MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Prep Sports

June 29, 2014

Bandits roll on with two run-rule victories

WARNER – Like an expensive sports car, all the cylinders just keep on clicking for the Three Rivers American Legion Bandits.

Playing on the second day of the 14th Heartland Classic Tournament, the Bandits continued to see great pitching and great hitting combine for two more run-rule victories on Saturday, giving them a perfect 4-0 mark going into today’s final round.

Three Rivers demolished Oklahoma Gray 17-3 and, in their closest game of the tournament thus far, went five innings to best Royal Blue 9-1. So far the Bandits have shredded the competition by a combined score of 56-4 in their four games

Drew Wilson and Caleb Knight keyed the Bandits win over Gray, both going 3-for-4 while Wagoner’s Wyat Grooms and Knight’s Checotah teammate, Jack Christian, were both 2-for-4.

Three Rivers took advantage of shaky pitching by Royal Blue starter Gabe Mustain in the second game as he walked four of the first six batters. A sacrifice fly by Connors State’s. and Warner ex, Tim Smithson, a throwing error, and a base hit by Fort Gibson’s Boo Seward, who was 2-for-3 in the game, led to three runs in the opening inning for the Bandits.

Three Rivers got three more in the second inning off Fort Gibson pitcher Bailey Harris. A.J. Deason of Stilwell had the big hit with an RBI double while Smithson and Wilson also drove in runs. In all Harris gave up six runs and 12 hits in his three-plus innings of work.

Meanwhile on the mound for the Bandits, Pocola’s Connor Mangham was masterful as he surrendered just two hits while striking out 11 in going the distance. His coach, Rusty Fulps, was impressed with the effort.

“Connor hasn’t pitched much since the end of the high school season, but he’s really coming around,” said Fulps. “He threw five strong innings today and he’ll be very helpful to our club the rest of the season, I guarantee you.”

Blue’s only run against the left-hander came in the fourth inning as Mustain led off with a base hit, stole second and third with some heads up base running, and scored on a wild pitch.

Knight, this year’s Phoenix MVP, was 2-for-3 in the game, making him 5-for-7 on the day with an RBI, and says that while the Bandits 20-2 start to the season has been nice, it’s fun to have a goal in this tournament.

“It’s nice to get into a tournament with some competition and to actually be playing to win something,” said Knight. “It’s got everyone more excited and keeps everything going good.”

Talent isn’t the only thing that makes things click for the Bandits according to Fulps.

“I’ve never seen a group in the 20 years I’ve coached that are so close,” said the Bandits’ skipper. “You don’t see them break off into little groups, they’re all together and it’s great to coach that.”

Up next for Three Rivers will be the tournament semifinals against Oklahoma Red at 9:30 a.m. today at Connors State. The winner of that game will play the winner of Oklahoma Navy, the defending two-time champions, and Okalhoma While in the finals at 3 p.m., also at Connors.

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