By BOB FORREST
SULPHUR —Kevin Wilson and Jerry Sanford approached Monday’s Byng-Sulphur match-up from different directions, but each got what he was looking for heading into Thursday’s first round of Byng’s Hill-Prescott Memorial Tournament.
Sanford used freshmen Thomas Parks and Mark Wisdom on the mound against the Pirates, thus saving his top two pitchers (Tanner Chitwood and Mat Wolf) for Thursday’s 3:15 contest with Glenpool; Wilson, meanwhile, got a badly needed game into his third-ranked (Class 4A) club heading into a 1 p.m. meeting with Coalgate (No. 7 in 2A) to open the tournament.
In the end, Byng’s veteran bats pounded out a 12-4 run-rule victory over the Bulldogs and their two inexperienced righthanders, and Wilson said the game, although not an artistic success, should provide a good prep for the week to come and the playoffs to follow.
“It wasn’t pretty, but a win is a win,” Wilson said after watching the Pirates get at least one hit from every player in the line-up and RBIs from seven of their nine starters but leave runners in scoring position in every inning. “We didn’t do anything Friday, Saturday or Sunday because of the (Easter) holiday, so we needed to get back on the field. We kind of struggled early, but we hit the ball pretty well.”
Chad Keefer, one of the area’s best first basemen but also a reliable spot starter for Wilson this spring, went the distance to pick up his fifth win in six decisions. He allowed five hits and three of Sulphur’s four runs in the first three innings but settled down to limit the Bulldogs to just one hit and an unearned run over the final three.
Byng’s offense, which has shown signs of coming together after an inconsistent spring, had problems getting started against Parks, who kept the Pirates off balance with off-speed pitches and allowed only one unearned run through the first two innings.
But Wilson’s lineup found its timing after seeing Parks once, and the Pirates struck for nine runs on seven hits in their second and third trips through the order.
Byng (19-5) snapped a 1-1 tie with three runs in the third and blew the game open with six more on the fourth. Keefer — who has been on a hot streak after struggling at the plate earlier this spring — had a key hit in each inning.
In the third, Keefer singled to drive home red-hot Heath Wall (who walked with one out and stole second) and — after moving to second when Nathan Scaggs mishandled his line drive to left field and advancing to third on a wild pitch —scored himself on Preston Petty’s double down the left field line. Petty later stole third and scored on Glenn Mitchell’s sacrifice fly.
Sulphur (16-9) cut the lead to 4-3 in the bottom of the third on a leadoff single by freshman catcher Tanner Rowe, a one-out single by Ryan Trussell, a groundout and a two-run single by Chitwood. Keefer then hit Robert Thomas but struck out B. J. Howard looking at a fastball to end the threat.
Leadoff hitter Cody Wheeler started Byng’s fourth-inning explosion with a one-out walk and scored on consecutive singles by Ryan Estes, Wall and Keefer, and Estes later scored on Petty’s fielder’s choice grounder that forced Wall at third base. Nate Burris followed with a single to right to plate Keefer, two more runs scored when Howard booted Mitchell’s hard-hit ground ball to second, and Mitchell scored on a bad-hop single to left by Noel Pace.
Wisdom, who relieved Parks after Byng’s big fourth inning, worked around a one-out single by Wall and a walk to Keefer to pitch a scoreless fifth, but the Pirates scored two runs in the sixth — on a two-out walk to Pace and Wheeler’s line-drive homer to left — and ended the game on the run rule when Sulphur could manage just one unearned run (on an infield hit by Chitwood, a passed ball, a groundout and Pace’s throwing error) in the bottom of the inning.
Wall, Byng’s hottest hitter all season, went 3-for-4 Thursday to pace the Pirates’ 14-hit attack; Estes, Keefer and Burris added two hits apiece; and Wheeler, Keefer and Petty each drove in two runs in the victory. Although the sixth-inning error led to Sulphur’s final run, Byng’s defense was solid all day, and the Pirate infield of Pace (at first), Wall (second), Estes (shortstop) and Petty (at third) turned double plays to end both the fourth and fifth innings.
By BOB FORREST