Sox top Kerwins to reach final
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
JONESBORO — Justin Wells pitched out of jams in the seventh and eighth innings and the Bryant Black Sox were typically opportunistic on offense as they moved to within a win of an elusive State championship with a 6-4 win over Fort Smith Kerwins on Tuesday, Aug. 2.
The winners bracket final victory put the Sox in the championship round of the AAA American Legion State Tournament for the second year in a row. Kerwins, the team that denied the Sox a title in 2004 with a pair of wins in the title round, dropped into the losers bracket but earned a re-match with a 12-1 win over Pine Bluff Simmons.
Daniel Price (8-2) picked up the win in relief of starter James Leigh for the Black Sox. He also contributed a key two-run double in the fifth inning when Bryant took the lead. Wells added an RBI triple for an insurance run in the seventh after Kerwins had whittled a 5-2 deficit to 5-4.
Price issued a one-out walk in the bottom of the seventh and Bryant manager Craig Harrison called on Wells, who saved the team’s second-round win over Sylvan Hills the day before. Wells, however, issued a walk then hit a batter to load the bases before he hit his stride. He struck out Wade Pressley then got Michael Jones to ground into an inning-ending force.
In the eighth, a lead-off single by Garrett Groom and a walk to Daniel Stegall had Bryant’s lead in jeopardy again. A sacrifice put runners at second and third with one out and the top of the Kerwins lineup coming up.
But Wells struck out Phillip Milam and Tyler Tate to end the threat then worked a 1-2-3 ninth for the save.
The Sox spotted Kerwins a 2-0 lead in the home first when Leigh struggled with his control. A pair of walks around a single by Tate loaded the bases at the outset. Jantzen Black grounded to Zack Young at third for a force at home but walks to Pressley and Jones (both on 3-2 pitches) forced in the runs before Groom popped to Young who fired to first to double off Jones to end the inning.
Leigh worked a 1-2-3 second but after the Sox tied the game in the top of the third, Price took over.
Bryant’s third-inning rally began with a third-strike wild pitch. Travis Queck hustled to first and when Jones, the Fort Smith catcher, threw wildly to first, raced on to second. Queck reached third on a wild pitch as Todd Bryan was being walked. The duo then worked a double steal to get the first run in. Two more wild pitches by Kerwins starter Chad Knight tied the game 2-2.
Singles by Danny Riemenschneider and Young followed but the Sox couldn’t snap the tie until the fifth. Riemenschneider’s second hit started the frame. Aaron Davidson bunted him to second and, after Young walked, a wild pitch put runners at second and third for Price who cracked a 3-1 delivery to drive in both.
A wild pitch sent Price to third then a passed ball allowed him to score as Casey Grisham drew a walk. Knight gave way to Chris Bullington at that point and he got out of the inning.
Price had allowed just two hits in his first three innings. But with one out in the sixth, a single and a walk gave Kerwins a scoring chance. Price got Jones to bounce into a force at third for the second out but Groom singled to load the bases and Stegall singled to drive home two, making it 5-4. But Price got Crowley to bounce out to second to end the inning with the Sox still in the lead.
With two out in the top of the seventh, Price worked a walk. Wells followed with a triple to make it a two-run lead.