By Jason Avery
SMACKOVER - A day after being held to one hit at Parkers Chapel, Smackover's offense got back on track against one of the top pitchers in the area.
Noah Wilson went 3-for-4 with an RBI while also turning in a solid pitching performance to outduel Gannon Bearden, as Smackover outlasted Harmony Grove 7-4 on Friday afternoon.
The Bucks roughed up the Harmony Grove ace, who allowed seven hits and four runs in four innings of work. He walked one, hit two batters and struck out eight.
Overall, the Bucks (2-1) had 10 hits in the contest while getting on base nine times combined either via walk or getting hit by a pitch.
"After last night, we came out this afternoon and we told our kids that we've got to get better with less strikeouts, get better with less walks from our pitching, get better with less errors and get more hits," said Smackover coach B.J. Greene. "We told them, we don't care win or lose, we've just got to improve on those things. We came out tonight and we improved on every one of those things, and we got the win, so that's a positive thing."
Wilson proved to be deft at pitching out of jams, especially early on, as the Hornets (2-1) left the bases loaded in the first two innings.
He scattered six hits and allowed two runs over six innings to pick up the win. He walked six and struck out five.
"I can't say enough about Noah Wilson," Greene said. "One of his good buddies just passed away due to an illness, and he came out and competed really well."
After Wilson emerged from the jams in the first and second innings unscathed, the Bucks staked the right-hander to a lead he would not relinquish in the bottom of the second.
Wilson led off the inning with a double to right-center, and Alex Burris laid down a perfectly-placed bunt down the third-base line for a single to put runners at the corners.
A walk to Tucker Evans loaded the bases with nobody out, but just when it seemed the Bucks were primed for a big inning, Bearden brought a halt to Smackover’s momentum.
Bearden fanned Forrest Harrison for the inning’s first out, and the right-hander promptly got ahead of Jackson Cook 1-2.
However, Bearden hit Cook with his next offering to bring home courtesy runner Nick Impson with the game’s first run.
"I think we got hit about six times," Greene said.
"I don't know if I've ever coached a team that's willing to sacrifice their bodies for their teammates. Jackson Cook got an RBI for one, and that's a good thing."
With the bases reloaded and only one out, the Bucks again had Bearden on the ropes, but the right-hander struck out Baylor Brumley and Josh Saulsbury to avoid further damage.
The Bucks then extended their lead in the fourth.
With one out, Harrison was hit by a pitch and stole second.
Bearden then got ahead of Cook 0-2, but after a conference with Greene after a late swing on a Bearden pitch, Cook rifled Bearden’s next pitch to the gap in left-center for an RBI triple to make 2-0.
So what was the conference about?
"I put on a hit-and-run before that, and the kid went and he said the ball hit the dirt," Greene said.
"I said, 'Jackson, the ball never hit the dirt. What kind of swing was that?' Then we finally got the kids to say, 'Jackson, the ball never hit the dirt.' As a coach, you have to learn to let some of those things go, especially Jackson.
"He's one of those kids that if you tell him to run through a wall, he's going to turn and he's going to sprint right through it for you.
"He's one of the best kids I've ever had."
Following Cook's lead, Brumley laced the first pitch he saw into left-center for an RBI single to push the lead to 3-0.
A sacrifice bunt by Saulsbury advanced Brumley into scoring position, and the sophomore stole third.
Cody Smith then hit a ground ball up the middle that second baseman Zach Smith went behind second base to snare, but he had no play at first, and Brumley crossed the plate to give the Bucks a 4-0 lead.
Wilson continued to keep the Hornets at bay, pitching around a leadoff walk to Jace Garcia in the third and a one-out single by Andrew Ruelas in the fourth.
But the Hornets broke through in the fifth.
Gabriel Langley drew a leadoff walk and took second on a wild pitch.
One out later, Garcia legged out a slow roller to shortstop for a single, and Langley just beat the throw home after not hesitating when he reached third base.
Garcia was able to take second on the play at the plate and went to third on Carson Everett’s sacrifice bunt.
Jayce Posey then walked, but a wild pitch on ball four allowed Garcia to score.
The Hornets later had the tying runs on base after Smith reached on a throwing error on a comebacker to the mound, but Wilson retired Ruelas on a ground out to first to end the inning.
In the sixth, Smackover picked up some insurance runs that would loom large later in the game.
With one out, Saulsbury doubled, and Smith was hit by a pitch to put runners at first and second.
One out later, Wilson delivered an RBI single to right to score Saulsbury to give the Bucks a 5-2 lead.
Burris was then hit by a pitch to load the bases, and Evans followed by hitting a rocket down the left-field line for a two-run double that gave the Bucks a 7-2 lead.
But the Hornets did not go down without a fight.
After a leadoff walk to Bearden, Garcia belted a triple to the gap in left-center to make it 7-3, and the senior scored moments later when Everett's grounder to shortstop was misplayed for an error.
However, that would be the extent of the rally.
After a tough start, Saulsbury got Posey to fly out to center before getting Smith to line into a double play to end the game.
In addition to Wilson's day at the plate, Saulsbury went 2-for-3 with Evans collecting two walks to go along with his two-run double.
"Some of the guys in the lineup that we're going to have to depend on kind of woke up a little bit," Greene said. "We stayed even-keeled."
Garcia went 2-for-2 with two walks for the Hornets.
EL DORADO 4,
BENTON HARMONY GROVE 1
MALVERN - Jacob Boshears and Daniel Johnson collaborated on a two-hitter for the Wildcats, who won their season opener.
Boshears allowed one unearned run and two hits in four innings of work. He walked two and struck out one.
Johnson had one strikeout and didn't walk a batter in three hitless frames to record the save.
Boshears and Leighton Turbeville had doubles in the win for the Wildcats.
EL DORADO 15,
MALVERN - The Wildcats made it a sweep thanks to a terrific effort on the mound by Derek Jobe.
A junior, Jobe fired a two-hit shutout. He walked one and struck out six.
The Wildcats (2-0) broke the game open with six runs in the second before scoring eight in the fifth.
Micah Haney had a three-run double to key the fifth-inning rally, and Jared Rhodes went 1-for-2 with a walk and was also hit by a pitch.
Noah Gaul added a two-run single and Brennan Smith also had an RBI in the win.