By BOB FORREST
BYNG — Byng coach Kevin Wilson saw most of the things he’s come to expect — both good and bad — from his veteran club in Thursday’s 8-3 victory over Coalgate to open Byng’s Hill-Prescott Memorial Tournament.
The Pirates — ranked No. 3 in Class 4A — banged out three home runs and six extra-base hits, they turned two double plays and didn’t commit an error, and starter Nate Burris scattered seven hits for his fifth win of the spring. But Wilson was more concerned with his team’s one glaring mistake — as usual, on the basepaths — in the win over the ninth-ranked (Class 2A) Wildcats.
Leadoff hitter Cody Wheeler, one of the Pirates’ six senior starters, was picked off first base in the fourth inning with Byng leading just 2-0, and the baserunning snafu — a recurring theme for Wilson since last spring — proved costly when Ryan Estes hit the next pitch from Coalgate starter Thomas Madden over the fence in left for a two-run homer to plate what proved to be the deciding runs.
“If we don’t make that baserunning mistake, we run-rule them,” Wilson said. “It didn’t really matter today, but it’s gonna cost us in a close game one of these days.”
He added, however, that Wheeler’s mistake — in a game that saw the Byng center fielder go 2-for-4 and drive in a run — was the only real negative he could bring out of the Pirates’ 20th win in 25 games this spring.
“We hit some balls hard, we played good defense, and Nate pitched well,” Wilson said.
With the victory, Byng moved on to a semifinal match-up with Prague, which upset Ada, 6-4, in the third game of the day.
Burris, who joins Wheeler (one of the area’s top pitchers and Byng’s No. 1 starter) and sophomore Dakota Atkeson to give the Pirates a starting rotation that has looked solid in the weeks leading up to the playoffs, dominated the powerful Coalgate line-up for five innings, allowing just three singles (with two of the baserunners eliminated by double plays) before the Wildcats touched him for a run in the sixth and two more in the seventh.
By the time Coalgate scored its first run, though, the Pirates had built a 7-0 lead on the strength of RBI singles by Preston Petty and Burris in the third, a solo homer by Atkeson and the two-run shot by Estes in the fourth and doubles by Glenn Mitchell, Atkeson and Wheeler in the fifth.
The Wildcats used a two-out single from Dakota Hedgecock, a passed ball and an RBI hit from A. J. Acker to score a run in the sixth, then, after Chad Keefer blasted a solo homer with one out in the bottom of the inning for Byng’s final run, Coalgate added two more in the seventh on a leadoff walk by Tagus Horton (just the second allowed by Burris in the game), a single by Luke Palmer and a two-out double to left-center by Madden. Burris then struck out Hedgecock on three pitches to end the game.
Coalgate threatened just twice before the sixth, but Burris made big pitches to kill each threat. Aaron Guinn walked and Mitchell Loudermilk singled to start the second, but Horton hit into a 6-4-3 double play started by Estes and Palmer fouled out to right to end the inning. In the fourth, Acker reached on an infield single with one out and went to second on a wild pitch, but Guinn struck out looking at a Burris fastball and Loudermilk popped out to short.
By BOB FORREST