Aug. 23—BYNG — It all came down to small ball.
The Byng Pirates used a pair of well-executed bunts in the bottom of the second inning to score a pair of runs and that proved to be the difference in a 5-2 win over local rival Latta Monday night at Stokes Field.
Coach Shawn Streater's club, No. 9 in the first Class A rankings of the fall, improved to 7-4 on the year while Class A No. 13 Panthers fell to 4-5. Latta has lost three straight to Class A powers No. 2 Dale, No. 12 Tushka and now the Pirates.
"If we feel like we're stagnant, we'll do something to try and at make the other team at least make a play and not just go up there and give them a free out. It worked out for us. We got some bunts down at the right spots. That helped kind of kickstart things into gear," Streater told The Ada News following the game.
Both teams are now headed to the 44th Annual Roff Baseball Tournament. Byng meets Tushka at 2:30 p.m. The Panthers take on No. 15 Calera at 5 p.m. in another first-round matchup.
Byng 5, Latta 2
Latta led 2-1 heading into the bottom of the second inning before Byng brought the squeeze play to the table.
Ryan Shelton got the Pirates started with a leadoff double and went to third on a groundout by Kix Stephens. Callen Leslie bunted toward third on a squeeze play and Shelton scored on the base hit, tying the game at 2-2. Leslie advanced all the way to third on an errant pickoff throw and Gage Streater used a sacrifice bunt to bring in what turned out to be the winning run.
Byng used a two-out uprising to add two insurance runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Preston Welch and Cooper McCage drew back-to-back walks and both BHS runners scored on a two-RBI double to the gap in right-center field by Bo Boatwright that put Byng on top 5-2.
"He got that hit that kind of pushed us over the top. For the last three or four games, he's had a hot bat," Streater said. "He and Mason Carter have both been swinging it real well."
Boatwright hit a ball hard that resulted in a crazy double play to end the third inning. With McCage on first base, Boatwright hit a rocket right back toward the pitcher's mound. Latta starter Jake LeMack jumped up to keep from getting hit by the rocket and the ball bounced off the rubber straight to LHS shortstop Landon Wolfe, who easily stepped on the bag threw to first to record the double play.
The Pirates managed just four total hits — McCage singled in the first inning and Ryan Shelton had a long base hit with one out in the fourth and finished 2-for-3. However, Streater said the Byng offense could have easily produced more.
"We hit a lot of balls hard today and some of them found the holes and some of them were just right at them. I was pleased with how we swung it," he said. "We just have to keep hitting it like that and hopefully more of them will find a hole."
Latta scored the first run of the game when leadoff hitter Landon Fortner singled, went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Holden Lee and hurried home on a base hit by Deakon Smith.
Byng tied the game in the bottom of the first inning when Mason Carter sped to third on an error to lead things off and scored on an RBI groundout by Preston Welch.
Latta scored its final run of the game in the top of the second inning. Kaleb Godwin reached on an infield single to lead off the frame, went to second on a passed ball and raced to third when Jonah Boyington flied out to center field. Landon Wolfe drove home the run with a two-out single.
Smith led an eight-hit Latta offense, going 2-for-3 with a walk. The other seven Latta hits came from seven different players.
The Panthers stranded 10 base runners in the contest.
Latta tried to piece together a comeback in the top of the seventh inning when Smith and Reese Littlefield coaxed walks out of Byng reliever Preston Welch. But the BHS pitcher got a groundout and a strikeout to end the game and earn the save.
Boatwright pitched six solid innings to earn the mound win. He struck out three, walked two and allowed just one earned run.
"Bo pitched well. He didn't have his main stuff and struggled with his curveball a little bit, but he kept them off balance with his fastball and changing speeds," Streater said.
Lamack was the losing pitcher. He struck out three, walked three and allowed three earned runs in 4.2 innings. Landon Wolfe finished up for the Panthers and struck out two of the final four BHS hitters of the game.