Black Sox Senior team earns reguler-season title, bye in Zone tourney with 3-1 win over Pine Bluff Simmons
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
The sixth inning told the tale on Monday night at Bryant High School Field. It not only proved to be the[more] difference in the game, it was became the difference in the Senior American Legion Zone 4 regular season championship and, more importantly, the first-round bye in the league’s postseason tournament, which begins on Friday in Bryant.
With the game tied 1-1, the Pine Bluff Simmons First Bankers loaded the bases in the top of the sixth but could not score. In the bottom of the inning, the Bryant Black Sox struck for two runs then held on in the top of the seventh for a 3-1 win.
The two teams came into the game with two league losses each, a game ahead of Texarkana. Bryant finishes 10-2 and improved to 15-6 overall. The Sox will play their first Zone tournament game this Saturday at 7 p.m. Two teams from the league will advance to the Senior Legion State Tournament in Jonesboro. Bryant will be two wins away from qualifying while the other six teams will need three wins.
“When you are a little thin on pitching, it’s a must,” said Sox manager Darren Hurt of the first-round bye. “The first thing it does is, it gets us on the other side of the bracket. Pine Bluff and Texarkana are on the same side now. The other thing is that six teams are going to have throw nine innings worth of pitching before we ever have to play a game. So we had to have it. It was huge.”
The game was a pitcher’s duel from the outset, first between starters Brady Butler for Bryant and Justin Dardenne for Pine Bluff. Dardenne gave way to Josh Guy in the fourth then Butler turned it over to Dylan Cross with one out in the sixth.
“It was a great game,” Hurt acknowledged. “I wasn’t really excited about it because early in the game against a good team like that, you cannot — we had opportunities that we squandered again. Just leaving men on, it felt like the last time we played them there for a while. We weren’t getting the big hit and they were hanging around. We weren’t pulling away. So I was worried. But we found a way to get it done.”
In the previous meeting at Pine Bluff, the game was scoreless until Simmons scored three runs in the fifth and three more in the sixth to win it, 6-1.
Here’s how the sixth inning developed:
Butler had allowed a run on just three hits to that point and he retired the first batter of the sixth before Guy pulled a single into left. Cross came on to face Ryan Bowlin. On a 2-1 delivery, Bowlin slapped a liner down the right-field line for a double. To set up a force at every base, Will Jacobs was walked intentionally, loading the bases for Scott Scifres.
Pine Bluff, which had squeezed home its first run, attempted another on a 1-1 count. It was a safety squeeze so Guy held at third when Scifres missed on the bunt attempt. Moments later, Cross got the strikeout. With the infield now back, Chris McVay came to the plate and Cross fanned him on three pitches to get out of the inning.
“We were going to send Cross out in the sixth but then Butler was feeling good and wanted to keep going so we told him he was on ‘ones’ and he got the first out for us then Cross came in and did a good job,” Hurt commented.
In the bottom of the inning, Josh Pultro tied into Guy’s first pitch for a gapper to left-center for Bryant’s only extra-base knock of the game, a double. Lucas Castleberry, who snapped out of a 1-for-12 slump with two hits in the game, then got a bunt down to the right side that went for a hit when it got past Guy and no one covered first.
The Pine Bluff right-hander struck out B.J. Ellis but then Hurt called on Caleb Garrett to pinch-hit for Evan Jobe with one thing in mind. With Jacobs holding Castleberry at first and playing back, Garrett pushed a bunt that way and got it past Guy again. Off with the pitch, Pultro scored the tie-breaking run as Garrett reached the uncovered bag at first for a hit.
Hunter Mayall followed with a liner to left for a single to fill the bases for Tyler Brown who got a second run home with a chopper over the mound. Second baseman Antowine Jackson fielded the ball but not soon enough to get Castleberry at the plate and Bryant led 3-1.
Cross struck out Jackson to start the seventh but hit Hunter Colson and walked Dardenne. With the potential tying runs on base, however, the Bryant right-hander struck out Dylan James, the Bankers’ three-hole hitter, and got Guy to bounce out to Brown at third to end the game.
“Again, Butler steps up for us and against one of the best teams in the conference,” Hurt mentioned. “He comes out and does a great job. Then Cross, he always makes it interesting but he gets the job done.”
Bryant had taken a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Jordan Taylor walked, stole second and took third on a wild pitch. Landon Pickett’s bad-hop single to short got him home.
In the second, Castleberry shot a single up the middle and, after a wild pitch moved Castleberry to second, Ellis reached on an error to get him to third. Dardenne, however, retired the next three batters to escape. He would work around a two-out walk to Joiner in the third.
Meanwhile, Butler held Pine Bluff without a hit until Jackson singled with one out in the third. Ellis, however, threw him out when he tried to steal second.
In the fourth, however, Dardenne beat out an infield hit and James bounced a single into left. After Guy flew out to Jobe in right, Butler hit Bowlin to load the bases for Nick Hefley. With the suicide squeeze on, Hefley fouled off Butler’s pitch. On the next delivery, the safety squeeze was executed. Hefley got the bunt down and Dardenne scored as Butler threw out Hefley at first.
Butler pitched around a one-out walk in the top of the fifth and, in the bottom of the inning, Guy worked around a one-out single by Taylor to set up the decisive sixth inning.
BRYANT 3, PINE BLUFF SIMMONS 1
Senior American Legion
Simmons ab r h bi Black Sox ab r h bi
Colson, ss-rf 3 0 0 0 Mayall, 1b 4 0 1 0
Dardenne, p-ss 3 1 1 0 Brown, 3b 4 0 0 1
James, lf 4 0 1 0 Taylor, ss 3 1 1 0
Guy, 1b-p 4 0 1 0 Pickett, dh 3 0 1 1
Bowlin, 3b 1 0 1 0 Joiner, lf 2 0 1 0
Hefley, rf 1 0 0 1 Pultro, cf 3 1 1 0
Jacobs, 1b 0 0 0 0 Castleberry, 2b 3 1 2 0
Scifres, cf 3 0 0 0 Ellis, c 3 0 1 0
McVay, c 3 0 0 0 Jobe, rf 2 0 0 0
Jackson, 2b 2 0 1 0 Garrett, ph-rf 1 0 1 1
Totals 24 1 5 1 Totals 28 3 9 3
Pine Bluff 000 100 0 — 1
BRYANT 100 002 x — 3
E—Brown, Guy. LOB—Pine Bluff 9, Bryant 9. 2B—Bowlin, Pultro. SB—Taylor. S—Bowlin, Hefley.
Pitching ip r er h bb so
Dardenne 3 1 1 3 2 1
Guy (L) 3 2 2 5 0 2
Butler 5.1 1 1 4 1 1
Cross (W) 1.2 0 0 1 2 4
HBP—Bowlin (by Butler), Colson (by Cross). WP—Dardenne 3, Butler.