By Mike Tupa

Wednesday evening appeared to be set up for a good night at home for the Bartlesville Doenges Ford Indians.

They had just completed a big weekend (4-1) in a baseball tournament in Branson, Mo., and faced a Fort Smith (Ark.) Sportsman team with a losing record (4-5).

But, the Sportsman players unloaded at the plate for 25 hits — including four doubles — to power past the Indians, 19-3.

To their great credit, the Indians never buckled character-wise.

It just simply wasn’t their night.

It’s as simple as that.

Bartlesville made only one error and enjoyed decent pitching by all its hurlers.

But, according to the ancient baseball adage, Fort Smith was “just hitting ‘em where they ain’t.”

Line drive after line drive after line drive off the Sportsman bats found gaps in the outfield or scooted past diving Indians infielders and onto the grass.

Before the Indians even got on the board, Fort Smith had already bullied out to a 12-0 lead.

In the bottom of the third, the Indians narrowed the deficit to 10 runs, 12-2.

But, Fort Smith would tack on another five runs before the Indians scored for the final time.

Noah Yearout lashed two hits to lead the Indians’ offensive thrust, while Braden Beasley contributed a double.

Cash Balentine went 4-for-5 at the plate for Fort Smith and drove in five runs.

Ryan Horn pitched most the way for Fort Smith and allowed just five hits — although he gave up four walks and hit a batter with a pitch.

Beasley, Kyler Hancock, Cole Ellis and Hayden Clark each took turns throwing for the innings.

They combined for just one strikeout, but also only allowed four walks.

The Indians waged a dual struggle — detonating an explosive offensive attack and muffling the Fort Smith bats.

Honestly, Bartlesville could have just hung its collective head after the second inning and surrendered to the motions.

But, these Indians — who are coached by Anthoney Towers and staff — are made of sterner stuff.

In the bottom of the third — with Fort Smith already out-of-sight with a 12-0 lead — John Cone led off by garnering a walk.

Two batters later, Yearout dropped a line drive single into left field to set the table for Beasley.

Beasley delivered a fiery shot on a dying liner to left — but the Fort Smith outfielder made an incredible diving catch for the second out of the inning.

However, then it was Cole Ellis’ turn.

The first-year Indian player poked a twisting blooper to right that landed in no-man’s land —inbetween all the converging defensive players — for a single that drove home Cone and broke up the shutout.

Moments later, a balk call sent Yearout home to trim Fort Smith’s lead to 12-2.

The Indians tacked on another in the fifth inning, on a combination single and error that put Grant Yardley on third base.

Yearout came up next and delivered a bouncer into right field to plate Yardley.

Beasley then slugged a double to deep center. But, Yearout tried to score all the way from first and was retired — on a razor-close play — at home.