By Rob Patrick
SHERIDAN — Though it may not be much consolation right now, the fact that the Sport Shop Black Sox of Bryant played at the Junior American Legion level this season will only make them better. You see, the Junior Division is 17-and-under but the Sport Shop team was almost entirely 15- and 16-year-old players competing for the first time in Legion.
But that’s the long view. For now, the Sox are recovering from the abrupt end to their season. Their final game was Monday’s 6-2 loss to a Hot Springs Village team they had defeated 9-1 to start the season and 5-2 in the middle of the season, the second game of their 10-game win streak.
One nightmare inning cost them.
Hot Springs Village scored five times on just one hit. In fact, the pitching trio of C.J. Phillips, Austin Caldwell and Justin Emmerling only allowed three HSV hits in the entire game.
Two of those hits came to nothing in the first inning except the first one, a sinking liner to right took a bad hop and smacked right-fielder Weston Jones in the face, forcing him out of the game. Perhaps that was an omen.
Cody Jones doubled to lead off the second and that proved to be the last hit of the game for the Villagers. Jones scored on a wild throw to first that allowed Colby Spoon to reach base and advance to second. Spoon stole third and, after working a walk, Austin Sutterfield stole second.
The runners had to hold on a grounder to third by Carson Chandler. But then both scored on yet another errant throw on an infield grounder. Andrew Barber reached base on the play and advanced to second on a relay that sailed into the outfield.
Barber stole third and came in on yet another misfire.
Tyler Dauber walked and swiped his way to third. The Sox appeared to have him picked off but another misguided toss allowed him to score to make it 5-0.
Phillips ended the debacle by striking out Chase Anderson and Tyler Robertson.
“I think they were trying to do too much,” commented Sox manager Tyler Pickett of the uncharacteristic defensive breakdowns. “They know we’ve played this team twice during the season and we beat them pretty handily. So I think what it came down to was they were a little tight, trying to do a little too much.
“They saw that (Hot Springs Village) had brought in some of their swing players,” he added, referring to (17-year-old) players that also played up with the HSV AA (19-and-under) team. “I think they felt like they had to do more early to try to get on top. But that’s baseball. It happens sometimes.”
With Caldwell in to relieve, the Villagers added a run without a hit in the third when Hunter Mayfield walked, stole second, took third on a wild pitch and scored on a groundout to second by Spoon.
They only managed two base-runners after that as Caldwell worked through the sixth inning and Emmerling pitched a 1-2-3 seventh.
The Sox were just as snake-bitten at the plate. Some of their hardest hit balls were right at defenders and three of them wound up being turned into doubleplays. In the first, Drew Tipton reached on an error but, with one out, Hunter Oglesby shot a grounder to short that became a doubleplay highlighted by a tough pivot and throw by Barber at second.
After the rugged top of the first, the Sox got a break when, with one out, Dakota Besancon’s grounder to second drew a wild throw. Jimbo Seale came up and ripped a liner that Robertson, the Hot Springs Village pitcher, somehow grabbed. He tossed to first for an inning-ending doubleplay.
Robertson worked around a one-out single by Caldwell in the third with Dalton Holt mashing a liner that carried out to center. Tipton made a bid for a bloop hit to right but was robbed on a nice play by Dauber.
With Caldwell in the process of setting down nine in a row, the Sox cracked the goose egg in the fourth but only after another doubleplay. This time, Blake Patterson had walked and Oglesby mashed a line drive. But it went right to Barber who whipped it to first for the second out.
Phillips kept the inning going with a single to right then Besancon lofted a fly to shallow center. The Sox caught a rare break when Spoon came in to try to make the grab but got tripped up and fell. Though he very nearly still made the catch as he tried to scramble to his feet. Phillips raced to third and when he saw Besancon take a big turn at first, Spoon fired a throw behind him. But it got past Sutterfield, the first baseman, and Phillips hustled home. Besancon took second on the play then was awarded third on a balk by Robertson.
That brought up Seale who fouled off five 2-2 pitches before grounding to third. Jones’ throw to first narrowly nipped him to end the inning.
Robertson worked around a two-out single by Holt in the fifth. In the sixth, Oglesby finally got one to go through for a one-out single. He took second on a wild pitch and stole third. With two down, Besancon reached on an error as Oglesby scored to make it 6-2.
Down to their last three outs, the Sox made a bid at a comeback when Emmerling reached on a one-out error. With two down, Tipton shot a single up the middle but a grounder to second resulted in the final out.
The Sox finished the season with a 15-7 record.
“The kids played hard,” said Pickett, a former Black Sox player who managed in Legion for the first time this season with the help of his dad, Phil. “They did great. I couldn’t ask for any more. Most of our games were against older guys this year. I think we were three games over .500 when we played AA teams. I enjoyed coaching these guys. My dad enjoyed it. We had a good time.”
HOT SPRINGS VILLAGE SALLY'S BODY SHOP 6, BRYANT SPORT SHOP BLACK SOX 2
Junior American Legion
Sally's ab r h bi Black Sox ab r h bi
Barber, 2b 4 1 0 0 Tipton, 2b 4 0 1 0
Dauber, rf 3 1 0 0 Patterson, ss 3 0 0 0
Anderson, ss 4 0 1 0 Oglesby, cf 3 1 1 0
Robertson, p 3 0 1 0 Phillips, p-rf 2 1 1 0
Mayfield, c 2 1 0 0 Chaffin, rf 1 0 0 0
Jones, 3b 2 1 1 0 Besancon, 3b 3 0 1 0
Spoon, cf 2 1 0 1 Seale, c 3 0 0 0
Sutterfield, 1b 2 1 0 0 Dupree, 1b 2 0 0 0
Chandler, lf 3 0 0 0 Kincaid, 1b 1 0 0 0
Jones, rf 0 0 0 0
Fredriksson, rf 0 0 0 0
Caldwell, p 2 0 1 0
Emmerling, p 1 0 0 0
Holt, lf 2 0 1 0
Mays, ph 1 0 0 0
Totals 25 6 3 1 Totals 28 2 5 0
Hot Springs Village 051 000 0 — 6
BRYANT SPORT SHOP 000 101 0 — 2
E—Jones, Phillips 3, Besancon, Seale, Barber, Sutterfield 3. DP—Hot Springs Village 3. LOB—Hot Springs Village 4, Bryant 6. 2B—Jones. SB—Robertson, Spoon, Sutterfield 2, Barber, Dauber 2, Mayfield, Caldwell, Oglesby. S—Spoon.
Pitching ip r er h bb so
Hot Springs Village
Robertson (W) 7 2 0 5 1 4
Phillips (L) 2 5 0 3 2 4
Caldwell 4 1 1 0 2 3
Emmerling 1 0 0 0 0 1
Balk—Robertson. WP—Caldwell 2, Robertson.
Sport Shop Sox' season ends