By Rob Patrick
Arm-weary from the six-games-in-three-days run to the championship of the Southwest Illinois[more] Firecracker Classic in Alton, Ill., over the weekend, the Bryant Black Sox Senior American Legion team got a lift from the moundwork of Chase Tucker, Cody Gogus and Austin Caldwell Tuesday night. Tucker and Gogus combined to shut out Pine Bluff Simmons First Bank on three hits over seven innings. Caldwell, in his first appearance on the bump this season, surrendered a pair of unearned runs in the eighth but retired the last five batters he faced to close out the 11-2 win.
The meeting between the former Zone 4 rivals was originally set to be a doubleheader of seven inning games but because the Bankers too were running low on pitching, the managers agreed to play one nine-inning game.
Through seven, the Sox held an 8-0 lead but couldn’t get that 10th tally to make it a run-rule win until after Simmons scored its two in the top of the eighth. A three-run home eighth completed the scoring.
Tucker and Trevor Ezell accounted for three hits apiece as nine of the 13 players that got in the game for Bryant had at least one hit. The Sox finished with 15 hits as they improved to 26-3-1 on the season going into tonight’s scheduled twinbill with Fort Smith Kerwins at UCA’s Bears Field in Conway.
In four innings, Tucker struck out eight, walked two and allowed two hits. Gogus surrendered one hit and fanned three in three frames. Caldwell added a strikeout in his two innings. Five of Pine Bluff’s first six outs came on Tucker strikeouts.
Landon Colson had a double with two out in the second for the Bankers’ first hit. Tucker worked around a one-out walk in the third with the help of a spectacular diving catch of a shallow fly to center by Hayden Daniel.
The right-hander’s most impressive work may have been in the fourth when Justin Dardenne cracked a lead-off triple and never scored. V.J. Dickson walked. After Tucker fanned Garrett Dedmon, Colson came to the plate. Tucker fired a pickoff throw to Ezell at third as Dickson broke for first. Ezell came off the bag to get to the throw quicker, seeing Dickson’s break. He fired to second baseman Korey Thompson as Dardenne broke for the plate. Thompson, in the same way, came off the bag to snatch the ball quickly and fired to Zach Graddy at the plate in time for the tag on Dardenne.
With Dickson at second, Tucker struck out Colson on a 3-2 pitch to send it to the fourth.
Gogus picked up defensive help from Ozzie Hurt at short and Ezell at third as he retired nine of the 11 batters he faced.
The Sox scored two runs in the first, two more in the third and four in the fourth to build their early advantage. Ezell led off the bottom of the first with a monster shot that hit at the base of the fence in center field nearly 400 feet away and dashed around the bases for a stand-up triple, his eighth of the season. Hurt sliced a single to right to bring him home.
The first of two hits by Marcus Wilson sent Hurt to third and, though Wilson was thrown out trying to steal, Hayden Lessenberry laced a single to left to make it 2-0.
In the third, Wilson drew a walk and scored all the way from first when Lessenberry blasted a drive to deep left-center for a double. Tucker’s second hit, a single to right put runners at the corners and, after Tucker stole second, a wild pitch allowed Lessenberry to score to make it 4-0. With Tucker at third and two out, Graddy was robbed of a hit on a sparkling play at second by Pine Bluff’s Josh Dardenne.
The Sox chased Simmons starter Justin Dardenne in the fourth. Thompson and Ezell smacked singled up the middle and, after Hurt sacrificed, Wilson plugged the right-center gap for the Sox second triple of the game.
Dickson relieved but, with two down, Daniel walked and stole second, setting the stage for Tucker’s third hit, a two-run single to center, making it 8-0.
Dickson settled in and worked around a walk in the fifth and Daniel’s infield hit in the sixth.
The Sox made a bid to make it a run-rule win in the seventh when Graddy and Ezell singled around a walk to Thompson but a doubleplay ended the threat and the game continued.
Caldwell retired the first batter he faced in the top of the eighth then surrendered singles to Josh Dardenne and Nick Hefley. The second hit was bobbled in the outfield allowing the runners to move to second and third. They both scored when Justin Dardenne’s grounder drew an errant throw to first.
After a visit to the mound by Bryant manager Darren Hurt, Caldwell issued a walk to Dickson after a long battle at 3-2 but then struck out Dedman and got the last out on a comebacker to the mound.
Bryant’s eighth commenced with walks to Tyler Nelson and Harrison Dale after Drew Tipton had scorched a liner right at the right-fielder, Chris Bryan. Dickson gave way to Taylor Stintt. On his third pitch, Gogus rifled a liner down the left-field line for an RBI double.
Walks to Caldwell and Graddy forced in the second run then Gogus scored when Thompson rolled into a force at second, making it 11-2.
Caldwell used 12 pitches to get the final three outs in the top of the ninth.
BRYANT 11, PINE BLUFF SIMMONS FIRST 2
Simmons ab r h bi Black Sox ab r h bi
Jo.Dardenne, 2b 4 1 1 0 Ezell, 3b 6 2 3 0
Hefley, ss 4 1 1 0 Hurt, ss-rf 4 1 1 1
Ju.Dardenne, p-3b 4 0 1 1 Wilson, lf 2 2 2 2
Dickson, 3b-p-1b 2 0 0 0 Tipton, lf-cf 2 0 0 0
Dedmon, cf 4 0 0 0 Lessenberry, 1b 3 1 2 2
Colson, c 2 0 1 0 Nelson, 1b-ss 1 1 0 0
Williams, c 2 0 0 0 Daniel, cf 3 1 1 0
Barker, lf 4 0 0 0 Dale, lf 0 1 0 0
Stintt, 1b-p 4 0 0 0 Tucker, p 3 0 3 2
Bryan, rf 3 0 1 0 Gogus, p-1b 2 1 1 1
Caldwell, rf-p 4 0 0 0
Graddy, c 2 0 1 1
Thompson, 2b 4 1 1 1
Totals 33 2 5 1 Totals 36 11 15 10
Pine Bluff 000 000 020 — 2
BRYANT 202 400 03x — 11
E—Hurt, Dale, Nelson. DP—Pine Bluff 1. LOB—Pine Bluff 7, Bryant 11. 2B—Colson, Lessenberry, Gogus. 3B—Ezell, Wilson. SB—Daniel 2, Tucker. S—Hurt.
Pitching ip r er h bb so
Ju.Dardenne (L) 3.1 7 7 10 2 1
Dickson 4 3 3 3 5 1
Stintt 0.2 1 1 1 2 0
Tucker 4 0 0 2 2 8
Gogus (W) 3 0 0 1 0 3
Caldwell 2 2 0 2 1 1
Balk—Tucker. WP—Ju.Dardenne 2.