McClendon's overcomes slow start

BENTON – It didn’t look very promising for the Benton McClendon’s after the first inning of their game against Little Rock Blue on Tuesday night, but the McClendon’s came away with a 7-5 win at Bill Perry Field in Bernard Holland Park after their slow start.

Little Rock started the game when Cole Weber hit a double to right field when the right fielder misjudged the fly ball. JT sacrifice bunted Cole to third base and Joey hit an RBI double to right field for a 1-0 Blue lead. After a fly out to center field for the second out, Benton’s defense failed the McClendon’s again as Sean Beesly dropped a fly ball in left field, allowing another run to come around from second to score to make it 2-0. A throwing error by the second baseman Dylan Oliver allowed a run to score before starting pitcher Ryne Besancon struck out Walter Bass swinging at a curve ball.

With a 3-0 deficit after the top of the first, leadoff man Brad Neighbors walked and was sacrifice bunted to second by Oliver. The McClendon’s couldn’t score him though as Corky Welch lined the first pitch he saw to the third baseman and Besancon struck out swinging at a high fastball.

Besancon walked the first batter in the top of the second, but struck out the next batter looking out a changeup, got a fielder’s choice and a backwards K to get out of the inning. Benton responded in the bottom of the second.

After Ethan Holicer struck out to start the bottom of the second, Tanner Bates walked, went to second on a wild pitch and scored on LeVon Steward’s double to center field to get the McClendon’s within 3-1. Steward went to third on a wild pitch and scored when Matt Frelin’s bunt attempt ended up being an RBI infield single when the ball got past the pitcher to make it a 3-2 game. Frelin went to second on a fielder’s choice before he stole third base. The Little Rock catcher overthrew the third baseman on the steal allowing Frelin to score and tie the game at 3-apiece.

Steward made a good running catch toward the center-field wall for the first out in the top of the third before Besancon walked a man. Besancon came back and struck the next two batters out to end the inning on his way to three strikeouts in a row.

“He was making them miss, changing it up,” McClendon’s Coach Brandon Wake said. “He’s throwing his fastball, curve ball and changeup for strikes. If you can throw those for strikes, you can win.

“He hadn’t pitched much in high school and we bring him out here and let him throw, and he looks really good. I think they lost a prize.”

The Benton bats started to wake up a little more in the bottom of the third. Welch reached on a one-out walk and went to second on a wild pitch. Welch scored on Besancon’s double to center field to give the McClendon’s a 4-3 lead. After Holicer flew out for the second out, Besancon made it 5-3 when he scored on the Blue pitcher’s wild pitch. The Blue should have been out of the inning when Tanner Bates struck out the next at bat, but the Little Rock catcher let the ball get by him and Bates was safe at first.

Steward came through again with a triple to the right-center field gap to make it 6-3 and Steward scored on Frelin’s double to left field to make it a four-run game.

“Steward is now 13 for 15 (.867) in his last three games,” Wake said. “In Omaha, Neb., (tournament), he was killing it. A double, triple, single, a home run away from the cycle [on Tuesday], he’s just swinging the bat well.”

Though Benton would not score again, Besancon held the Blue at bay in getting the win. Besancon gave up five runs (two earned) on seven hits in five innings. He walked three and struck out nine while throwing 104 pitches.

“We pitched pretty well tonight,” Wake said. “Our defense kind of let us down in the first inning, but we’re seeing the ball better and we’re swinging the bats better. I think we’re turning it around and turning it back on.”

Welch came in on relief of Besancon in the sixth inning and struck out the side, the first two looking and the last batter swinging at a slider from the side-armer. Welch gave up an infield single in the top of the seventh and then the lights went out at Bill Perry Field. After a 15-minute delay for the lights, Welch struck out the next two batters and got a lineout to second base to end the game. Welch pitched two scoreless innings for the save, giving up a hit and striking out five. Nineteen of his 21 pitches (90 percent) were thrown for strikes including 10 strikes and no balls in the seventh.

“Corky can fill it up,” Wake said.

Steward went 3 for 3 with two runs and two RBIs, Besancon went 1 for 3 with a run and an RBI and Bates scored two runs. Frelin went 2 for 3 with a run and two RBIs.

“Matt’s swinging the bat good now and he does a great job behind the plate,” Wake said. “His bat is a little weak, but he’s turning it on.”
The McClendon’s play next tonight against Little Rock Express at 8 p.m. at Bernard Holland Park.

“If we put this piece, that piece together, we’ll be OK,” Wake said. “We’re excited.”

Benton Sport Shop lost 20-4 against the Little Rock Blue Jr. team before the McClendon’s win.