By Jason Avery
SMACKOVER - It may be only the second week of the season, but March 5 will be a key date to remember for Smackover.
Down to their last six outs, Smackover erupted for seven runs in the sixth inning to overcome a five-run deficit to top Warren 9-7 on Monday.
Tucker Evans keyed the uprising by crushing a grand slam, and Cody Smith slammed the door with a super performance out of the bullpen to make the Bucks’ comeback hopes a reality.
“I can’t say enough about their effort,” said Smackover coach B.J. Greene. “That’s one thing about these kids that we have here. I’m not going to say they’re the most talented, but I don’t know that I know a group of guys that’s going to outwork them.”
Through five innings, the Bucks’ bats had been held in check by Warren starter Kendall Pope, who held Smackover to just one hit in his final four innings on the mound.
However, the sixth would be a different story.
Gage Reep took over for Pope, but quickly ran into trouble.
Noah Wilson and Nick Impson drew back-to-back walks, and the bases were loaded after Reep fell down after fielding Alex Burris’ bunt in front of the mound.
That set the stage for Evans, who drilled Reep’s 1-1 pitch over the fence in left-center to bring the Bucks (3-1) within a run.
“Tucker came up in a great situation, and that might be one of the hardest balls I’ve ever seen Tucker hit,” Greene said. “He got the pitch in the zone, and he launched it. He crushed that ball.”
Cade Schibler started the rally anew with a walk and went to second on a wild pitch. Jackson Cook then drew the inning’s fourth free pass to put runners at first and second, prompting a pitching change.
Lain Millerd was summoned to try and stop the rally, but with Baylor Brumley at the plate, Schibler stole third on a bang-bang play to put runners at the corners.
Moments later, Brumley tied the game when his flare to shallow right-center just eluded the diving attempt of right fielder Luke Gorman for an RBI single.
With runners now at first and second, the Bucks turned to small-ball to take the lead.
Josh Saulsbury, who aided the Bucks in scoring the first run of the game with a sacrifice bunt in the first, laid down a bunt to the third-base side of the mound that led to a throwing error and allowed the go-ahead runs to score.
Smith then worked a 1-2-3 seventh to finish off his sterling performance.
A junior, Smith allowed just one unearned run and four hits in five innings of work. He struck out five and didn’t walk any batters.
“Coach Jeff Burson dropped him down to three-quarters last summer, and it’s worked out really well for him,” Greene said. “He kept them off-balance and kept us in the ballgame. I can’t say enough about Cody. He’s been sick and missed a lot of days of practice, but he’s starting to get back into rhythm.”
Early on, it looked the Bucks were going to carry over their momentum from Friday’s win against Harmony Grove, as Smackover struck for a run in the first against Pope.
Brumley led off with a base hit to right, and Saulsbury followed with a sacrifice bunt.
Smith then laced a single to center to put runners at the corners, and Wilson opened the scoring moments later with a base hit to right that scored Brumley with the game’s first run.
However, Smith was thrown out at second after taking too big of a turn on Wilson’s single, and Pope retired Jordan Brock on a comebacker to the mound to end the inning.
After being retired in order in the first by Schibler, Smackover’s starter, the Lumberjacks (1-3) sent nine men to the plate as part of a five-run second inning.
Treylon Burks got the inning started with a leadoff walk and stole second to get into scoring position.
Dylan Higgins then rifled a double to the gap in left-center to score Burks and tie the game at 1-all.
Pope and Mark Hairston were both hit with pitches to load the bases, and Millerd followed with a two-run single to left-center to give Warren a 3-1 lead.
Logan Smith followed with a slow roller down the third-base line that Schibler fielded, but Hairston beat the senior’s throw to load the bases.
Gorman extended Warren’s lead with a sacrifice fly to center to bring home Hairston, and after an infield single by Marcus Shipp reloaded the bases, Millerd scored on a wild pitch to make it 5-1.
With two runners on and still only one out, the Lumberjacks were poised to have an even bigger inning, but Schibler avoided further trouble when Cade Reep hit into an inning-ending double play thanks to Evans making a diving catch to rob Reep of a hit on his blooper to shallow right.
The Bucks got a run back in the bottom of the second on a sacrifice fly by Cook, but the Lumberjacks answered with Pope driving in a run with an RBI groundout in the third, and Reep collected an RBI with a fielder’s choice in the fourth.
Pope turned in a solid performance for the Lumberjacks, allowing four hits and two runs in five innings of work. He walked two and struck out six.
It was tough day for Schibler, who lasted just two-plus innings, allowing six runs and four hits.
“It just wasn’t his night,” Greene said of Schibler. “He battled for us.”
Brumley and Burris had two hits apiece for the Bucks, who had eight hits in the contest.
“We’re 3-1 and we’re happy,” Greene said. “If you would’ve said that we would’ve been in this game after having four errors, hitting four guys and walking two, a lot of times, you’re not going to have a chance to win those games, but our kids fought and competed.”
JUNCTION CITY 5,
TAYLOR - Tanner McLelland and Jack Smith drove in two runs apiece for the Dragons (2-1), who picked up a win on the road.
McLelland had three singles and Smith had a double and a single. Charles Hoof also had two in the win, collecting two singles.
Brock McGoogan had a double, while Clay Jolley, Keelan Hodge and Cody Lee had singles.
On the mound, Ty Disotell and Hodge combined on a four hitter.
Disotell went 3 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing two hits. He walked five and struck out two.
Hodge went the final 3 2/3 innings, allowing two runs and two hits. He walked one, hit a batter and struck out nine.