Sox score early and late to win opener at Battle of Omaha tourney
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OMAHA, Neb. — Nothing like a big first inning to take some[more] pressure off.
The Bryant Black Sox Senior American Legion team came into the prestigious Battle of Omaha tournament riding a modest three game-skid that had them bearing down a bit trying to get back on track.
So, when they erupted for seven runs in the opening frame on Thursday, it helped. Though the Castle View Sabercats of Colorado whittled on the margin and closed to within 7-6 late, the Sox added three in the top of the seventh and closer Dylan Cross worked around a hit batsman and a walk in the bottom of the inning to nail down the victory.
Today, the Sox were set to play two more games in pool play today, against Omaha Millard and Lincoln Northeast, a pair of Nebraska teams. Saturday, they complete pool play against the SoCal Victory of Corona, Calif., and the North St. Paul, Minn., 39ers.
Matt Neal picked up the victory in Thursday’s contest in relief of starter Tyler Brown. Brady Butler relieved Neal in the sixth then Cross took over, getting the third out of the sixth and working the scoreless seventh.
Tyler Nelson instigated and capped off the seven-run first for the Sox. Josh Pultro and Lucas Castleberry each had two-run doubles in the inning. Jordan Taylor had four hits in the game, including three doubles, and Hunter Mayall had three hits. Along with Nelson, Pultro, and Caleb Garrett each had two.
Nelson singled to right to get things started. Taylor followed with a double down the left-field line against Sabercats starter Trevor Smeeton. With one out, Mayall singled in the first run. Chris Joiner walked to load the bases for Pultro who drilled a double to right-center to knock in two. On the very next pitch, Castleberry plugged the same gap to bring home Joiner and Pultro, making it 5-0.
Hayden Lessenberry’s drive to left was misplayed putting runners at the corners. The Sox then worked a squeeze play with Garrett getting the bunt down as Castleberry scored. Nelson’s second single of the inning plated Lessenberry with the seventh run.
Brown surrendered a lead-off single to Ellis Kelly but then got Smeeton to bounce into an around-the-horn doubleplay started by Castleberry at third.
Smeeton worked around Mayall’s one-out single in the second and his teammates got on the board in the bottom of the inning. A single and stolen base set the table for Chris Cruz to knock in the run. But Brown picked Cruz off second for the first out which proved important when, with two outs, Tony Favilla walked and Alex Atwood singled. A bround out to third by Michael Paul ended the inning.
Smeeton pitched around a walk to Garrett in the third then was able to keep the Sox off the board despite Taylor’s second double and a single by Landon Pickett. Joiner bunted Pickett to second but Taylor had to hold and when Pultro skied to right, the Sox were retired.
In the fifth, Garrett singled with two out and stole second but was stranded. In the sixth, a doubleplay erased Taylor’s lead-off single. Mayall singled again but was left on.
In the meantime, the Sabercats kept gnawing on the Bryant margin. In the third, Kelly was hit by a pitch. With one out, Bryce Lich’s fly to right was misplayed and a run scored. Lich wound up at third then Chad Smka walked and stole second. Brown fanned Cruz but a balk allowed Lich to score. When Garrett Johnson walked, Neal came on to relieve, inducing a grounder from Favilla to retire the side.
Neal pitched around a two-out walk in the fourth to keep it 7-3. Lich cut a run off the margin with a lead-off homer in the fifth then it got tight in the sixth. Favilla was hit by a pitch and Atwood sacrificed him to second. He scored on a single by Ben Miele and Butler came on to relieve with the lead down the 7-5.
With two out, Smeeton singled in Miele and, after Lich walked, Cross came on. A wild pitch put runners at second and third but Cross got Smka to bounce to short to end the threat with the potential tying and lead runs in scoring position.
The Sox’ insurance runs in the seventh started with Pultro’s second hit, a single up the middle. Evan Jobe came on to run for him and moved to second when Castleberry was hit by a pitch. Lessenberry sacrificed them to second and third for Garrett who pulled a single into left to chase them both home.
Garrett took second on a late throw to the plate then stole third. An out later, Taylor’s third two-bagger brought him in to set the final score.