Sheridan pitcher Grady Finley, right, beats Bryant baserunner Landon Pickett to first base during the first game of a doubleheader in Sheridan Wednesday night. (Special to the Commercial/Bo Rogers)
Alec Pender throws a pitch to home plate during the first game of a doubleheader in Sheridan on Wednesday night. (Special to the Commercial/Bo Rogers)
By Chan Davis
OF THE COMMERCIAL STAFF
SHERIDAN — The AAA Legion Sheridan Yellowjackets suffered their first true loss of the season Wednesday night at Oliver Williams Field, splitting a doubleheader with Bryant, suffering an 11-4 loss in the second game after a 13-9 come-from-behind victory in the opener.
“I didn’t expect these kinds of ball games,” Sheridan coach J.R. Ware said on the high-scoring affairs. “I expected maybe 3-2 or 2-1. I think we learned something for when we see them down in Texarkana in a few weeks.”
Sheridan (14-2) overcame a 7-1 deficit to claim Game 1 after Bryant (13-2) roughed up Yellowjacket starter Grady Finley over the first four innings. Finley gave up seven runs on seven hits and gave way to Alec Pender in the fifth. Pender allowed two runs in the fifth as the Black Sox had a comfortable 9-5 lead entering the sixth when Sheridan’s powerful offense came to life.
“Grady didn’t have his best game today,” Ware said. “He beat them last year in a Legion game over there, pretty much the same team.”
Bryant starter Jordan Taylor, a Central Arkansas signee, was replaced by Hayden Daniel, who surrendered hits to the first two batters in the sixth before Bryant coach Darren Hurt went deeper in the bullpen to Nate Rutherford, the MVP of the 7A state championship game.
Rutherford fared even worse, giving up four consecutive hits and hitting a batter as Sheridan posted the twisted number for the game’s final margin.
“We had no plan of pitching him the first game,” Bryant coach Darren Hurt said. “Things kind of went south on us and we were just trying to stop it. We were trying to win that game and then we would worry about the next one. He just left some balls up and they hit him.”
Luke Nanneman pitched the final inning for Sheridan, holding the Sox scoreless to preserve the win.
“Luke came in and looked good,” Ware said. “He kind of had a hard time at the end but he got through it.”
Rutherford got the last laugh of the night as he picked up the win in the night cap as Bryant continued to hit the ball with authority, scoring five times in the first two innings off Sheridan ace Zach Perkins.
“I was feeling pretty good after the first game thinking we had that one in the bag and Perkins on the mound for the second game,” Ware said. “I thought that gave us a good chance. But it’s a funny game and they hit the ball better against the harder pitching.”
Sheridan chipped away at the early lead and trailed 5-4 in the fifth before Bryant posted a 6-spot to put the game away.
After being roughed up in the first game, Rutherford was sharper in the second, giving up seven hits and striking out one.
“I think the closing role is a tough deal for him,” Hurt said. “He’s a kid that maybe starts a little slow and then gets in rhythm. It was a tough spot we put him in. We haven’t used him out of the bullpen at all. That probably wasn’t a good move on my part.”
Rutherford said winning the second game gave the Sox a sense of sweeping the double header.
“I think winning the last game really helped us come out on top,” he said. “We played more solid the second game. We had the first game but we let it slip away. We played good defense and hit the ball well in the second game and scored a lot of runs So, in my opinion we won.”
Ozzie Hurt paced the Sox at the plate with a 4 for 4 performance in the opener, Hunter Mayall went 3 for 5 and Landon Picket belted a 3-run home run in the third inning. Mayall, Taylor and Tyler Brown singled two times each in the second game.
Pender singled three times and scored a run, Landon Huggins singled three times and scored twice and Justin Willis went 3 for 3, drove in a run and scored twice in the opener. Nick Ware and Finley each singled twice in the second game.