There was only so long Tyler Bark could escape.
After getting out of two early jams, the Ellison pitcher got wild in the third inning, walking two Belton batters and hitting two others.
The temporary control issue was all Belton needed. Justin Golden pitched a shutout and the Tigers scored three runs in the third inning and held on for a 4-0 win over the Eagles at Ellison on Friday.
“The strike zone early for both pitchers was a little frustrating and they put the ball in play more than we did,” Ellison coach Kyle Allred said. “We had nine (free passes) and you are not going to beat many people — especially Belton — doing that.”
The win kept Belton in first place over Waco Midway, which rallied to defeat Temple 7-6, by half a game.
“Every win is important and you can’t look past anyone,” Belton coach Eddie Cornblum said. “Our next big game is Tuesday (against Temple) for a lot of reason. That is our big rival game and it means a lot to our kids.
“We have to take care of it one game at a time — like everyone says — and see what happens.”
Bark battled out of jams in the first and second innings. The senior walked Cameron Cooper and Jared Janczak to open the game, and then plunked designated hitter Devin Lovato. With the bases loaded and no one out, Walker Winders grounded into a field choice, Chase Cryer had an RBI groundout and Chase Sortor hit a deep fly ball to end the inning.
In the second, he gave up a lead-off double to Belton catcher Joey Hogan and hit Ryne Neimi. But, Bark picked Neimi off first base and got two ground outs to again escape the early predicament.
Despite the troubles, Ellison (5-17, 3-5) only trailed Belton (13-10-1, 8-1 8-5A) 1-0.
In the third, Bark’s control issues came back to bite him.
After giving up a lead-off single to Janczak, it looked like Bark was again going to escape trouble.
He struck out Lovato and got Winders to hit a deep fly ball to center field.
But, then hit Cryer with a pitch, walked Sortor and Hogan stroked a two-out, two-run single through the gap to put Belton up 3-0. Bark’s control didn’t improve from there. He walked Neimi to load the bases and then hit Mark Herrington with a pitch to plate another run.
Meanwhile, Golden continued to prove his mettle.
“He had a little more juice tonight,” Cornblum said. “He threw the ball a little bit harder and controlled the inner half of the plate pretty well. He is just getting better as the year goes ... There was a lot of groundballs to the left side, which is a good sign.”
The senior held Ellison to four hits, struck out five and did not walk a batter until the sixth inning — when he walked two. More importantly, he sat back and relied on his defense and they did not let him down, turning three double plays, including one in the sixth after his pair of walks.
“I always have confidence in my defense,” Golden said. “I have a great defense behind me, so I know if I have a guy on base all I have to do is throw strikes, let them hit it and let my defense work for me.”
Bark, who pitched a complete game and only allowed four hits, settled down after the third inning, only allowing one more hit and two more walks, but the damage was done.
“If you get an inning like that especially against a team like Belton they can score a lot of runs,” Allred said. “We had a couple of close ones early too, but when you are down 1-0 you can overcome it. When you get down three, you got to start working harder.”
Contact Nick Talbot at email@example.com or (254) 501-7569