By Rob Patrick
HOT SPRINGS — Baseball is a team sport that’s marked by often outstanding individual[more] performances: A hitter has a big day; a pitcher shuts down an opponent; someone makes a game-saving defensive play.
On Saturday, various members of the Sport Shop Black Sox Junior American Legion team of Bryant had their moments but none was quite as significant as something that happened in the fifth inning of the team’s second game of the day:
Riley Hall got into the game.
Aug. 26, 2010, the Bryant 15-year-old Babe Ruth All-Stars were competing in the World Series in Monticello. Hall had pitched in the game.
Saturday was the first time he’d gotten into a game since.
In the 20 months in between, Hall struggled through a myriad of arm problems — shoulder, elbow, wrist, etc. — including surgeries, sidetracking a promising career in both baseball and basketball. He continued to stay involved and to work and to rehab through every malady until he finally was able to get back on the diamond on Saturday when he came up to pinch-hit for designated hitter Harrison Dale in the top of the fifth against the Lakeside Rams AA team.
And, wouldn’t you know? On the first pitch, he was hit. Fortunately, it was just a nick and he was rewarded first base. Before the game was through, Hall came to the plate again. Though he struck out to end the top of the seventh in a 2-2 game, his achievement — persevering through all he’s been through — was nonetheless impressive and noteworthy.
Otherwise, with just one game under their belts — a 9-1 win at Hot Springs Village — the Sox’ coaches Tyler Pickett and his dad Phil, were looking for a chance to get their hitters some live-action swings and their pitchers some meaningful innings after the annual Benton Memorial Day wood bat tournament to be held at Bauxite High School was canceled because some of the teams back out.
So the Sport Shop team joined the North Little Rock Colts Senior Legion team and Lakeside along with Little Rock Express for a jamboree of sorts at Lakeside High School on Saturday. And the Sox, mostly 15 and 16 year olds with a few older players who didn’t play in the spring sprinkled in, held their own against the 19-and-under teams from North Little Rock and Lakeside (though the Rams didn’t have any 19’s and were missing a couple of starters).
The Bryant team just couldn’t get much going against the 18-year-old pitchers that started both games. They were shut out by North Little Rock’s Jacob Stripling in an 8-0 loss in the opener, which was just 4-0 through five innings. They fared better against Lakeside’s combination of Logan Derosier and Garrett Garner, they absorbed a 3-2 loss when the Rams took advantage of an error in the bottom of the seventh. Tye Bland followed with a walk-off RBI single with one out.
The Sox were set to play Little Rock Express on Sunday to wrap up the weekend. They’re scheduled to travel to Texarkana to play Genoa Central in a doubleheader on Tuesday.
The Picketts were able to get six different pitchers some innings in Saturday’s two games.
In the nightcap, Andrew Kincaid and Justin Emmerling had the Rams shut out on just one hit through four innings. Kincaid had walked three and struck out two in his two innings of work. Emmerling gave up a hit in the third and a pair of walks in the fourth but fanned four along the way.
The Rams broke through with two in the fifth against Devin Dupree, who had earned a save for the Everett Black Sox AA team of Bryant in its 3-0 win over Hot Springs Village.
The right-hander settled in after a rocky start and forced the Rams to strand the go-ahead runs on first and second in the fifth. He then worked around a one-out hit in the sixth. But a throwing error to start the bottom of the seventh allowed DeRosier to reach second. Dupree bounced back by striking out Grant Carter but, on a 1-1 pitch, Bland slapped the game-winning single to right.
The Sox had taken a 2-0 lead in the third. DeRosier had worked around walks in each of the first two frames but started the third by hitting Dalton Holt with a pitch. The ball came up and in on Holt. He turned his head and the pitch hit him in the back of the helmet and left him shaken up. Weston Jones came in to run for him but DeRosier retired the next two batters before walked Cody Gogus on four pitches. Dale then worked on four straight as well.
With the bags packed, Dakota Besancon came up and worked the count to 3-1 before drilling a shot just inside the first-base bag for a two-run double.
Sport Shop threatened to add to the lead in the top of the fifth. With two out, Gogus looped a single to right and Hall was nipped. But DeRosier induced a grounder to second by Besancon to escape.
Josh Walker led off the bottom of the fifth with a double. He held at third on a single by Taylor Parker who took second on a throw that came through to the plate. An out later, Carter’s grounder to second brought Walker home. With two down, Cameron Winston singled in the tying run.
Though Garner was hit by a pitch to put runners at first and second, Dupree got Jared Keith to bounce out to Drew Tipton at second to keep it even.
Hunter Oglesby beat out an infield hit to start the top of the sixth and when a late throw evaded the first baseman, he took second. Trey Breeding sacrificed him to third but DeRosier, closing out a 107-pitch outing, retired the next two forcing the Sox to strand the go-ahead run at third.
In the first game, the Sox didn’t manage a hit until Jimbo Seale’s bad-hop single in the bottom of the fifth. With two down, Gogus ripped a pinch-hit double to put runners at second and third but Stripling escaped with a strikeout.
The Colts, who had out-slugged the Rams 14-7 earlier in the day, led 4-0 at that point. They’d managed a run in the first when shortstop John Chapman, a freshman at Harding University during the spring, walked and stole a base. Jones, the Bryant starter, retired the next two but clean-up hitter Dillon Richardson drove in the run with a single up the middle.
Richardson had gone 4-for-5 with a home run, two doubles and seven RBI’s in the win over Lakeside. He would drive in two against the Black Sox, giving him nine on the day.
In the bottom of the first, Stripling issued a two-out walk to Oglesby but then he picked him off first and proceeded to retire the next six in a row before Tipton reached on an error to lead off the fourth.
In the meantime, the Colts tacked on a run in the second. Stripling was hit by a pitch and, with one out, Daniel Hodge singled. Chapman walked to load the bases and, with two out, Tyson Tackett (who was 5-for-5 against Lakeside) drew an RBI pass to make it 2-0.
Jones got Richardson to foul out to Besancon at third, however, to end the inning.
Dale got his first moundwork of the Legion season starting in the third. He allowed a walk and a single but his teammates went around the horn for an inning-ending doubleplay to keep in 2-0.
In the top of the fourth, however, the Colts doubled the advantage. Hodge walked but was forced at second a grounder by Chapman. Though Chapman stole second, Dylan Huckeby lined out to Oglesby in center. But, an out away from ending the inning, Tackett dropped a single into right center to drive in a run. Richardson reached on an error that prolonged the inning for Ryan Johnson who singled to drive in the second tally of the inning.
Zach Cambron took the mound in the fifth for his first action since last summer. He eased through the fifth on three groundouts then retired the first two of the sixth before issuing a walk to Tackett that opened the floodgates. Richardson doubled in a run then Johnson beat out a swinging bunt for a hit. Michael Hodge’s RBI single up the middle made it 6-0.
Johnson scored when Stripling reached on a throwing error. Jack Hopkins capped the inning off with an RBI single into the hole at short. Blake Patterson made a nice play on the ball but had no time to make a throw.
Cambron regrouped and ended his stint on a good note as he fanned Daniel Hodge to send it to the bottom of the sixth.
But the Black Sox were retired in order by Stripling and the Colts as they improved to 3-0 on the season.