Price, Wells pitch Sox past Bruins
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
FORT SMITH — After slugging their way to victory in the first round of the AAA American Legion State Tournament, the Bryant Blacksox used pitching, defense and timely hitting to extract a tautly contested 3-2 win over defending State champion Sylvan Hills on Sunday, Aug. 1, to advance to the winners bracket finals.
A two-run sixth erased a 2-1 deficit then started Daniel Price and reliever Justin Wells with some help from their teammates defensively made it hold up for the win as the Sox improved to 35-8. They advanced to take on Area 4 rival Texarkana in the winners bracket final on Monday, Aug. 2, with a trip to the State championship game on the line.
Price had shut Sylvan Hills’ Bruins out on three hits over the first four innings. In the fourth, he had been supported by terrific defensive plays by Jeff Carpenter at third, who started a doubleplay, and Travis Wood in left, who robbed Cody Duncan off an extra-base hit with a diving back-handed stab of a liner in left center.
Bryant had taken a 1-0 lead in the second off Duncan. Scott Peeler doubled, took third on a single by Cory Lambert and scored when Korey Hunter grounder to third. Sylvan Hills tried to turn an inning-ending doubleplay on Hunters bouncer. Though the Bruins got the force at second, Hunter hustled to first and beat the relay allowing Peeler to score.
In the fifth, Price allowed a one-out hit to Brandon Eller. With two down, Brian Harper looped a single to left. A wild pitch put runners at second and third but Price got within a strike of retiring Jeremiah Peters with the shutout intact. Peters, however, slapped a single to right, plating two runs and giving the Bruins the 2-1 lead.
Price regrouped and struck out the side after giving up a lead-off single in the sixth, setting up Bryant’s rally.
Wells doubled to start the bottom of the sixth, Bryant’s first hit off of Duncan since Lambert’s single in the second. Travis Wood followed with an RBI single, taking second on a late throw home. Peeler then came through with a base hit to give Bryant the lead.
Price, with the help of a nice play by Wells coming from short to snag a bouncer up the middle and retire Eller, set down the first two in the seventh then gave up a bad-hop single to Harper. Manager Craig Harrison went to Wells at that point and Peters grounded to second to end the inning.
“Daniel Price threw one heck of a ballgame,” Harrison asserted. “That team (Sylvan Hills) can hit the baseball. They always have a team that can hit. He got in some trouble in the fifth there and we were a little on edge. I went out to the mound and said, ‘You’ve got to buckle down for us right here.’ He was upset because we got crossed up on a pitch (resulting in the wild pitch) and they got two runs instead of one. But he buckled down and got us out then he had a nice sixth inning. We said, okay, now if we can ever get the lead. We got a couple of key hits and got the lead.”
The Sox had chances to add to the lead. In the sixth, Lambert singled and Peeler reached third but was stranded. In the seventh, Carpenter singled and Wells doubled again but both were left on. In the eight, a lead-off walk to Todd Bryan and a stolen base came to nothing.
“We just couldn’t get that other run,” Harrison said. “You get a two-run lead, you feel a lot more comfortable. But Wellsy, man, what can you say. He gutted it out.”
Wells retired seven of the nine batters he faced but the two that reached put Bryant’s lead in jeopardy. With two out in the eighth, Justin Franco was hit by a pitch and Duncan walked on a 3-2 count, moments after the Sox were unable to corral a foul pop. The count went to 3-2 on Cody Dillon who then hit a looper towards shallow center that looked like it might tie the game. But Hunter, ranging back from his second base spot, chased it down to end the threat.