CONWAY — Just as perennial Senior American Legion powerhouses and contenders — Texarkana, Sheridan, Fort Smith and Paragould struggled for a few innings as they opened the 2019 State Tournament, the Bryant Black Sox got off to a slow start against Arkadelphia in the first round of the tourney on Friday.
Trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the fourth, the defending State champion Sox broke out when Jake Wright, on a 3-2 pitch to open the inning, belted a home run to left. Moments later, Noah Davis, who was the hot-hitting MVP of Bryant’s Junior American Legion State tournament, crushed a three-run homer over the board at Curtis Walker Field.
Bryant went on to earn a 7-2 victory. On Saturday, they’ll face Sheridan in a re-match of last summer’s State final, at 6 p.m., at UCA’s Bears Stadium.
Sidewinder Slade Renfrow settled in after surrendering a run in the first and another in the third. He went all seven innings and earned the victory.
“Their kid did a good job on us and Slade came out a little unusual — I mean, he left some balls over the plate and they hit him early and scratched some runs,” said Black Sox manager Darren Hurt. “And everything we hit was literally right at them. We hit some balls really hard. For three innings, you’re going, ‘We’re a little snake bit out here.’ We played well. They just had a lead on us.”
It was Renfrow’s first complete game.
“He always gets close,” Hurt noted. “He’s gotten it to the seventh a few times and hadn’t finished it, but today – his last three innings, he was light’s out. Once he started pitching, he was really good.”
Arkadelphia took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on a single, a passed ball, a groundout and a two-out single.
The Sox got a couple of players aboard in the bottom of the second when Logan Grant doubled, and Peyton Dillon was hit by a pitch with two down. But Davis fouled out down the right-field line to keep it 1-0.
A walk and a pair of singles produced Arkadelphia’s second run in the top of the third.
Wright’s blast got Bryant on the board. Gage Stark was plunked by a 3-2 pitch and, after Grant bounced into a force, Dillon walked.
On a 3-2 pitch, Davis unloaded for a three-run homer to put the Sox up to stay.
Trailing 4-2 all of a sudden, Renfrow pitched around a two-out single in the top of the fifth. IN turn, the Sox extended the advantage.
“We got the two big home runs and, from there, we kind of took control of the game,” said Hurt. “It seemed like from there, we were able to kind of get some things going — (Logan) Catton laying down a great bunt. We were just able to do some things. The next thing you know, they’re changing pitchers and they walked a few and we took advantage of it.”
In the bottom of the fifth, Logan Catton drew a walk but was erased on a doubleplay. A free pass to Wright got the offense ignited again. Stark singled to center then Grant walked to load the bases.
A walk to Dillon forced in a run then Davis drew a free pass to force in a run that made it 6-2.
Arkadelphia started the sixth with a single but, two outs later, the base-runner was thrown out by catcher Cade Drennan.
The Sox put the finishing touches on the win in the bottom of the sixth. Logan Chambers singled and Catton got the bunt down for a sacrifice. And when it was misplayed, Bryant had runners at first and second.
Both runners moved up on Drennan’s groundout. Wright drew another walk and the bases were juiced. A passed ball got the run home.
Down to their last three outs, Arkadelphia opened the seventh with a lined single to right. But Renfrow shut them down and finished with the victory.