Black Sox win their way to State semifinals
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 — The Bryant Black Sox and Sylvan Hills Bruins played two games in one Tuesday night in an elimination game at the AAA American Legion State Tournament at Rob Lyall Field. The first four innings were all Bryant and, after a pair of uneventful frames, Sylvan Hills dominated a couple. In the end, Bryant did more with theirs than the Bruins and, thanks to a rally-stopping pitching performance by Scott Yant, the Sox held on for a 13-9 win that thrust them into the final four.
At 41-13, the Sox were set to play the Fayetteville Lindsey & Associates Dodgers on Friday in the tourney semifinals. If Fayetteville defeats the Russellville Superior Foods Bombers on Thursday, the game would played at 7. If Russellville wins Thursday’s game, Bryant would play at 4 p.m. on Friday. The other semifinal will pit Russellville against Pine Bluff, which ousted Jonesboro 16-1 on Tuesday.
Sylvan Hills finished its season with a 33-13 mark. It was the Bruins’ second loss to the Black Sox. In the earlier meeting, Bryant blasted five home runs on the way to a 26-4 romp.
On Tuesday, Sylvan Hills lost despite belting six home runs.
Early, Bryant made it appear that another 26-4 laugher could be in the works, building a 13-1 lead in the first four innings, sparked by home runs by Jordan Davis, Cody Graddy and Beau Hamblin.
Right-hander Matt Lewis, who picked up the victory to go 9-0 on the season, held Sylvan Hills to just one run on six hits over the first six innings and came within three outs of making it a run-rule win for the Sox. A two-run homer by Chad Duncan and a solo shot by Nick Miller spoiled that possibility, however.
Beau Hamblin relieved and surrendered a solo shot to Ryan Williams before getting out of the inning with the Bryant lead cut to 13-5.
The Bruins’ Chris Dickens doubled in a run with two out in the eighth in the eighth — a shot that Davis, the Bryant left fielder, almost hauled in at the fence — and Yant came on to relieve Hamblin. He was greeted by back-to-back jacks by Williams and James Wise, making it 13-9. But, unfazed, Yant struck out Noah Treat to end the inning then set Sylvan Hills down 1-2-3 in the ninth to close it out.
“I wanted to give Matty a chance to get the complete game,” said Bryant manager Craig Harrison. “Beau didn’t have his best stuff and I didn’t want to use Scotty but you can save anybody. You try to do that and you wind up saving them for next year.
“Anytime you play nine innings, it’s a long game,” he added. “Momentum and emotion are a big part of how the game goes, especially for guys this age. It was fortunate that we came out with the intensity we had. Sylvan Hills has had a hot-hitting team. They can flat hit the baseball. And they had their best pitcher on the mound. But he was coming back on just two day’s rest and that’s tough for any pitcher.”
Miller, the Bruins ace, started the game and, in the first, surrendered one-out singles to Matt White and Hamblin. He got two strikes in on Davis but made a mistake inside on the 0-2 delivery and Davis hammered it for his 12th homer of the season.
Danny Hurt’s solo homer in the top of the second made it 3-1 but Bryant struck for four in the bottom of the inning, highlighted by Graddy’s three-run shot, his eighth of the year and fifth in the last seven games.
A one-out error allowed Dustin Morris to reach base to start the uprising. White walked and, after a wild pitch, Hamblin bounced to second. With Morris racing to the plate, Dickens, the Bruins’ second baseman, threw a one-hopper to the plate that Hurt, the catcher, couldn’t handle.
Graddy’s blast came an out later.
While Lewis frustrated the Bruins, who continued to strike out or pop the ball up, the Sox produced the game-breaking outburst. It came in the fourth and started with Hamblin jolt over the center-field screen.
Miller gave way to Justin Parks, Bryant’s victim in the regular-season meeting between the two teams. Parks fared little better this time. Davis and Graddy singled and Matt Brown walked to load the bases. Davis scored when Kevin Littleton was robbed of a hit by Bruins’ shortstop Brent Mason to get a force at third.
Lewis got things revved up again with an RBI double then Littleton sprinted home on Chris Sory’s grounder to first. Morris doubled in Lewis to make it 12-1. He took third on a wild pitch and scored when White beat out an infield hit.
Hamblin singled White to third to end Parks’ moundwork. Jason Duncan relieved and got the final out.
Duncan proceeded to shut down the Sox, retiring 12 in a row before issuing a walk to Yant in the bottom of the eighth, allowing his teammates to rally.