BYNG — Byng coach Kevin Wilson started the Red Dirt League baseball season this summer looking for pitching, power and defense to replace graduation losses that gutted the line-up the Pirates used to reach four state tournaments (fall and spring) over the past two years.

Tuesday night, he found all three.

Noel Pace and Jordan Cowger — the top two candidates to follow ace Dakota Atkeson in the Byng rotation this fall — turned in solid efforts on the mound and were backed by strong defense and timely hitting as the Pirates evened their league record at 6-6 with a 7-5, 11-0 sweep of Washington in a Red Dirt doubleheader at Stokes Field.

The two victories gave Byng three wins in four games this week against two teams — Ada (Class 5A) and Washington (2A) — who reached the state tournament this spring, and the Pirates have now won six of eight since starting the season the 0-4 with a number of their key players out of action for one reason or another.

Byng wraps up the Red Dirt regular season with a doubleheader Monday at Duncan, and, with a sweep, the Pirates should assure themselves of one of the four spots out of their division in the league’s postseason tournament the following week. Wilson’s club could also reach the tournament with a split, depending on the outcome of the other league games Monday and Tuesday.

“I’m really pleased with the way we’re playing right now,” Wilson said. “We hit the ball pretty well tonight, our pitching was solid, and, if you take away the first inning of the first game, we played great defense.”

Atkeson homered and doubled to lead Byng back from a 4-0 deficit in the first game, and fellow junior Glenn Mitchell hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the fourth to end the nightcap on the run rule, and the Byng defense was nearly flawless after an error in the first inning of the opener led to three unearned runs.

But the story of the night was the performance of Pace and Cowger.

A senior right-hander who is the Pirates’ regular first baseman and who had never started a varsity game before beating league toughie Chickasha last week, Pace bounced back from the shaky first inning to allow just one run and five hits over the final six inning of his 102-pitch complete-game effort. He struck out eight (including the side in the sixth inning) and walked only one batter after issuing back-to-back passes to load the bases with nobody out in the first.

Cowger, a junior who was the only other Byng pitcher other than Atkeson with any varsity experience when the summer began, had his second straight solid outing, allowing only one hit — a single to Tyler Hancock with one out in the first — and walking just one batter while striking out three in his four innings of work.

“Jordan makes them put the ball in the play, so our defense has to play well for him to be successful,” Wilson said. “We knew he was going to pitch a lot for us, and Noel has given us a good third option.”

Game 1

Byng 7, Washington 5

The Warriors, who, like the Pirates, were hit hard by graduation after reaching the 2A semifinals last month, put their first five hitters on base against Pace, but a two-run single to center by three-hole hitter Mac Gordon was the only hard-hit ball in the inning. Gordon’s hit came after Ryan McIntosh led off with a single and Tyler Hancock reached on an error by Byng shortstop Clay Plunk on what appeared to be a sure double play ball.

Pace then walked Zach Cargill and Stephen Dudley on nine pitches to load the bases, but he struck out Zach Stephens, retired Darren Madden on a ground ball to Plunk that scored Cargill and struck out Jeff Tompkins to end the inning.

Byng erased most of the Washington lead in the bottom of the first, scoring three unearned runs after two men were out. Leadoff hitter Logan Freeman reached on an error for the first of three times in the game, and, after a sacrifice by Ryan Haynes and a groundout to first by Mitchell, Atkeson blasted a two-run homer to left.

Washington starter Tyler Hancock then walked Pace and Wyatt Fisher, and Cowger grounded a single to left to drive in Pace and cut the Warriors’ lead to 4-3.

After Pace retired the side in order in the top of the second, Byng took the lead for good in the bottom of the inning, with Freeman again reaching base on an error leading off. He stole second, moved to third on a groundout and scored on Mitchell’s single to right, and Atkeson lined a double to the wall in left-center to plate Mitchell and make it 5-4.

The Pirates followed Pace’s second straight perfect inning on the mound with another run in the bottom of the third. Plunk walked with one out and scored all the way from first on a double by Dakota Abbott that began as an innocent-looking ground ball through the right side of the Washington infield but resulted in a run because Plunk and Abbott simply kept running on the play.

Byng scratched out a seventh run in fifth against Gordon, who relieved Hancock in the fourth and struck out six in the three innings he worked. Cowger started the fifth-inning rally with a double down the right-field line, then he moved to third on an infield hit by Plunk and scored on a double play ball to second by Abbott.

Washington finally broke through against Pace in the seventh on Gordon’s two-out RBI single to score McIntosh (who was hit by a pitch with one out), and Cargill followed Gordon’s hit with a single to left. But Dudley lined out to Cowger, who made a nice running catch along the left-field line to end the game.

Game 2

Byng 11, Washington 0

Cowger worked out of a jam in the first, when, after Hancock singled with one out and stole second and Gordon followed with a walk on a 3-2 pitch, Cargill hit a shot up the middle that Mitchell grabbed behind the second-base bag to start a 4-6-3 double play.

The Pirates then took advantage of wildness by Washington starter Willie McGee to score four runs on just one hit in the bottom of the inning, and the Warriors didn’t get a runner past first base the rest of the game. Washington’s only baserunners over the final three innings, in fact, were Michael Chausse, who reached on an error with two outs in the second, and McIntosh, who walked with one out in the third but was thrown out by Fisher attempting to steal.

Fisher — who missed big chunks of his freshman and sophomore years due to injury and illness but who was a key to Byng’s state tournament run this spring and has evolved into perhaps the area’s best defensive catcher — threw out three of the four Washington runners who attempted to steal in the twinbill and just missed the fourth.

Freeman started Byng’s first-inning rally with an opposite-field bloop single to left, moved to second on a walk to Plunk and scored the only run Cowger needed on back-to-back wild pitches by McGee.

Plunk was cut down trying to steal for the first out of the inning and, after a walk to Mitchell, Atkeson struck out, but McGee walked Pace, Fisher reached on a throwing error by Washington third baseman Darren Madden that scored both Mitchell and Pace, and McGee then walked Cowger, Ben Cole and Chase Bryant to force in the fourth run of the inning.

Byng struck for four more runs in the third off Colby Farrell (the third Washington pitcher of the game), with Bryant’s bloop RBI double to left the only hit in the inning. Farrell walked Cowger and Cole to start the third, and Cowger scored the first run of the inning on Bryant’s double. After Freeman lined out to third and Plunk struck out, Farrell hit both Mitchell and Atkeson and walked Pace and Fisher to force home the final three runs of the inning.

The rout finally ended in the fourth, which started innocently enough with McIntosh (who relieved Farrell after Fisher’s walk in the third) retiring the first two Byng hitters before Freeman lined a single to left. Plunk walked on four pitches, then Mitchell ripped a 2-0 pitch over the wall in right-center to end the game on the run rule.

Mitchell’s homer was just the fourth hit of the game for the Pirates, but three of the hits were for extra bases, and Washington pitchers issued 13 walks and hit two batters. Eight of the nine Byng starters scored at least one run, with Mitchell scoring three times and Freeman (the only Pirate with two hits) scoring twice.

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