‘Best comeback’ saves Sox
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
MOUNTAIN HOME — As one observer noted, it was probably the Bryant Black Sox’ worst game of the season and their best win.
In a game in which they trailed 10-2 going into the bottom of the fifth, 13-4 going into the bottom of the seventh, committed six errors, issued 10 walks and surrendered 18 hits, the Sox somehow found a way to win.
Incredibly, they rallied for 11 runs over the final three innings including four in the bottom of the ninth to stun the Jonesboro Ricemen 15-14 in the first round of the AAA State American Legion Tournament at Cooper Park on Friday, Aug. 3.
A dramatic three-run homer by Jordan Knight tied the game in the ninth and a two-out infield single by Joey Winiecki scored Tyler Pickett to win it, improving the Sox to 33-7 this season with a second-round date with the Fayetteville Lindsey & Associates Dodgers in the second round on Saturday.
“I don’t know,” stated Bryant manager Craig Harrison, shaking his head. “We came out here and that was as awful a baseball as I’ve ever seen us play in 13 years for probably seven innings. We couldn’t get them out, we couldn’t catch it. We’re throwing the ball all over the park and our pitchers can’t throw strikes and Jonesboro’s hitting it. We were hitting the ball decent but I was over there saying, ‘Good grief.’
“But they don’t quit,” he emphasized. “They don’t quit. And I didn’t say a word the last six innings. They did it on their own. And they never gave up. When you don’t give up, you always have a chance. I don’t know what to say.
“It’s the best comeback we’ve ever had, that’s for sure.”
Harrison used five pitchers including shortstop Devin Hurt, who hadn’t thrown a pitch since throwing one inning in the second game of the season. Hurt came on in the eighth after Kaleb Jobe had to come out due to some dizziness. Jobe, who started at second, pitched three innings, holding Jonesboro without a run in the seventh, one of just three frames in which the Ricemen did not dent the plate.
Hurt gave up a run in the eighth but induced a doubleplay ball to get out of a bases-loaded jam. With the sacks jammed again and one out in the ninth, he got a strikeout but then had to give way to Aaron Davidson, who got the final out and wound up picking up the win after throwing six pitches.
The game-winning rally began with a double by Davidson. Hurt was then hit by a pitch for the third time in the game. (There were, in fact, six times that Sox batters were hit and two more times that Jonesboro batters were plunked.) Ryan Wilson, who homered earlier, made a bid for another but his drive to center was chased down by Delta Cleary. Davidson, however, tagged at second and advanced to third.
The count went to 2-0 on Knight before he blasted his homer over the fence in right-center to tie it.
An out later, Cade Lynch, the third Jonesboro pitcher, issued walks to Pickett and Justin Blankenship. A wild pitch moved them to second and third as Winiecki battled to a 3-2 count. The next pitch, he got just enough of the ball to roll it down the third-base line. Pickett raced home and the speedy Winiecki easily beat the throw to first, igniting a Black Sox celebration.
“I just wanted to put it in play,” Winiecki said. “Just put it in play and try to get the win. We worked hard all game, played terrible but we’re a good team. If we stick together, we’ll go all the way. We don’t ever give up.”
Winiecki had three hits in the game, as did Wilson and Tyler Sawyer. Knight went 4 for 4 with five runs batted in. He scored three times and, including a walk and a hit by pitch, he was on base six times in the game.
The Sox wound up with 19 hits.
Jonesboro got off to a fast start, scoring three runs on five hits in the first. Another runner was tagged out at the plate by pitcher Trent Daniel after a pitch got past Pickett, the catcher who hustled after the ball and got it back to his pitcher in time for the out.
Bryant got on the board in the second when Hurt, who was on base five times and scored every time, reached on an error. Wilson beat out an infield hit and Knight singled in the run..
But Jonesboro got the run back in the top of the inning and had the bases loaded when Daniel had to leave the game with a blister on his pitching hand. Alex Kehrees relieved and induced a doubleplay ball to get out of the inning with Bryant trailing just 4-1.
In the fourth, however, a pair of Bryant errors led to four unearned runs and an 8-1 Jonesboro lead.
Hurt was hit by a pitch to start the bottom of the inning and, after Knight walked, scored on a double by Sawyer.
But Jonesboro opened the top of the fifth with a double and a walk. Jobe relieved and the Sox turned a doubleplay that provided hope of a scoreless inning. But Brant Arender blasted a two-run homer to bump the advantage to 10-2.
Wilson kept Bryant whittling on the lead with his two-run jack in the bottom of the inning. Hurt, who had singled, scored ahead of him.
Jonesboro, however, made a bid to make it a run-rule win with three runs in the top of the sixth with the help of three Bryant errors and three walks. With runners at first and third, Wilson, at third, speared a liner and fired to first for a doubleplay to keep it 13-4.
Bryant couldn’t score in the bottom of the inning so Jonesboro had another shot at making it a run-rule win in the top of the seventh. Jobe, though, worked around a two-out error and the Sox prevented.
The comeback began in the bottom of the frame. With two down, Knight beat out an infield hit and Sawyer smacked a single up the middle. Pickett was hit by a pitch to load the bases and Jobe singled to right to plate a run. Winiecki followed, in kind, driving home two to make it 13-7.
Even though Jonesboro added a run in the top of the eighth and brought in a fresh pitcher, Codie Rollins in relief of starter Cody Powell, Bryant kept the momentum. Davidson singled, Hurt was hit and Wilson singled to load the bags. Knight took one for the team to force in a run, Sawyer singled in one and Pickett was hit by a delivery to make it 14-10.
Lynch relieved and uncorked a wild pitch to allow Knight to score, cutting the lead to three.