By Rob Patrick
You know what they say about superstition.[more]
Being superstitious is like saying that something is in charge other than the good Lord.
But . . .
The Bryant Black Sox Senior American Legion team started Friday night’s Zone 4 doubleheader against the Hope Wildcats with their white jerseys on. After Thursday’s game in which they defeated Little Rock Post 1 Blue, their fourth win in a row wearing black jerseys, they agreed to wear the white in the first game and the black in the second.
After three and a half innings, however, the Sox found themselves trailing Hope 6-0 so manager Darren Hurt went to the umpires and the Hope coaches to make sure that it’d be no problem to switch to the black jerseys in the middle of the game.
No one seemed to mind.
Funny thing is, after the switch, the Sox out-scored the Wildcats 14-0.
Unfortunately, the Sox only got five of those runs in the first game which ended on a flyball by Jordan Taylor to the deepest part of Bryant High School field with the bases loaded.
But, in the second game, Landon Pickett and Dylan Cross combined on a two-hit shutout as the Sox secured a 9-0 win.
Chances are, the team will be in black on Monday when they wrap up the regular season against Pine Bluff Simmons, a game that will probably decide the regular-season championship and the highly desirable first-round bye at the Zone Tournament, which begins in Bryant on Friday, July 15. Whoever gets the bye is just two wins away from earning a trip to State instead of three for everybody else.
The Sox are now 14-6 overall and 9-2 in Zone play. Pine Bluff, which was set to play a doubleheader against defending State champion Texarkana this weekend. Bryant has accounted for the only two league losses for the Razorbacks to date.
Of course, it probably didn’t help Friday night that Hope had apparently figured out the signals Bryant was using to call pitches from the dugout early in the first game. The Sox didn’t realize it and change until after the Wildcats had put together a five-run fourth.
But the Sox had plenty of opportunities to win anyway. They benefited from nine walks, three hit batsmen and two errors. Though they had seven hits, they stranded 13 runners in the seven-inning contest. Three times, including the seventh, they left the bases loaded. Bryant only struck out once in the entire game (and just three times the whole night). There were a lot of hard hit balls right at Hope defenders.
In the nightcap, Pickett allowed a clean single in the first to Hope’s Dillon Gore, worked around an error in the second then a walk and an error in the third. After a 1-2-3 fourth, he gave way to Cross who hit a batter in the fifth and walked on in the fifth before Jacob Marshall led off the seventh with a double. A two-out walk to Davis Wilson produced just the second time in the game the Wildcats had had two runners aboard at the same time.
But Bodie Phillips lined out to Taylor at short to end the game.
Taylor, Pickett, Tyler Brown and Ozzie Hurt each had two hits in the win.
The Sox snapped a scoreless tie in the third when Brown singled and got to second when the ball was misplayed in left. A wild pitch got him to third and he scored from there when Pickett lined a single to center an out later.
A five-run fourth put the Sox in control of the game. A one-out walk to Hayden Lessenberry got the uprising started. Hurt then pushed a bunt to the right side and not only moved Lessenberry into scoring position, beat it out for a single. A base hit by Hunter Mayall loaded the bases and, with two out, Taylor bounced a 3-2 pitch into right to plate a pair.
Pickett followed with a pop into shallow right that second baseman Zach Winfield lost in the lights. It fell in front of right fielder Matthew Lusk for an RBI single. Brady Butler then capped off the inning with a shot off the wall in center for a two-run double.
Right-hander Tyler Downs relieved Wilson, the Wildcats’ starter, in the fifth but fared little better. Josh Pultro walked and, an out later, Hurt chopped a single up the middle. Pultro sprinted to third and, when he drew a late throw, Hurt hustled into second. With Mayall at the plate, Downs threw a pitch in the dirt that ricocheted off his catcher’s shinguard and into the dead area in front of the Bryant dugout. That allowed both Pultro and Hurt to score.
The Sox made a bid to make it a run-rule game before the inning was done. Brown drew a two-out walk and Taylor shot a single to center that was misplayed. Brown scored to make it 9-0 and Taylor wound up at third.
That brought up Cross who had only two official at-bats all season. But he battled Downs in a 11-pitch at-bat, fouling off five full-count itches before being hit by one. That gave Butler a chance to drive in the game-ending run but his bouncer to short ended the inning.And, though they played two more innings, the score didn’t change, thanks in part to a sparkling defensive play on a bad-hop chopper up the middle that Taylor somehow fielded to end the sixth.
In the first game, Hope took a 1-0 lead in the first with an unearned run. Taylor, the Bryant starter on the mound, retired the first two then Phillips got a nice bunt down towards third. Brown charged and fielded the ball but threw wildly to first allowing Phillips to take second. A pitch later, Gore singled him in.
The Sox had a chance to tie it in the second. Pickett ripped a double into the left-field corner and Chris Joiner drew a walk. Lucas Castleberry sacrificed them to second and third then B.J. Ellis walked to load the bases for Caleb Garrett. On an 0-2 delivery from Hope started Jon Cunningham, Garrett tapped back to the mound. Cunningham fielded and for some reason didn’t come home with the ball. He fired to second for a force and, after a double-clutch, shortstop Dillon Clayton relayed to first. Though it appeared that the throw was late by a step, Garrett was punched out to retire the side with the score still 1-0.
Singles by Clayton, Wilson and Phillips loaded the bases for Hope in the top of the third but Taylor got the next two batters to tap back to the mound. The first resulted in a force at the plate; the second was turned into an inning-ending doubleplay.
But the Sox were unable to take advantage of the momentum as Cunningham eased through the bottom of the inning despite hitting Brown.
The tale-tell fourth began with back-to-back doubles from Hope’s Ryan Hutze and Matthew Lusk. Winfield sacrificed Lusk to third then Marshall got him home with a groundout to second.
But that brought the top of the lineup around again. Clayton singled up the middle, the second of his three hits in the game. Wilson singled then Phillips smacked an RBI double.
Taylor got within a strike of getting out of the inning against Wilson and then again when Gore came up. But the clean-up hitter smacked a 1-2 pitch to center for a two-run single that made it 6-0.
The jersey change ensued and the Sox responded with four runs in the bottom of the inning to get back into the game. Pickett was hit by a pitch and Joiner walked. With one out, Ellis, who had three hits in the game, singled in the first run.
With two down, Hurt reached on an error as Joiner scored. Mayall smacked an RBI single up the middle and, after Brown was hit again — this time in the helmet — to load the bases, Taylor drew an RBI walk to make it 6-4 with Pickett coming to the plate.
On a 1-0 pitch, the Bryant slugger hit a foul pop that appeared to be beyond the reach of Downs, the third baseman. But he made a diving catch in front of the Bryant dugout to end the rally.
In the final three innings, Taylor allowed just one base runner on a single by Clayton while recording four of his eight strikeouts.
The Sox got a runner in scoring position in the sixth. After Joiner reached on an error, Hope turned a doubleplay. But Ellis singled again and stole second only to be stranded when Lusk roamed to the fence in foul ground and reached over it to haul in Garrett’s pop to end the threat.
A one-out walk to Mayall and a single by Brown started a new uprising in the sixth for the Sox. Both runners moved up when Taylor rolled out to second. Pickett was walked intentionally to load the bases but Joiner grounded into a force as Cunningham escaped again.
Ellis’ third hit, a single to left, started the seventh inning rally. Cunningham, who had reached 113 pitches with the first two balls out of the zone to Butler, gave way to Gore who struggled to find the plate as well. He completed the walk to Butler then, after getting Pultro on a fly to center, issued a pass to Mayall to load the bases. A wild pitch allowed Ellis to score, cutting the lead to 6-5. And when Brown walked too, the bags were full again for Taylor who put a charge in a 3-2 pitch only to have Phillips track it down near the center-field fence to end the game.
HOPE 6, BRYANT 5
Senior American Legion
Wildcats ab r h bi Black Sox ab r h bi
Clayton, ss 4 1 3 0 Mayall, lf 3 0 1 1
Wilson, lf 4 1 2 0 Brown, 3b 2 0 2 0
Phillips, cf 4 2 3 1 Taylor, p 4 0 0 1
Gore, rf-p 4 0 2 3 Pickett, 1b 2 1 1 0
Downs, 3b-rf 4 0 0 0 Joiner, rf 2 1 0 0
Huntze, 2b 3 1 1 0 Castleberry, ss 3 0 0 0
Lusk, 1b 3 1 1 1 Ellis, c 3 2 3 1
Winfield, dh 2 0 0 0 Garrett, cf 3 0 0 0
Cunningham, p-3b 0 0 0 0 Butler, ph 0 0 0 0
Marshall, c 3 0 0 1 Jobe, pr 0 0 0 0
Hurt, 2b 3 1 0 0
Pultro, ph 1 0 0 0
Totals 31 6 12 6 Totals 26 5 7 3
Hope 100 500 0 — 6
BRYANT 000 400 1 — 5
E—Brown 2, Hurt, Clayton, Huntze. DP—Hope 3, Bryant 1. LOB—Hope 5, Bryant 13. 2B—Pickett, Huntze, Lusk, Phillips. SB—Ellis. S—Castleberry, Winfield.
Pitching ip r er h bb so
Cunningham(W) 6.1 5 2 6 7 1
Gore (S) 0.2 0 0 0 2 0
Taylor (L) 7 6 5 12 0 8
HBP—Brown 2, Pickett (by Cunningham). WP—Gore.
BRYANT 9, HOPE 0
Wildcats ab r h bi Black Sox ab r h bi
Wilson, p-lf 1 0 0 0 Mayall, 1b 4 1 1 0
Phillips, cf 4 0 0 0 Jobe, rf 0 0 0 0
Gore, 1b 2 0 1 0 Brown, 3b 3 1 2 0
Cunningham,3b 3 0 0 0 Nixon, pr-3b 0 1 0 0
Huntze, ss 3 0 0 0 Taylor, ss 4 1 2 2
Lusk, rf 3 0 0 0 Pickett, p 3 0 2 2
Clayton, p 0 0 0 0 Garrett, pr 0 1 0 0
Marshall, c 3 0 1 0 Cross, p 0 0 0 0
Winfield, 2b 3 0 0 0 Butler, rf-1b 3 0 1 2
Downs, lf-p-rf 2 0 0 0 Joiner, lf 4 0 0 0
Pultro, cf 1 1 0 0
Lessenberry, c 3 1 1 0
Ellis, c 0 0 0 0
Hurt, 2b 4 2 2 0
Totals 24 0 2 0 Totals 29 9 11 6
Hope 000 000 0 — 0
BRYANT 001 530 x — 9
E—Taylor 2, Downs, Phillips. LOB—Hope 8, Bryant 9. 2B—Butler, Marshall. SB—Wilson, Phillips. S—Wilson.
Pitching ip r er h bb so
Wilson (L) 5 6 5 9 2 0
Downs 1 3 2 2 2 1
Clayton 1 0 0 0 1 1
Pickett (W) 4 0 0 1 1 3
Cross (S) 3 0 0 1 2 2
HBP—Cross (by Downs), Downs (by Cross). WP—Wilson 2, Downs 1. PB—Lessenberry.