Zone 4 Senior American Legion tournament: Benton McClendon’s 5, Pine Bluff Simmons 0

By Rob Patrick

With the help of some stellar defense including three doubleplays in the last three innings, Nathan Pirl and Austin Pfeiffer tossed a six-hit shutout as sixth-seeded Benton McClendon's surprised third-seeded Pine Bluff Simmons, 5-0, Friday in the opening game of the 2009 Zone 4 Tournament in Bryant.

Benton advances to play the second-seeded TexAr Razorbacks on Saturday at 10 a.m. Pine Bluff will play an elimination game at 7 p.m., against the loser of the Bryant-Little Rock Blue game which will be played at 1.

Pirl allowed only an infield hit to Brandon Arnold in the first inning then didn't give up another hit until one out in the sixth. During one stretch, he retired 13 of 14 batters. In the meantime, his teammates built a 4-0 lead.[more]

Benton snapped a scoreless deadlock with a run in the third off Pine Bluff starter Jeffrey Hayes. With one out, Ashton Wilson walked and stole second. After Seth Hobbs lined out to Garrett Lee in center, Hayes came within a strike of escaping the inning. But Blake Childress just got enough of a 1-2 delivery to roll it between third and short for an RBI single.

A pair of errors allowed Benton to load the bases but Hayes induced a grounder to second by Steven Brooks and got out of the inning with no further damage.

In the fourth, however, a lead-off walk to Brandt Abbott got Benton going again. Beau Fulcher singled to left then Riley Hobbs popped out to Hayes who nearly doubled off Abbott, who was hobbling, at second. Tanner Bates came on to run for Abbott and, after Wilson walked again to load the bases, Seth Hobbs' sacrifice fly brought Bates home. Childress walked to load the bags again and Michael Long took advantage by rifling a double down the left-field line to plate two more.

Hayes forced Benton to strand runners at second and third then worked a scoreless fifth despite a single by Bates. Matt Harbison took over in the sixth and retired the side in order. 

Pirl had hit a batter and walked one around Arnold's single in the first but was rescued by eye-popping plays by the Hobbs brothers on a roller to short by Blake Sorrey. Seth made the play at short and Riley scooped a throw in the dirt to retire the side.

Pine Bluff didn't threaten again until the sixth when Jesse Blackstock drew a lead-off walk and, an out later, Arnold drew a free pass. Harbison singled sharply to center to load the bases but Pirl struck out Sorrey and got Lee to tap back to the mound to preserve the shutout.

Harbison pitched around a one-out single by Pfeiffer in the top of the seventh then the Bankers endured their most frustrating inning of the game. Hunter Reed led off the home seventh with a single. He swiped second then Thomas Strahan walked. A base hit by Landon Hardin loaded the bases with no one out. But Pirl got Blackstock to bounce back to the mound and he started a 1-2-3 doubleplay that took the starch out of Pine Bluff's threat. Nick Cox was then robbed of a hit by Pfeiffer at third with Hobbs making another nice scoop at first as the shutout held.

Harbison kept Benton from expanding the lead in the top of the eight and, in the bottom of the inning, an infield hit by Arnold and a pitch out of the zone to Harbison brought a change on the mound. Pfeiffer took over and got Harbison to bounce into a force at second. Sorrey drew a walk but Lee's liner was picked out of the air by Seth Hobbs at short. He stepped on the bag to double off Harbison and that threat was over.

Benton tacked on an insurance run in the top of the ninth and might've had more. Seth Hobbs singled sharply past Sorrey at third then stole second. Childress bounced a single to left that brought Hobbs around to score. But, on appeal, it was ruled that he missed third on his way and he was ruled out.

Nevertheless, singles by Long and Pfeiffer loaded the bases and when Brooks was hit by a pitch, it forced in the run. With the bags juiced, however, Harbison regained control of the situation, striking out Bates and getting Fulcher to ground to third to end the inning.

Reed singled to start the bottom of the ninth, giving the Bankers some hope. But, after Strahan flew out to Wilson in right, Hardin's one-hopper back to the mound resulted in a force and when Reed was ruled to have interfered with the relay to first, a doubleplay resulted, ending the game.


Zone 4 Senior American Legion Tournament

McClendon's ab r h bi Simmons First ab r h bi

S.Hobbs, ss 4 0 2 1 Hardin, lf  5 0 1 0

Childress, lf 3 1 2 1 Blackstock, ss 2 0 0 0

Long, c 5 0 2 2 Cox, c 4 0 0 0

Pfeiffer, 3b-p 5 0 2 0 Arnold, dh-1b 3 0 2 0

Brooks, cf 4 0 1 1 Harbison, rf-p 3 0 1 0

Abbott, dh 0 0 0 0 Sorrey, 3b 2 0 0 0

Bates, pr-dh 3 1 1 0 Lee, cf 4 0 0 0

Fulcher, 2b 5 1 2 0 Reynolds, 1b 2 0 0 0

R.Hobbs, 1b 4 0 0 0 Reed, rf 2 0 2 0

A.Wilson, rf 2 2 0 0 J.Wilson, 2b 2 0 0 0

Pirl, p 0 0 0 0 Strahan, 2b 1 0 0 0

Hayes, p 0 0 0 0

Totals 35 5 12 5 Totals 30 0 6 0

Benton 001 300 001 — 5

Pine Bluff 000 000 000 — 0

E—Sorrey 2, Cox. DP—Benton 3, Pine bluff 1. LOB—Benton 10, Pine Bluff 10. 2B—Long. SB—A.Wilson, Bates, Reed, S.Hobbs. S—Childress, Abbott. SF—S.Hobbs.

Pitching ip r er h bb so


Pirl (W) 7 0 0 5 4 4

Pfeiffer 2 0 0 1 1 0

Pine Bluff

Hayes (L) 5 4 4 6 4 5

Harbison 4 1 1 6 0 2

Balk—Harbison. HBP—Blackstock, Sorrey (by Pirl), Brooks (by Harbison). WP—Hayes. 

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