Bryant’s 42nd win all chopped up
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
SPRINGDALE/FAYETTEVILLE — By the time the Bryant Black Sox made their third trip of the week to northwest Arkansas for the AAA American Legion State Tournament, things appeared to be falling into place for a run at a championship. On their first trip, they’d bounced back from a tourney-opening loss on Saturday to a fresh Abel Newton and the Russellville Superior Foods Bombers to oust the hosting Springdale Harps team on Sunday. When they returned on Tuesday, they sent the Sylvan Hills Bruins home.
The third trip, on Friday, would be their last. It was to begin with a semifinal game against the Fayetteville Lindsey and Associates Dodgers, the lone unbeaten team remaining. Ordinarily, Fayetteville wouldn’t play such a game. The Dodgers, after winning the winners bracket final, would be waiting on the survivor of the losers bracket. But because the tournament was employing an old bracket used for many years by the College World Series (until ESPN got involved and instigated a change) Fayetteville, despite already clinching a berth in the tournament finals, took on Bryant Friday.
Though there was an advantage to winning for the Dodgers — the team would have two chances to win one game on Saturday for the title — their motivation was soft. They saved their two best pitchers, Christian Pummell and Kellen Harwell, who had pitched every inning in the tournament for them to that point. Instead, they started lefty Levi Rush.
Bryant, with no such leeway, sent ace lefty Brad Chism to the mound and he promptly throttled the Dodgers on four hits as the Sox stayed alive with a 13-2 win.
Well, “promptly” may not be the right word. The game started Friday evening at Springdale’s Rob Lyall Field and finished Saturday morning on George Cole Field at Charles Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
It was the start of the events that would make the weekend something of a “2001: Baseball Odyssey.” First, there was a rain delay during the Pine Bluff-Russellville game prior to the Sox-Dodgers contest Friday night. It set the late game back 30 minutes or so, and only 30 minutes because Pine Bluff earned a run-rule win in seven innings, 16-1.
Then, there was another thunderstorm that blew through interrupting the Black Sox’ at-bat in the bottom of the third as they threatened to add to a 4-2 lead. That lasted over an hour and came within five minutes of forcing a suspension of the action until Saturday morning. But the rain let up just in time and play resumed.
Bryant added to its lead in each inning and held an 11-2 advantage when lightning on the western horizon caught the umpires’ attention and the field was cleared again. This time, there was no patience for the interruption. Despite the fact that it was not raining and the lightning — as impressive as it was — was far enough away that no thunder was heard and getting more and more infrequent, the game was suspended.
Bryant manager Craig Harrison protested, asking for more time — it was only 10 p.m. — figuring his team would be able to add one more run to make it a 10-run-rule win in seven innings which wouldn’t take much longer.
But Harrison’s protests notwithstanding, the game was suspended and scheduled to be taken up again the next morning at Baum Stadium. It was planned for 8:30 a.m., but no such luck.
With players arriving from all over the state expecting a workout prior to the AAA All-Star games to be played that day, the Sox and Dodgers had to wait right along with the all-stars as the field was prepared. The storms had hit Baum as well and, though the tarp had been rolled out, it had not been well secured. The high winds had blown it off the homeplate area and turned it into a mud hole.
So, Bryant was faced with finishing the game against Fayetteville — which they did by about 10 a.m. or so — then coming back after the all-star games to play Pine Bluff at 4 p.m., for a shot at the championship against Fayetteville again that night at 7.
A full day’s work. Little did they know there was more adversity on the way (see related story).
The Sox scored in every inning against a quartet of Fayetteville pitchers. Beau Hamblin who, with a 3-for-5 game, ran his hitting streak to 10 games, led the offense driving in three. Matt White, Jordan Davis and Matt Brown each added two hits and Matt Lewis clubbed a three-run homer.
The first run was scored by White in the bottom of the opening inning. He had singled with one out, raced to third on a double by Hamblin and scored on Davis’s grounder to second.
Fayetteville scored a pair of unearned runs in the top of the second to take a brief 2-1 lead. Lewis erased that advantage with his three-run shot in the bottom of the inning. Brown had singled and Kevin Littleton walked before Lewis’s bomb.
Chism waded through the heart of the Fayetteville batting order 1-2-3 in the top of the third and as the wind picked up and the clouds closed in, Bryant put together another uprising in the bottom of the inning. Davis doubled with one down then Cody Graddy’s fly to right was misplayed putting runners at second and third. With two down, Kevin Littleton stepped to the plate but that’s when the storm hit.
When the delay finally concluded, Littleton smashed a double to left-center to make it 6-2.
In the fourth, Dustin Morris walked but was forced at second when he had to hold up to see if Matt White’s bloop fly to center would drop. It did but the center fielder got close enough to catching it that he was able to throw to second for the force.
White, however, swiped second then scored on Hamblin’s second double. A pair of passed balls allowed Hamblin to score.
Chism, meanwhile, was continuing a stretch in which he retired 16 of 18 batters — through the rain delay, the suspension and the continuation Saturday morning. In the fifth, just before the suspension, the only two batters to reach during that stretch, Johnny Davis (with a single) and Ryan Paskiewicz (with a walk) were stranded.
The game was called as the Sox were putting together another big inning in the fifth. Stephen Sprick, the third Fayetteville pitcher, hit Lewis with a pitch and walked Morris. White then doubled down the third-base line to make it 9-2. Hamblin chased home a pair with a single to right-center, taking second on a late throw to the plate.
With Davis at the plate, Hamblin took third on a wild pitch then the lightning got too much for the umpires. Moments later, the game was suspended.
After a short night at the motel and a long wait for the field to be readied, the game resumed at Baum on Saturday morning with the Sox leading 11-2. Matt Brown made it 12-2 when he singled in Hamblin.
In the seventh, Morris took advantage of the vast expanses of the Baum Stadium outfield and the artificial turf to leg out a triple. White’s sacrifice fly set the final score.