3-2 pitch but then found his stride, retiring eight of the next 10 batters.
Meanwhile, the Sox were adding to the lead. In the second, Patterson stroked a two-out double to left-center. He scored when Warner’s grounder to short drew a wild throw. A passed ball, a wild pitch and another passed ball allowed Warner to eventually score as Bailey Bowers was drawing a walk.
Cabot changed pitchers and Ridgeway recorded the third out.
But, in the third, he too ran into trouble. With two down, Tipton walked, Holt smacked a solid single to left and, after a wild pitch moved them up a base, Lee ripped a single to right-center to chase them both in. On the very next pitch, Patterson blasted his homer to right, making it 12-2.
Lee worked around a hit batsman and a two-out error in the fourth. In the fifth, a pair of bloop hits and a third-strike passed ball produced Cabot’s third run. But Lee wound up with four strikeouts in the inning as he went on to fan Tyler Flower, Jack Teague and Caleb Harpole to end the game.