Sox become just 4th team from Arkansas to make Series
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).
PADUCAH, Ky. — There have been a lot of pretty darn good American Legion baseball teams in Arkansas since 1994, including some splendid ones from Bryant. But none of them have done what the 2007 Bryant Black Sox have.
In fact, it’s only the fourth time since the 1920’s that any team from Arkansas has reached the American Legion World Series.
Yes, the same Bryant Black Sox whom their coaches weren’t even sure could win as many as they’d lose when they got started this season, the same Sox team that had to play an extra game just to get into the State Tournament, will be representing Bryant, Zone 4, Arkansas and the Mid-South Regional at the Legion World Series at Bartlesville, Okla., beginning Aug. 24, when they play the Mid-Atlantic regional champion, Boyertown, Pa.
In a whirlwind, the Sox left Paducah on Wednesday, Aug. 22, bused to Nashville then flew to Tulsa via Dallas before boarding another bus for the trip north to Bartlesville and the pre-tournament activities which included a parade featuring all eight World Series teams, a home run hitting contest, and a banquet prior to the start of the tournament on Friday.
Bryant used the same formula for winning the regional that they used at State. They pitched well when they needed to, they hit when they needed to and, perhaps most importantly, they caught the ball.
“These other teams had athletes like you wouldn’t believe,” acknowledged Sox manager Craig Harrison, “but our guys just played so hard and we played good defense for the most part. Two other coaches said we had the best defensive team they had seen.”
Aaron Davidson, who pitched sparingly during the regular season posting a 4-0 record improved to 11-0 by going the distance on the mound in the 6-2 win over League City, Texas in the Regional final on Monday, Aug. 20. (It was, by the way, the second time during the tourney that Bryant defeated League City, doubling its loss total for the entire season.)
To get to the finals, the Sox downed Bossier City, La., 10-0, on Thursday, Aug. 16; whipped League City, 2-1, in 10 innings; then knocked off a 60-win Blue Springs, Mo., team in the winners bracket finals, 6-2, on Saturday. On Monday, they suffered a 15-2 loss to Paducah, Ky., but because they had won the winners bracket, they advanced to the championship game nonetheless. On Tuesday, League City ousted Paducah in the afternoon to earn the right to play for the title against the Sox that evening.
Bryant 6, League City, Texas 2
Davidson scattered six hits, walked two and struck out eight. He gave up two runs in the first then shut out the Texas champions the rest of the way. In fact, League City was only able to get a runner past first once after the opening frame. Two singles in the eighth produced a first-and-third situation with two out in the eighth but Davidson induced a grounder to second to end the threat.
Bryant took a 3-2 lead in the second then tacked on insurance runs in the fifth and sixth.
Joey Winiecki had two hits to increase his consecutive-game hitting streak to 20. Davidson, Tyler Sawyer and Trent Daniel each had two hits as well.
Devin Hurt was hit by a pitch for the team-record 15th time this season to start the second-inning rally. Ryan Wilson walked and Jordan Knight sacrificed runners to second and third. Sawyer and Tyler Pickett followed with consecutive RBI singles and, with two down, Winiecki beat out an infield hit to load the bases for Jake Jackson who worked for a walk to force in the go-ahead run.
In the fifth, Jackson walked again with one out, sprinted to third on a single by Davidson and scored on a base hit by Hurt to make it 4-2.
Sawyer singled to right to open the sixth, Pickett sacrificed him to second and, with two down, Winiecki bounced a hit up the middle, taking second on a late throw to the plate as Sawyer scored. Winiecki stole third and, after Jackson walked for a third time, scored when Davidson reached on an error, setting the final score.
In the top of the ninth, Davidson hit the lead-off batter but, with one down, the Sox went around the horn for a 5-4-3 doubleplay to end the game and start the celebration.
Paducah, Ky. 15, Bryant 2
Paducah scored seven runs on just two hits in the second inning and the Sox never recovered in a game that kept the host team alive for another day but was really extraneous for Bryant.
Legion’s use of the old College World Series tournament format adds a game for the winner of the winners bracket final when it would ordinarily advance to the championship round to await the survivor of the losers bracket. Bryant was set to play for the title before taking on Paducah and, with a win, would’ve needed to be beaten twice on Tuesday but, as it was, they were able to watch Paducah and League City fight it out in an earlier game on Tuesday before taking on the survivor that night for all the marbles.
Bryant’s effort on offense was highlighted by Winiecki keeping his hitting streak alive with a 3-for-3 game.
The Sox didn’t score until the sixth when Winiecki doubled and scored on a two-out hit by Hurt. In the seventh, Justin Blankenship reached base on a third-strike wild pitch and was forced out at second on a grounder by Garrett Neal. Kaleb Jobe singled Neal to second and he scored on Winiecki’s third hit.
Blue Springs, Mo. 2
Alex Kehrees improved to 5-0 on the season by combining with Tyler Sawyer, who picked up the save, to limit the 60-10 Blue Springs team to eight hits. Kehrees went 5 2/3 innings, giving up five hits and single runs in the second and sixth while walking four and fanning four. Sawyer finished with 3 1/3 innings of three-hit shutout relief.
Davidson led a 19-hit attack for the Sox with a 4-for-6 night at the plate. Winiecki, Hurt and Sawyer had three hits each with Daniel and Wilson adding two hits apiece.
Knight and Daniel walked in the second and Winiecki singled in the game’s first run. After Blue Springs tied it in the bottom of the inning, the Sox took the lead for good in the fourth when Sawyer slapped a single to left and, with one out, Daniel split the gap in right-center for an RBI double.
In the fifth, singles by Davidson, Wilson and Sawyer loaded the bases for Pickett who came through with a base hit to center to drive in two and make it 4-1.
Blue Springs loaded the bases with two out in the bottom of the sixth on a pair of walks around a single. A hit batsman forced in a run but Sawyer came on in relief to get the third out.
Bryant got the run back in the seventh when Sawyer doubled, Pickett reached on an error and Daniel came through with an RBI single. Pickett picked up another RBI in the eighth when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Davidson had doubled, Wilson singled and stole a base and Sawyer intentionally walked to set the table.