Alma coach Kevin Edwards was finally glad to get something from his team he hadn’t seen in a couple weeks. Several of the Airedales games since Spring Break provided plenty of baserunners, but limited scoring.
There was no such problem Thursday.
Alma reached base 22 times behind seven hits, an error and 14 Northside walks and finally picked up enough clutch hitting to make the opposition pay in an 11-6 win against the Grizzlies at Hunt’s Park.
Edwards had a look of both joy and relief afterward.
“That’d been our problem here lately. Tournament over in Little Rock over Spring Break, didn’t swing it real well. Hurt us in first conference game double-header against Morrilton, runners all over the bases, couldn’t get them in. Hurt us against Van Buren, left eight in scoring position,” Edwards said. “Good to see we came through with the hits, getting those runs in and busted through tonight.”
Only one of Northside’s (7-7) five pitchers could find the strike zone with consistency. The first Alma hitter in five of the seven innings drew a base-on-balls. Each one of those innings yielded multiple walks. And in two of those Alma loaded the bases without putting the ball in play.
When the Airedales (5-9) did, though, it was booming.
Three-hole hitter Alex Burris drove in six runs, going 3-for-3 with two walks and two doubles. He laced a double off the left-field wall in the first inning to score lead-off hitter Adam Wilbanks after Wilbanks walked. He cleared the bases with a three-run double to the left-field corner in the second. And he pegged another two-run hit in the seventh with an up-the-middle single.
“It’s kind of a thing,” Edwards said. “When Burris is going, everybody kind of gets on his back. He’s been working really hard in practice and we made just a little tweak to his stance and he responded today and came out and swung it well.”
The Airedales chased Northside starter Matt Johnson after 1 1/3 innings. Johnson had allowed just one hit, Burris’ first double, but walked six batters and was responsible for all three men on base when Burris doubled them home off Keegan Killian.
Killian retired the next five batters and it looked like Northside might hang around after it trimmed Alma’s lead to 4-1 on a Will Klek sacrifice fly in the third. But Dylan Brown and Dillon Majors each took free passes to start the fifth, Killian’s day was done and the Airedales put up another four runs in the inning.
“Story of the game, 14 walks,” Northside coach Brian Fry said. “You expect teams to post double-digit numbers when you do that. Two-out hits, they had them. We’d walk them and they’d get it. That’s the story of the game. It’s hard to beat people when you give up that many free passes.”
The fourth Northside pitcher, Tanner Cross, entered in the sixth and retired Alma in order on 11 pitches. His was the only half-inning the Grizzlies threw fewer than 30 pitches.
Ty Knight had the best day for Northside at the plate, going 4-for-5 with a double, an RBI and two runs.
Both teams return to conference play today as Northside travels to Little Rock to face Hall and Alma plays Harrison.