Another late game-breaking uprising keeps Senior Sox in league lead
EDITOR’S NOTE: Because the look back at each day in Bryant athletic history has been so favorably received during the time when there was no sports during the COVID-19 shutdown, BryantDaily.com will continueposting past stories of Bryant athletics either posted on BryantDaily.com (from 2009 to the present) or published in the Bryant Times (from 1998 to 2008).
By Rob Patrick
LITTLE ROCK — The way the Bryant Black Sox Senior American Legion team has been playing lately, it’s[more] tempting to think it’s just a matter of time.
The Sox have swung the bats late in games. As often as not, they’re scoring to blow a game out — like in their 11-4 win over Little Rock Continental Express on Tuesday — or extend a small lead — like in their 6-3 win over Benton McClendon’s on Wednesday.
On Thursday night, however, it was getting late and manager Darren Hurt admitted, there was some anxiety. Bryant, protecting a slim lead in the Zone 4 standings and vying for the valuable first-round bye at the Zone Tournament that goes with finishing first, trailed Little Rock Post 1 Blue 5-3 in the bottom of the fourth at Central High School’s Buddy Coleman Field.
With one run in and a runner at second, Blue looked like it would get a sixth run when, with two out, Travis Godfrey cracked a sharp grounder into the hole at short. Though it looked like it was headed to left field for an RBI single, Bryant shortstop Jordan Taylor dove and came up with the ball as the runner that had started at second, Derek Grimmitt, rounded third and headed home. Taylor, who had arrived at the game in about the third inning after playing a full game earlier in the day at the Xtra Innings Classic in Jonesboro, bounced to his feet and fired towards home. The throw skipped in but Sox catcher B.J. Ellis claimed it, blocked the plate and tagged Grimmett out on a bang-bang play to end the inning.
As it turned out, Blue would only manage one base-runner after that as Bryant reliever Matt Neal shut them down.
Oh, and the eventuality occurred. In the top of the fifth, the Sox cranked out eight runs on the way to a 15-5 win that improved them to 8-1 in league play with three games left. They host Zone 4 newcomer Hope in a doubleheader tonight at 5 then finish at home against Pine Bluff Simmons, the only team that has defeated the Sox in league play, on Monday at 7 p.m.
The Sox, now 13-5 overall, had been subdued early by Little Rock lefty Noah Burks who just ran out of gas in the fifth and, after three walks and a double, had to come out.
“We couldn’t figure him out,” Hurt admitted. “I was getting a little nervous, absolutely. I thought the whole game, you know, we’re going to break out. It’s going to happen.”
Hurt, with his team playing game three in what is now a six-game-in-seven-days stretch, had been looking for someone to take the ball and start the game on the mound. He only needed to look down the hall at the house. Son Ozzie, a stellar defender at second base, threw his first innings of the season and kept the Sox in it allowing five runs, just three earned, on six hits with a walk and five strikeouts.
“I was going to try to keep stealing innings with him as long as he could keep that number (of runs) manageable,” Darren Hurt said. “Because I just knew we were going to jump out and start hitting the baseball, especially when (Burks) had to pitch to us the third time through. But then we’re getting to the fifth inning and we’re down 5-3 and all of a sudden it’s getting a little more nerve-racking and you’re thinking, ‘Well, when are we going to get it going?’
“But once we finally did, we were ripping it all over the park,” he concluded.
Hunter Mayall paced the offense going 3 for 4 including the big blow of the fifth, a three-run triple. Tyler Brown, Landon Pickett and Taylor wound up with two hits each. Taylor knocked in three and Pickett two.
Mr. Resilient, Neal earned the win with 2 2/3 innings of one-hit relief, fanning four and walking one. The game ended in style with a headlong dive in shallow right center by right-fielder Evan Jobe to snag a sinking liner off Grimmett’s bat.
The Sox had a chance to break out on top in the opening inning, loading the bases with one out but Blue turned a doubleplay to get out of the jam. Burks then fanned two in a 1-2-3 second.
Post 1 took a 2-0 lead in the second. Kevin Garner singled with one out and stole second on a close play that didn’t go Bryant’s way. With Garner on the move, Alex Harvey grounded out to Brodie Nixon at third. Joey Abraham followed with an RBI single to right.
A wild pitch allowed Abraham to move to second and he was headed home with two out when Michael McMurray shot a single to right. Bryant’s Brady Butler charged the ball and came up firing. His throw beat Abraham to the plate but when B.J. Ellis applied the tag, the ball got away and it was 2-0.
The Sox broke through with three in the top of the third with the help of some Little Rock miscues. Caleb Garrett’s one-out single set things up. He stole second and tagged and sprinted to third on a long fly to center by Brown. He scored on a passed ball.
Mayall beat out a slow roller to second for his second hit but it appeared Burks and Blue were out of the inning when Pickett rolled a grounder to third. An errant throw followed to keep the inning alive. Butler made contact on a swinging bunt up the first-base line. Harvey, the Little Rock catcher, hustled out to sweep up the ball but his throw was in the dirt allowing Butler to reach safely. Mayall, who had been off with the pitch toward third, scored on the play to make it 2-2. And when Chris Joiner drilled a single up the middle, Pickett scored to give the Sox the lead.
Blue grabbed the lead back in the bottom of the inning. Godfrey doubled with one out then singles by Burks and Brandon Schmidt chased runs home to make it 4-3 before Hurt induced a pair of groundouts to get out of the inning.
Burks hit Ellis and walked Garrett in the fourth but escaped with the lead intact.
A walk to Abraham started the bottom of the inning. He took off to steal second and it appeared that Ellis’ throw beat him. But, again, the call didn’t go the Sox way. That brought up Grimmett whose long fly was misplayed. Abraham scored and Grimmett wound up at second.
Neal relieved and got the second out on strikes before Godfrey’s hit in the hole that Taylor just got to.
Bryant’s game-breaking eighth began with a walk to Pickett and a ringing double off the fence by Butler. Joiner and Lucas Castleberry drew free passes forcing in a run and Burks gave way to Daniel Imbro. But the new hurler fared little better. Ellis drew an RBI walk to tie the game 5-5. Taylor followed with a rope to center for a two-run single and Bryant was ahead to stay.
With one out, Brown beat out an infield hit to fill the sacks again for Mayall who cleared the bases with his drive to the fence in center.
McMurray relieved at that point and Pickett greeted him with a shot down the left-field line for an RBI double that made it 11-4.
Blue went down in order in the bottom of the fifth as Neal fanned a pair. The Sox then put the game in run-rule territory in the top of the sixth. Ellis walked again and scored all the way from first on a long double to left by Taylor. Brown plugged the gap for an RBI double and, after Mayall walked, Pickett’s bad-hop single drove in Brown. Walks to Jobe and Joiner forced in the 15th run.
BRYANT 15, LITTLE ROCK POST 1 5
Senior American Legion
Black Sox ab r h bi Blue ab r h bi
Garrett, cf 4 1 1 0 Watterson, cf 3 0 0 0
Brown, 2b-3b 5 2 2 1 Godfrey, 2b-lf 3 1 2 0
Mayall, dh 4 3 3 3 Burks, p-rf 3 1 1 1
Pickett, 1b 3 2 2 2 Schmidt, 1b 3 0 1 1
Butler, rf 3 0 1 0 Garner, rf-cf 3 1 1 0
Jobe, pr-rf 0 1 0 1 Jackson, p 0 0 0 0
Joiner, lf 3 1 1 2 Harvey, c 3 0 0 0
Castleberry, ss-2b 4 1 0 1 Abraham, ss 2 2 1 1
Ellis, c 2 2 0 1 McMurray, lf-p 2 0 1 1
Nixon, 3b 2 0 0 0 Thompson, 3b 1 0 0 0
Taylor, ss 2 2 2 3 Grimmett, 3b 2 0 0 0
Neal, p 0 0 0 0
Totals 32 15 12 13 Totals 25 5 7 4
BRYANT 003 084 — 15
LR Blue 022 100 — 5
E—Harvey 2, Ellis, Thompson, Garrett. DP—Little Rock Blue 1. LOB—Bryant 11, LR Blue 4. 2B—Godfrey, Butler, Brown, Pickett. 3B—Mayall. SB—Garner, Garrett, Ellis, Brown, Abraham.
Pitching ip r er h bb so
Hurt 3.1 5 3 6 1 5
Neal (W) 2.2 0 0 1 1 4
Burks (L) 4 7 5 5 5 5
Imbro 0.1 4 4 3 1 1
McMurray 0.2 0 0 1 1 1
Jackson 1 4 4 3 4 0
WP—Hurt, McMurray, Jackson. PB—Harvey.