Senior Sox tune-up for Atlanta tourney with win over Vipers

On the eve of their trip to the Perfect Game-East Cobb 17-and-under showcase in the Atlanta, Ga., area, the Bryant Black Sox made a late add to their schedule, taking on Zone rival Little Rock Post 1 Vipers on a blazing Saturday afternoon at Bryant High School Field.

Sox manager Darren Hurt wanted to get some of his pitchers a little more work ahead of the tourney and hit hitters a few more swings against someone really trying to get them out.

The result was that four hurlers got into the game and the Sox hammered out eight hits to take advantage of 12 walks, a hit batsman and a pair of errors for an 11-6 victory.

A six-run fifth snapped a 3-3 tie and broke open the game. The uprising was a result of six of the walks, a hit batsman, an error and two hits — a two-run single by Gage Stark that snapped the 3-3 tie, and a two-run double with the bases loaded by Logan Chambers.

Logan Grant, who pitched two scoreless innings in relief of starter Will McEntire picked up the win. Coby Greiner threw a strong fifth but got banged around a bit in the sixth, allowing three runs on four hits and two errors. Logan Catton pitched a 1-2-3 seventh.

“Once again, it wasn’t the prettiest thing but, yes, we wanted to throw those guys,” said Hurt, whose team improved to 3-0. “We really were only going to throw three guys and then, pitch counts — our pitch counts are going through the roof. It’s like full count all the time.”

McEntire threw 46 pitches in his two frames, allowing three unearned runs on two hits. Grant threw 31, Greiner 32 and Catton just 10.

“We’re just not working ahead, not throwing to contact early in counts,” the manager explained. “And rust — I’ve been with the Junior team a bunch and we just haven’t been throwing like we need to be. So, going forward, we’re going to do a better job of making sure that — they just look rusty to me. Since high school, there was a little time off there and we haven’t played as much. I think there’s a little rust.

“I think they’ll be fine but they’re nibbling, and it seems like every time I look up we’re in a full count,” he reiterated. “And every time I look down, we’re at 30-something pitches and I’m going, ‘We’ve gotten four outs. What’s going on here?’”

Like most teams, the Sox are getting their pitchers back in the groove but, despite the long counts, they’ve been avoiding the kind of free passes that their opponents are handing out. In three games, the Black Sox have waited out a total of 26 bases on balls.

But Hurt liked the way the team hit the ball when they got the chance. After winning despite just three hits over Cabot, they got 10 in their win over Benton and eight more on Saturday.

“Again, I thought we had some good A.B.’s,” Hurt said. “We strung together some hits, had some big innings. So, I was pleased.”

Chambers and Stark each had two hits in the game.

In the top of the first, the Vipers took a 3-0 lead. Michael Covens reached on an error to start the contest then Kyle Clayton drew a walk. McEntire induced a comebacker from Andrew Howard and got a force at third. The relay to first was not in time.

McEntire fanned clean-up hitter Shelby Quiggens but, on the very next pitch, River Hunt singled to right to put his team ahead 1-0.

A two-run single by Cameron Johnson followed to make it 3-0 before McEntire struck out Grayson Troutman to end the inning.

And Bryant countered with three to tie in the bottom of the inning. Chambers socked a double that one-hopped the fence in right. He went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Greiner.

Another wild pitch by Little Rock starter Jordan Graham put Greiner in scoring position. Jake Wright rifled a single up the middle then a walk to Peyton Dillon loaded the bases for Myers Buck, who got behind in the count 0-2, worked it back to 2-2 then ripped a single up the middle to make it 3-2.

Though Stark grounded into a doubleplay, Wright scored the tying run.

McEntire hit a batter to open the second but retired the next three. Stark made a nice running catch of a liner to left to end the frame.

In turn, Graham pitched around a pair of walks with the help of his right-fielder, Clayton, who robbed Chambers of another hit.

Grant fanned two as he worked around an infield hit in the top of the third then Graham retired the side in order to send it to the fourth.

A two-out single by Andrew McDonald was erased by catcher Cade Drennan, who threw him out trying to steal to end the top of the fourth.

In the home half, Logan Catton lined a single two center with two away, hustling to second when the ball was bobbled in the outfield. Chambers walked before Hunt, who started the inning in relief, ended the threat with a strikeout.

Greiner issued a walk to Covens to start the fifth but, after a sacrifice by Clayton, retired Howard and Quiggens to keep it 3-3.

Bryant’s game-breaker commenced with a walk to Wright. With Wright on the move, Dillon walked on a 3-2 pitch in the dirt. An errant throw by Howard, the Little Rock catcher, allowed Wright to reach third.

Buck walked to load the bases for Stark who smashed a single to center to make it 5-3.

Drennan sacrificed runners to second and third and, after Ryan Lessenberry walked to load the bases, Catton waited for a free pass to force in a run.

That set the table for Chambers’ second double of the game, a two-run shot to nearly the same place his first one landed.

With runners at second and third, Greiner was hit by a pitch from Little Rock’s third hurler, Covens. A walk to Wright forced in the sixth run of the inning to make it 9-3.

Hunt doubled to start Little Rock’s sixth. Johnson singled then he and Hunt worked a double steal to get a run in. And when a return throw from Chambers back to the plate got away, Johnson wound up at third.

Jarvis Turner doubled to make it 9-5. He then got a slow start from second, waiting to see if Troutman’s drive to center would get down. So, he only made it to third on Troutman’s double. But another errant relay allowed Turner to score, nonetheless.

Greiner settled in after that, retiring the next three, ending the inning with a strikeout.

In the home sixth, the Sox got two of those runs back. Stark smacked his second hit, stole second and, after the count went to 2-0 on Drennan, the Vipers turned to their fourth pitcher, Ryan Lumpkin.

He completed the walk and Lessenberry got nearly perfect sacrifice bunt down towards third. Catton struck out on a wild pitch and reached base as Stark scored. Another wild pitch brought in Drennan to set the final score. Catton eased through the top of the seventh to finish it.

The Sox open play in Atlanta on Monday at 8:15 a.m., against the Triton Rays Prime 17U of Montgomery, Ala. On Tuesday at 2 p.m., they face the Signature Park Thrashers of Buford, Ga. They wrap up pool play on Wednesday at 2 against Team Georgia/MBA Gold of Marietta, Ga.

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