SHERIDAN – After combining for one hit and one run against the Bryant Black Sox in two regular-season meetings, the Benton McClendon’s put up 16 hits and 11 runs on the Sox on Saturday, but it wasn’t enough as Bryant took a 14-11 win over Benton in the second round of the Zone 4 Tournament in Sheridan.
“That was one of the craziest games I’ve ever been a part of,” Bryant Coach Darren Hurt said. “Benton has had one or two hits on us the first two times we’ve played them, and they had a bunch [Saturday]. You have to give them credit because they made it a ballgame with the bats. We didn’t help things with the way we played defense and at the plate. We had to use a lot more pitchers than we intended to use, but I guess the bottom line is we won and survived it.”
Bryant had 12 hits of its own, but it was the 12 errors combined between the two teams in the game which made the night crazy. Of the 25 runs scored in the game, only eight runs were actually earned. The Black Sox used five pitchers after starter Nate Rutherford, who didn’t look comfortable on the mound, was taken out after three innings.
“I had the same feeling so that’s why we went ahead and got him out of there,” Hurt said of Rutherford looking uncomfortable. “His pitch count is such is he can come back and pitch this tournament. He told me that he was OK and that he could go, but he had some tightness in his hamstring before the game, before we even left Bryant. He told me he could go, but he obviously did not look comfortable out there for sure.”
Bryant (33-3 after a 3-2 win vs. Texarkana on Sunday) would score four runs in the first two innings with just one of the runs being earned against Benton starter Alex Wilcox. Bryant would go up 5-0 in the top of the fifth inning when Hayden Lessenberry, who reached on a walk, would score on Chase Tucker’s RBI ground out.
Benton would respond with one run in the bottom of the inning, but had a chance for more. Wilcox led the inning off with a single to right and stole second base, and No. 9 batter Tyler Turbyfill also singled to put runners at first and third with no out. Tyler Lewis would knock Wilcox in for the 5-1 deficit before Jack James hit a rocket line drive to the first baseman for the first out. Two runs would have scored if the ball had gotten through. Bryant relief pitcher Zach Jackson hit Trey Bishop with a pitch to load the bases with one out, but Clay Holicer bounced into a 4-6-3 double play to end Benton’s threat.
After a scoreless sixth inning, Wilcox got the first two outs in the top of the seventh and should have had three, but the right fielder dropped the ball for an error and kept the inning alive. Bryant would take advantage of the error with five consecutive hits, the fifth one being a bases-clearing triple by leadoff man Trevor Ezell. Ezell would score on a wild pitch to put the Black Sox up 11-1 after seven and a half.
Before the error, Wilcox had allowed just four Bryant hits, but ended up surrendering nine on the night, while giving up 11 runs (just two earned) in seven innings, walking five and striking out two.
“We finally started getting some good ABs (at bats), but we also got some good bunts down,” Hurt said of the top of the seventh. “We finally started doing things like we normally do, which is lay bunts down and move runners. Their pitcher, which we hadn’t seen, threw well. I thought he did a good job keeping us off-balance.”
But Benton would not lay down.. Lewis would single to begin the bottom of the seventh and James walked. Bishop laid down a sacrifice bunt and was safe at first on the third baseman’s throwing error pulling the first baseman off the bag. Holicer walked to score a run and Hunter Wray singled for the 11-3 deficit. Shawn Beesley knocked in another run, and after a strikeout, Wilcox and Turbyfill each had RBI singles to make it an 11-6 Bryant lead.
Bryant would make it 14-6 in the eighth with RBI singles from pinch hitter Zach Graddy and second baseman Korey Thompson, before Benton would take advantage of four Bryant errors in the ninth to score five runs. Benton had the bases loaded before Ozzie Hurt struck out Hunter McDade to end the game.
“I knew we could swing it,” Benton Coach Brandon Wake said, “we just hadn’t swung it all year. I’m hoping we got hot with the bats at the right time. If we hit the ball like we did [Saturday], we’ll be fine.”
Benton (12-19) defeated Little Rock Post 1 Vipers 8-4 on Sunday with Bishop pitching eight innings. The McClendon’s will play Texarkana today at 5 p.m. in Sheridan, and Benton will make the Senior Legion State Tournament should it defeat the Razorbacks. Bryant, the defending State Champions, has made the state tournament with its 3-2 win over Texarkana on Sunday. Bryant will play the winner of Benton/Texarkana at 8 p.m. tonight
“That would be a real accomplishment for this bunch,” Wake said should Benton make State. “It really would be a good milestone for them to achieve.”
For Bryant, Thompson went 3 for 5, Ezell went 2 for 5 with three runs and three RBI, and Tucker went 2 for 4 scoring twice. For Benton, Bishop went 3 for 3 with two RBI, Wray went 3 for 5 with an RBI, Lewis went 2 for 4, and Wilcox and Turbyfill each went 2 for 5 with Turbyfill knocking in two runs.