Kehrees, Sox oust Jonesboro
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).
MOUNTAIN HOME — The Bryant Black Sox didn’t need to win against the Jonesboro Riceland Ricemen at the AAA American Legion State Tournament at Cooper Park on Monday, Aug. 6. In fact, their pitchers would’ve actually picked up an additional day of rest had they lost.
But they couldn’t help themselves.
The Sox eliminated the Ricemen with a 7-4 victory to remain unbeaten in the State tourney. They advanced to the championship round against Fayetteville on Tuesday with two chances to win one game and the State title.
Had Jonesboro survived on Monday, the finals would’ve been moved back to Wednesday because the teams had agreed to let Jonesboro off on Tuesday because the funeral for a former teammate was being held that day. Jonesboro would’ve thus come back on Wednesday to play Fayetteville with the winner advancing to a second game that evening, playing for the title against Bryant.
“You just can’t ask your guys to go out and do anything but their best, to try to win,” acknowledged Bryant manager Craig Harrison. “And that’s what they did. Alex (Kehrees) pitched really well for us.”
The lefty scattered five hits over seven innings, struck out seven and walked sixth including a batter to start the eighth with the Sox holding a 6-3 lead. Kaleb Jobe came on to relieve and got out of the inning by inducing a double play ball then closed it out in the ninth for the save.
Jonesboro had come close to beating the Sox with the run-rule in the opener of the tournament only to have a 13-4 lead through six innings turned into a 15-14 loss.
Bryant got a lift off the bench from Justin Blankenship who subbed for aching center fielder Joey Winiecki. Blankenship had three hits, an RBI and a sacrifice in the lead-off spot after Winiecki came out with a pull or a cramp in his calf after scoring in the first.
Jake Jackson also had three hits with Ryan Wilson and Jordan Knight adding two each.
Bryant took a 2-0 lead in the first when Winiecki singled, took second on an error then scored when Jackson’s base hit to left was misplayed.
Jackson came home later in the inning when Devin Hurt reached on an error.
Jonesboro got on the board in the bottom of the inning but Bryant got the run back in the second. Trent Daniel reached on an error, took second on a passed ball, third on a single by Blankenship and scored on a two-out hit by Davidson, making it 3-1.
After Kehrees followed a lead-off walk by striking out the side in the bottom of the second, the Sox added to the lead in the third. Knight singled, Tyler Sawyer walked and, after they pulled off a double steal, Daniel picked up an RBI with a groundout and Blankenship came through with an run-scoring single.
Jonesboro whittled single runs off the margin in the third and fourth to make it 5-3 but Kehrees retired the last two of the fourth and held Jonesboro to just one more hit through seven, retiring seven of eight batters at one stretch.
The Sox added an insurance run in the top of the eighth on a bases-loaded single by Sawyer. Hurt, who had been hit by a pitch, scored the run. Wilson, who had doubled, tried to score as well but was thrown out at the plate.
In the top of the ninth, Daniel singled, took second on a passed ball, third on Blankenship’s sac bunt and scored on Jackson’s third hit of the game to make it 7-3.
Jobe gave up a pair of singles to start the bottom of the ninth but retired the next three, one on a grounder to second that drove in a run to set the final score.