Senior Black Sox close out Zone 4 tournament championship

 Photo courtesy of Robbie Rutherford

By Rob Patrick

SHERIDAN — As is often the case, the championship of the Zone 4 District Tournament was[more] a bit of an anti-climax. The Bryant Black Sox had secured their bid in the Senior American Legion State Tournament on Sunday with a dramatic 3-2 win over the TEXAR Federal Credit Union Razorbacks of Texarkana. And moments before taking on the Sox in the tourney championship game at Oliver Williams Field on Monday, TEXAR had secured its bid to State with a 9-5 win over Benton McClendon’s in the losers bracket final.

To give the Razorbacks the benefit of the doubt, they were probably low on fresh arms and tired from the win over Benton, perhaps out of steam, sapped of energy and not really looking forward to a return to Sheridan on Tuesday for an “if” game, which would have occurred had they defeated Bryant.

In a little more cynical terms, it might be too that the Hogs got a look at the brackets for State and liked the Zone 4 runner-up pairings better than the Zone 4 winners match-up and just kind of went through the motions with the Sox.

Whatever the case — and it was probably some of all of the above — Bryant was able to pile up a 16-0 lead by the end of the third inning and wound up with an 18-3 run-rule win in seven innings of the scheduled nine-inning contest.

The Sox, now 34-3-1, captured their second straight Zone tournament championship over the Razorbacks. They will try to repeat as State champs at the tournament in Mountain Home starting this Friday. They’ll play the second game of the opening day against a runner-up team from either Zone 1 or Zone 2, probably around 12:30 p.m. Texarkana will play at 4 p.m., against the Zone 2 champion.

The teams at State will be vying to advance to the Southwest Regional Tournament, which will be held at Burns Park in North Little Rock this year.

On Monday, it probably didn’t help the enthusiasm of the Razorbacks that Sox right-hander Tryce Schalchlin was easing through their lineup. Schalchlin retired the first 11 Texarkana batters before surrendering an infield hit to Kyle Duncan and a walk to Jackson Murphy in the fourth. With a strikeout of Dalton Willige, he completed four shutout innings as his teammates piled up the early lead.

Texarkana was plagued by poor fielding in Sunday’s game and the same was true on Monday. Two errors in the first helped Bryant jump to a 4-0 lead. Trevor Ezell, who was 4 for 5 on the night with four runs batted in, beat out an infield hit to start the home first, taking second on an errant throw. Ozzie Hurt bunted and legged out a single as Ezell took third.

Hurt, Hayden Lessenberry, Tyler Nelson, Hayden Daniel and Cody Gogus each had two hits for the Sox.

Another error allowed Marcus Wilson to reach as Ezell scored then Lessenberry drilled a double to left-center to make it 3-0. He would score moments alter on Chase Tucker’s sacrifice fly.

An eight-run second removed any remnant of suspense remaining about the outcome of the game. Gogus doubled to start the inning and took third on Korey Thompson sacrifice bunt. And when the ball was mishandled by Duncan, the first baseman, Thompson was on as well.

Ezell mashed a triple to make it 6-0. With one out, Wilson walked and Lessenberry laced his second two-run double in as many innings. Tyler Nelson singled and Tucker was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Daniel, whose grounder up the middle was knocked down by Texarkana shortstop Trevor Rucker but he had no play as Lessenberry scored.
Gogus capped the inning with a two-run single to left, making it 12-0.

Four more scored in the third. Wilson singled and when Zach Graddy hit a grounder to short, an errant flip to second trying to get a force resulted in runners at first and second. Nelson sliced an RBI single to left then Tucker loaded them up again with a base hit.

Brandon White replaced Texarkana starter Luke Maguire and, on his first pitch, he hit Daniel to force in Graddy. Gogus walked to get Nelson in and, after a 5-2-3 doubleplay, Ezell stroked a single to left, knocking in Daniel to make it 16-0.

Texarkana scored a run in the fifth on a walk to Jonathan Boucher, a two-out double by Nathan Stubber and an RBI single from Maguire.

In the bottom of the fifth, walks to Daniel and Thompson set the stage for Ozzie Hurt’s two-run single for Bryant’s final runs.

Bryant manager Darren Hurt used the opportunity to get a couple of his pitchers some work as Schalchlin finished up. Nate Rutherford worked a scoreless sixth. Daniel, getting his first work in a while, surrendered a bloop single to Jake Garrett with one out. A catcher’s interference call negated what might’ve been a 1-6-3 game-ending doubleplay.

With two on, however, Maguire popped to Ezell at third but then Rucker and Duncan singled to drive in two before Daniel ended it mercifully by striking out Murphy.

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