Tuesday, July 05, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe beats and ties with Clarksville

Leader sportswriter

The Beebe-Post 91 O’Reilly Auto Parts Junior American Legion team had a big sixth inning in the first game of its doubleheader against Clarksville on Saturday at the University of the Ozarks Field, scoring all seven of its runs in that sixth inning en route to a 7-4 win.

Beebe trailed 3-0 entering the sixth inning, but that’s when the game changed in O’Reilly’s favor. Starting pitcher Mark Clairday and Randy Smith led off the top of the sixth with a pair of walks and the Beebe bats came to life afterward.

Callie Neal, Hunter Free and Bryce Nance hit consecutive singles and Hunter Warden followed their at-bats with a double that gave Beebe the lead for good. Warden’s hit was the fourth in a row for the Post 91 team. Warden later scored Beebe’s sixth run, and Blaine Burge added the final run of the inning on a base hit by Smith. Burge reached on a hit-by-pitch two batters earlier.

Clarksville added its final run its last at-bat, and Burge closed the game for Beebe in the bottom of the seventh to seal the win for the visitors. It was a good ending for Beebe, who struggled in the field and at the plate before exploding in the sixth inning.

“We started off struggling a little bit, defensively,” said Beebe assistant coach John Finley, “a little wild, pitching-wise, and it was a tight strike zone, so that didn’t really help.

“Offensively, we really just didn’t hit any hard balls, any hard ground balls or line drives – just hitting weak pop-ups and weak ground balls. Then in the sixth inning we just exploded for seven runs.”

Clarksville’s starting pitcher showed signs of fatigue by walking the first two batters of the sixth inning, and Beebe took advantage with the four hits that followed.

“He was getting a little tired,” Finley said of Clarksville’s starting pitcher. “After that it was just contagious hitting.”

Clairday threw the first four innings Saturday. He struggled to find his command early, but once he found his groove, Clarksville struggled to hit him. Once his pitch count got up, Smith threw the next two innings before Burge closed it in the seventh.

Smith earned the official win on the bump, but Finley thought all three pitchers threw well, considering the tight strike zone.

“Once he did find (his command), they didn’t really hit him or anything,” Finley said of Clairday. “The three runs we gave them, I think two were unearned. His pitch count got a little high, so we brought in Randy Smith, and he was in the zone and got going. Then we let Blaine Burge close it.”

Warden led Beebe with three hits in the first game. Nance had two, and Hayden Crafton, Clairday, Smith, Neal and Free had one hit apiece.

The second game only lasted three innings because both teams were running short on players and pitching, and that game ended in a 3-3 tie.

Both of Beebe’s runs were scored in the first inning, and were set up by a pair of Clarksville balks. Clarksville then added its two runs in the third inning to end the game in a tie. Nance threw the first two innings of game two, giving up no runs.