An out away from completing an impressive comeback from a 7-0 deficit, the Bryant Black Sox Junior (17) American Legion team wound up surrendering six runs in the top of the seventh to the Benton Williams Tire Junior team of Bauxite and absorbing a 15-11 loss in a wild contest at Bryant High School Field on Monday night.
The Sox outhit their rivals 15-11 but committed five errors including two (to go along with a pair of misplays that weren’t officially errors) in the seventh-inning struggle.
The loss came despite a 5-for-5 night for Sox lead-off man, Noah Davis, and two hits each from Slade Renfrow, Ryan Riggs and Will Hathcote.
“I’ve never experienced anything like it,” stated Sox manager Tyler Brown. “I knew after we gave up seven that, at some point during the game, we were going to have a chance to win. And we did. We battled back one at a time, three runs here, four runs there.
“Our approach at the plate was just better,” he noted. “Somehow, some way, we’ve just got to figure out, when things are falling apart for us, to not give up those seven- or six-run innings. We’ve got to find a way to make a play and get us out of the inning. Especially when our guys are throwing strikes and getting outs. We’ve got to find some way to get that done.”
Only two of the Williams Tire runs were earned as Renfrow, Blaine Sears and Cameron McDonald handled the pitching for the Sox.
“We’ve played a lot of games in the past two weeks,” Brown said. “There’s no excuses but I was very pleased to see the energy level that we brought tonight. I think that was the best energy-level we’ve played with all year. I think a lot had to do with being down seven and coming back. And, also, playing Benton. Benton, Bauxite — I don’t care who it is, they had ‘Benton’ across the chest. I think that had a lot to do with it.
“But the energy level, I was very happy with it,” he asserted. “That’s what I’ve been asking for all year. Finally got it and we produced. Obviously, it wasn’t the result I wanted but it happens. We can take a lot from this game. Just because we lost doesn’t mean you can’t learn something and take it on to the next game. That’s a team we’re going to see again so, hopefully, the next time we see them, it’ll be a different story.”
Benton was led by lead-off man Gary Storment and Turner Southard who each had three hits. Austin Keen was 2-for-3 with three RBIs. The team’s third pitcher, Jerrad Patrick picked up the win, despite giving up three runs in the sixth.
And the Sox tried to mount a comeback again in the bottom of the seventh on singles by Sears, Davis and Renfrow. But Sears was thrown out at the plate trying to score on Renfrow’s knock. Benton’s Marshall Golleher unleashed the throw.
“I didn’t think they’d throw it home with a four-run lead,” Brown said. “I didn’t think they’d made such a good throw either.”
Ryan Riggs made a bid at an infield hit to follow but, on a bang-bang play at first, was called out to end the game.
The Sox committed two of their errors in the seven-run second, making all the runs unearned. Then only hits both came with two outs. Storment singled in two and Keen drilled a three-run double to center to cap the outburst.
Sears pitched around a lead-off single by Southard in the third then Bryant began its comeback in the home half. A walk to Christian Motes opened the inning. With one out, Davis drilled a double to right. Renfrow followed with a double to right-center that chased both home. And when the relay to the plate got away, Renfrow took third. Riggs got him home with a sacrifice fly to make it 7-3.
An infield hit, a two-out walk and a hit batsman loaded the bases for Benton in the fourth, but Sears struck out Southard to keep Benton from adding on. It was the only time Southard was retired in the game.
Bryant’s fourth began with a single to left by Hathcote. With one out, Tyler Bates walked, and Motes slashed a single to right to load the bags. Sears drew a walk to make it 7-4. That brought up Davis, who singled to left to drive in two.
An errant throw to the plate allowed Davis to reach second. He took third on Aaron Morgan’s groundout. That brought up Riggs, who spanked a single to left to tie the game. Davis tried to score to the go-ahead run and appeared to be safe when, on another close play, Storment, the Benton catcher, dropped the ball on the tag.
But there was no sign from the umpire. Realizing that the umpire hadn’t seen him touch the plate, Davis tried to dive back in only to have Storment tag him on the second try for the final out of the inning.
But it looked like the Sox were in good shape, with all the momentum after Sears retired Benton in order in the top of the fifth.
Bryant took the lead in the bottom of the inning. After Hathcote was robbed of a hit in left by Easton Dinwiddy, Lawson Speer singled then Bates and Motes drew walks. A two-out wild pitch allowed Speer to score.
Benton regained the upper hand in the top of the sixth. Storment walked but was forced at second on a grounder to short by Austin Hillis. He too was forced at second on a bouncer to short by Simpson.
But Keen kept the inning going with a soft single to right. Rylan Fogelman cracked a single to center, driving in the tying run. And when the ball was misplayed momentarily, runners moved to second and third.
A strike away from getting out of the inning, Sears got Southard to hit slow roller to third. On yet another close play, Southard beat it out for an RBI single as Williams Tire took a 9-8 lead.
The Sox got the final out on a pickoff play. Sears got Fogelman caught between third and home.
Davis opened Bryant’s sixth with a double, his fourth hit. Morgan beat out a bunt single then Riggs got a bunt down as well and beat it out for a hit. In addition, Patrick’s throw to first got away and down the right-field line allowing both Davis and Renfrow, running for Morgan, to score. Riggs wound up at third. He scored to make it 11-9 on a groundout by Garrett Wilson.
Benton’s counter-attack started with a walk. McDonald, however, came back to strike out the next two. Storment walked, however, and Hillis singled in a run to make it 11-10. A walk to Hayden Simpson loaded the bases.
The inning might’ve ended there as Keen hit a cue shot to the right side, but the ball was misplayed and Storment scored the tying run. A bobble on Fogelman’s grounder allowed the go-ahead run to score.
Southard followed with a flyball to right that was misplayed into a double as two more runs scored then Dinwiddy’s soft grounder to the left side somehow got through as the lead grew to 15-11.
Bryant, now 11-8, is set to play at Fort Smith tonight.