Zone 4 Senior American Legion tournament: Benton McClendon’s 5, Little Rock Blue 4, 11 innings

By Rob Patrick

With a run in the top of the sixth, the Little Rock Post 1 Blue Senior American Legion team snapped a 3-3 tie with Benton McClendon's. And, with right-hander Taylor Brown apparently finding his stride on the mound and lefty Dustin Ward fresh for a close opportunity, it was beginning to look like victory was tantalizingly close at hand. In the bottom of the seventh, Brown struck out the first two he faced and appeared to be out of the inning when he got Steven Brooks to pop almost straight up. Catcher Joe Ramm discaded his mask and started tracking the ball up the first-base line as Brown came in from the mound, figuring to have a better angle on the ball. Both players were calling for it and, at the last second, both shied away thinking a collision was imminent. Ramm made a last-ditch lunge but the ball fell and Brooks was aboard.

As so often is the case in such situations, when one team gives another an extra out, it cost Little Rock Blue. A pitch later, Michael Long laced a liner into the left-field corner and the speedy Brooks rounded the bases to score the tying run. 

The game wound up going 11 innings before Benton snapped the tie, winning it 5-4 to end Blue's season and gain, for themselves, a chance to play Texarkana in the losers bracket final for a bid to the State Tournament.

Not bad for the No. 6 seed in the Zone 4 tourney.

But, with each additional inning the game took to play, the more advantage Texarkana gained as it waited for the victor in a game to be played afterwards. Each playing their fourth game in three days in anticipation of a fifth, both pitching staffs took a hit. 

And, sure enough, later that evening Texarkana advanced to the championship round of the Zone tournament and nailed down a trip to State with a 15-5 win over the scrappy Benton team.[more]

In a lot of ways, Benton's win over Little Rock Blue, however, was the most competitive and compelling of the tournament as the two teams battled into the 11th when singles by Seth Hobbs and Blake Childress with one out, set the stage for the winning run to score. With Brooks at the plate, the duo worked a double steal and when ball four to Brooks was wild, Hobbs scored the game-winner.

It was a tough loss for Blue which had a chance to increase its lead in the top of the seventh. Brown singled and, when Michael Marsh was robbed of a hit on a liner to Hobbs at short, a wild throw to first, in an effort to double off Brown sailed, allowing him to go the third. But he was stranded there when Jace Mitchell, the third of four Benton pitchers, got Davis Ward to fly out to center.

After Benton tied it, Blue had a golden opportunity to regain the lead in the top of the ninth, loading the bases with no one out as Mitchell's knuckleball began dancing a little too much. Daron Watson walked, Dustin Ward was hit by a pitch and Taylor Brown walked. Nathan Pirl, the winning pitcher in Benton's opening win over Pine Bluff Simmons on Friday, came on to face Marsh. And he induced a grounder to third where Beau Fulcher fielded it and fired home for a force. In turn, Long rifled a throw to first for a doubleplay that took a lot of starch out of the Little Rock team. Still, with runners at second and third, Blue had runners in scoring postion only to have Pirl strike out Davis Ward to send it to the bottom of the ninth.

Pirl retired all eight batters he faced. 

Dustin Ward, on in relief to start the eighth for Blue, had worked around a walk in the eight then worked a 1-2-3 ninth, striking out two and getting a nice play in support of him by John Gray at second to send it into extra innings.

Ward worked around a pair of singles in the 10th but couldn't get out of the jam in the 11th while Pirl was sitting down the Little Rock batters in order in the 10th and 11th.

Blue had scored first in the game when, in the top of the first, Tyler Brown walked, Watson reached on an error and, with two down, Marsh singled up the middle to make it 1-0. But when Watson tried to score as well, he was thrown out at the plate by Brooks, the center fielder.

Seth Hobbs tied it in the bottom of the inning with a solo homer to left. Moments later, Childress reached on a third-strike in the dirt that drew a wild throw to first. From second, Childress stole third as Brooks walked. Long followed with a shot off the instep of Taylor Brown's right foot and Childress scored to make it 2-1.

For his part, Brown shook off the pain and continued, turning in seven solid innings.

Blue regained the lead in the third and Brown contributed there too. Tyler Brown led off with a triple to right-center then Watson drove one over Brooks' head in center for an RBI double. An out later, Taylor Brown singled to bring in Watson, giving Blue a 3-2 lead. Marsh followed with a single but starter Ashton Wilson got the final out to keep it a one-run game.

Benton tied it in the fifth. Childress singled and Brooks beat out a bunt for a hit. Long walked to load the bases and when Fulcher grounded into a doubleplay, Childress scored to tie the game.

Blue came right back to regain the lead against hunter Besancon, on in relief of Wilson. Davis Ward was hit by a pitch then Ben Anderson beat out a bunt hit. Ramm was hit by a pitch to load the bases then Besancon plunked Gray to force in a run.

But that's all Blue could get out of the inning, much to their frustration. Tyler Brown followed with a long fly to center. Anderson tagged and scored but, on appeal, it was ruled that he left third too soon and, after Watson flew out to center, Little Rock Blue had to settle for one run.

After issuing the walk then getting the doubleplay in the fifth, Taylor Brown retired seven batters in a row before Brooks reached on the dropped pop in the seventh.


11 innings

Senior American Legion

Little Rock Blue ab r h bi McClendon's ab r h bi

Ty.Brown, ss-c 5 2 1 0 S.Hobbs, ss 5 2 2 1

Watson, lf 5 1 1 1 Childress, rf-lf-2b  6 1 2 0

Du.Ward, cf-p 4 0 0 0 Brooks, cf 5 1 1 0

Ta.Brown, p-1b 4 0 3 1 Long, c 4 0 3 2

Marsh, 1b-p 5 0 2 1 Fulcher, 3b 5 1 1 0

Da.Ward, 3b 4 1 0 0 Bates, lf 1 0 0 0

Anderson, rf 3 0 1 0 Green, ph 1 0 0 0

Speed, rf-cf 2 0 0 0 Besancon, p-lf 2 0 0 0

Ramm, c 2 0 0 0 Wilson, p-rf 4 0 1 0

Andress, ss 1 0 0 0 R.Hobbs, 1b 4 0 0 0

Gray, 2b 3 0 0 1 Mitchell, 2b-p 4 0 0 0

Pirl, p 1 0 0 0

Totals 38 4 8 4 Totals 41 5 10 3

LR Blue 102 001 000 00 — 4

Benton 200 010 100 01 — 5

One out when winning run scored.

E—S.Hobbs 2, Ramm, Anderson, Ta.Brown. DP—LR Blue 1, Benton 1. LOB—LR Blue 11, Benton 8. 2B—Watson, Long. 3B—Ty.Brown. HR—S.Hobbs. SB—Du.Ward, Gray, Watson, Childress, S.Hobbs. S—Bates.

Pitching ip r er bb so

LR Blue

Ta.Brown 7 4 2 7 4 8

Du.Ward (L) 3.1 1 1 4 1


Wilson 5 3 3 6 2 4

Besancon 1.1 1 1 2 0 0

Mitchell 1.2 0 0 0 2 2

Pirl (W) 3 0 0 0 0 3

HBP—Ramm (by Wilson), Da.Ward, Ramm, Gray (by Besancon), Du.Ward (by Mitchell). PB—Ramm. 

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