Jeff Cali Sports Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
Not very many things went Latta’s way during the early portion of a Friday night fall baseball clash with local rival Byng.
Still, Latta had the tying run at first base with two outs in the top of the seventh before the host Pirates hung on for a 6-3 win at Stokes Field.
Byng, ranked No. 1 in Class A, won its eighth straight game to improve to 18-1 on the year while No. 7 Latta (which topped No. 2 Dale 6-5 on Thursday) fell to 13-6.
The Pirates are in a stretch of their schedule where they’ve already faced No. 4 Roff and Latta and now have No. 2 Dale, No. 3 Silo and Class B No. 2 Asher in the next eight days.
"We’ve had a tough go this week. It seems like we’ve had a quality team to face every time we’ve stepped on the field, and we had another one today, no doubt,” said Byng head coach Shawn Streater, who also makes his own fall schedule.
“They can blame me for that,” he said of the brutal two-week stretch. “There’s no rest for the wicked. We’ll have to hook up and play, but that’s what we need right here before the playoffs.”
Byng will host Ninnekah and Mason for Class A District Tournament play.
Latta’s slate is just as tough. After tangling with Dale and Byng last week, the Panthers finish out the regular season with Silo, Stuart (No. 10 in Class B) and Roff.
The Panthers will travel to Amber-Pocasset to begin their postseason run.
“These are good people we’re playing. We haven’t had a day off on our schedule all fall long,” said Latta head coach Eddie Collins. “There haven’t been hardly any gimmes. I think that’s making us better.”
Byng scored four of its runs in the top of the first, thanks in part to a pair of glaring Latta errors. Hunter Capps walked to lead off the uprising, and Braden Fortner laid down a bunt toward third base. Capps ran all the way to third on the play, and it looked like he would be thrown out by Latta first baseman Austin Simpson. But Tristan Wood couldn’t make a clean catch, and Capps was safe.
Joe Nemecek would walk, and Reid Wall followed with an RBI single (driving in Capps) to give Byng a 1-0 lead. A balk advanced the runners to second and third before Andre Davis drove in a pair of runs with a line drive to left field to put the hosts on top 3-0.
Gage Wall followed with a blast to right-center field for a doublem but Davis — trying to score all the way from first — was thrown out at the plate on a nice relay from Latta center fielder Brady Johnson to second baseman Nick Wilson to catcher Parker Henderson. Gage Wall scored the final Byng run of the inning on a passed ball.
The Pirates wouldn’t get another hit the rest of the game.
Latta scratched for its first run in the top of the third when Tristan Monroe reached base on a dropped third strike, went to second on a groundout and scored on a Byng error.
The Pirates scored single runs in the third and fourth innings on a passed ball and a wild pitch to push their lead to 6-1.
Monroe, who was 0-2 from his nine-hole spot in the Latta lineup but scored all three Panther runs, led off the bottom of the fifth with a walk, went to second on a two-out infield hit by Simpson and raced home on an RBI single by Hayes that made it 6-2.
Latta tried to rally in the top of the seventh when Monroe reached on an error and went to second on an infield hit by Johnson. Simpson drove in a run with an RBI single to cut Latta’s deficit to 6-3, and the Panthers loaded the bases on an infield base hit by Kayes. But Capps, who relieved Shawn Treat to face Simpson in the inning, earned the save when he recorded a strikeout and got Wilson to foul out to Fortner at third base to end the contest.
“They beat Dale (Thursday), so we knew it was going to be a tough one,” Streater said. “Luckily, we scored those runs early and held on for the win. Latta’s a quality club. They can beat anybody.”
Collins said he was proud of his team for staying within striking distance despite committing the two costly errors and his pitching staff combing for eight walks and four hit batters. There were also numerous wild pitches and passed balls that helped Byng advance on the base paths.
“They know we have to pitch it well every game, we have to catch it and we have to capitalize when we get scoring opportunities. We didn’t do those things early, dug a big hole and we had to battle back. We stayed in the game,” he said. “You always tell kids you’re going to have a chance at a big inning if you keep playing. And we did. We left a run or two on the board by bad base running. We had our chances at the end.”
Hayes ended up with as many hits as the entire Byng lineup, finishing 3-for-4 with an RBI. Simpson added two hits for Latta, who outhit Byng 7-3.
“I don’t fault my kids for wanting to win. There’s some things we’re going to have to get better at if we’re going to be a good baseball team,” Collins said. “If we’ll just keep plugging away and come to the ballpark ready to work ... and go throw it over, we’ll be fine.”
Byng 6, Latta 3
LATTA 001 010 1 — 3 7 2
BYNG 401 100 x — 6 3 4
Kade Hayes, Brady Johnson (3) and Parker Henderson. Shawn Treat, Hunter Capps (7) and Joe Nemecek. WP-Treat. LP-Hayes. 2B-Gage Wall (B). HL-Hayes 3-4, RBI, Austin Simpson 2-4, RBI, Ty Hoppe 1-3 (L); Andre Davis 1-2, 2 RBIs, Reid Wall 1-3, RBI, Gage Wall 1-1 (B).