Pitching, defense key to Senior Sox’ run to Classic crown

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — In 46 innings during the 2017 Mid America Classic, Bryant Black Sox Senior American Legion team’s pitchers allowed runs in just three, that amounted to seven runs in seven games.

The Sox closed out that phenomenal performance on Sunday with two more shutouts to make it four at the event as they captured the championship of the tournament.

Aaron Orender spun a four-hit shutout in an 8-0 win over the Midwest Stix in the semifinal then Myers Buck, with seventh inning relief from Boston Heil, blanked Aces Baseball in a 5-0 victory in the championship game.

Jake East led the Sox with two hits and two runs batted in against Aces. He and Alex Shurtleff cracked triples in the game.

Meanwhile, Buck allowed just one hit in six innings, though he walked six as well while striking out seven. Heil set down the Aces in order, fanning the first two he faced in the final frame.

The Sox took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning. With two away, Shurtleff drew a free pass and Scott Schmidt singled to left. Buck helped his own cause by yanking one through the left side for a run-scoring single.

A single and a walk produced nothing for the Aces in the third before Bryant added on. East beat out an infield hit and stole second. With one out, Dylan Hurt drilled a single up the middle to drive him home.

Buck fanned two to overcome a pair of walks in the top of the fourth. He retried the side in order in the fifth as Seth Tucker at third, East at short and Shurtleff in right made the plays.

Two more fanned in the top of the sixth, which ended with a line out to East.

The Sox resumed the scoring when Shurtleff opened the bottom of the sixth with his triple. Buck walked and so did Grayson Prince to load the bases, setting up a force at each base.

The Aces got the second out but then East squared up a 2-1 pitch for a three-run triple that set the final score and took a lot of the tension out of the game.

In the win over the Stix, Orender allowed just four hits and a walk in six innings of shutout ball. He fanned four.

The Sox pounded out 15 hits including four by Schmidt, three by Logan Allen and two each from East and Tucker. Allen and Tucker each drove in a pair.

Bryant took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Allen singled and East chased him home with a triple. Tucker then singled to make it 2-0.

Orender, who pitched a 1-2-3 first, surrendered a double to lead off the second then retired the next three. East and Buck made a nifty play with one out. The runner at second tried to get to third on a grounder to East at short. He threw to Buck at third for the out.

The inning closed with Hurt, the Bryant catcher, throwing out the runner trying to steal second.

In the bottom of the second, the Sox increased the lead to 5-0. With one out, Schmidt lined a single to center and Buck slapped a single to right to send him to third. Prince yanked single to right to drive in Schmidt, then followed Buck home on Allen’s double to left.

Despite a walk and a single, Orender got through the third unscathed. With the final two outs of the inning, it started a stretch in which nine Stix batters were retired in order. A single with one out in the top of the sixth interrupted the run.

The Stix made a bid to score when, with two down, a single to left gave the lead runner a chance to go to third but Prince fired to Buck at third in time for the tag to end the inning.

Bryant threatened to add to the 5-0 lead in the fourth when Allen singled and, with two down, walks were issued to Tucker and Hurt. But they were stranded.

The Sox, nevertheless, made it a run-rule win in the bottom of the sixth. A one-out single by East was followed by Tucker’s triple. Hurt singled to make it 7-0.

With courtesy runner Jeffrey Hastings in for Hurt, Orender ripped a single up the middle. Shurtleff grounded into a force at third but, moments later, Schmidt’s fourth hit drove in Orender to make it 8-0.

Now 28-5, the Sox will resume play on Friday at the Senior American Legion State Tournament in Conway. They’ll take on Mountain Home at 7 p.m., on the field at Hendrix College.

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