Butler’s bashing, Wells’ pitching lift Senior Sox past Continental
EDITOR’S NOTE: In this time of COVID-19, with no sports action, BryantDaily.com will be posting 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
Back in the day, before the Bryant High School baseball field was built about 10 years ago, the Hornets and the American Legion Bryant Black Sox played their games at Ashley Park on what is now the Babe Ruth field. For high school age players, it was the proverbial bandbox. Homers flew out of there with regularity. Coaches had to plan for that. No lead seemed big enough.
So, when the high school made plans to build a new field on the campus, it was certain to be bigger.
As it turned out, it was much bigger and what was once a game’s worth of homers turned into a season’s worth.
On Friday night, the Bryant Black Sox Senior American Legion team wouldn’t even have had to be playing on the little Ashley Park field. They could’ve been playing on a field with just typical high school dimensions and Brady Butler would probably have hit three home runs.[more]
As it was, he had an RBI double then a two-run shot that actually went the distance in left-center to go with a flyball that, had it been hit to any part of the park but where the fence is deepest, would’ve been another two-run blast. All in support of ace right-hander Ben Wells as the Sox improved to 3-1 in Zone 4 league action with a 5-1 win over Little Rock Continental Express.
It was a welcome rebound after their Zone 4 loss at Pine Bluff on Monday.
“The Senior guys have had some time off this week,” noted Sox manager Darren Hurt. “I think at Pine Bluff, we were just worn out (after playing in a tournament the previous week in Mountain Home). We were sluggish. We just didn’t have any life.”
Hurt acknowledged that his team is a little different on night’s when Wells takes the mound.
“It’s almost like it translates to offense a lot of times,” he said. “We swing a little freer. We’re more relaxed at the plate. We’re not stressed out about scoring more, more, more, because they feel like if they get to a number — and sometimes they almost relax too much because they think, ‘Heck, we’ve got three runs. That’s plenty.’ But it is a totally different ballclub when he’s on the mound.”
Regarding Butler’s performance, Hurt added, “I tell you, he’s right there. He’s close to turning a corner and being able to do this more often because he’s striking out less now. He was squaring it up tonight. He was hitting the ball hard.”Wells worked six innings, struck out 12 and walked two. He allowed an unearned run on four hits. Blake Davidson worked around a two-out walk and a single to close out the win in the seventh.The Sox also got two hits apiece from Jordan Taylor and Lucas Castleberry.
Wells, a University of Arkansas signee and Chicago Cubs draft pick, out-dueled Continental right-hander Daniel Imbro who kept most of the Sox off-balance most of the night.
“He works opposite of what you’re used to seeing,” Hurt noted. “If he gets you 2-0, he’s going to throw you a curveball. He’s not going to let you sit on anything. He was kind of throwing backwards — throwing fastballs in curveball countes and curveballs in fastball counts — and it was a struggle for some of our guys. He did a good job. He’s a good pitcher.”
Butler had it figured out from the start, however. After Wells needed just 10 pitches to work through the top of the first, Caleb Garrett beat out an infield hit with one out in the bottom of the inning. He stole second and scored on Taylor’s base hit up the middle. Butler followed with a rip, a liner to left that went to the fence allowing Taylor to score all the way from first.
The Sox also got a gutsy contribution from catcher Dylan Cross. Catching Wells in a game earlier in the season, he’d hurt the thumb on his catching hand. It’d kept him out of a couple of games. But, as the Sox’ most experienced active catcher, he was needed to catch Wells’ action-packed deliveries.
He struggled with it briefly in the second. After Jim Manney poked a single down the right-field line, a pair of strikes got past Cross, allowing Manny to advance around to third. Wells wound up striking out Will Parham but when Lance Black singled to center, Manney scored to make it 2-1.
Hurt visited the mound and, later, related that he was making sure Wells wasn’t letting up on his pitches because of Cross’ struggles and that Cross was still willing and able. Cross assured him then didn’t let another pitch get past him with runners on base the rest of the game. Plus, he blocked a couple of tough two-strike pitches in the dirt and threw for the out at first.
Bryant got the run back in the bottom of the second when Castleberry lined a single to right-center, Cross sacrificed, Tyler Brown reached on an error and Chris Joiner lofted a sacrifice fly to deep right.
The 3-1 lead stood for a couple of innings as Wells and Imbro dueled. Wells worked around a walk in the third but struck out the side in the fourth. In the fifth, Tyler Hayes drew a walk and, after he was forced at second on a bounce to short by John Osborne, Wells struck out Danny Aday. But an infield hit by Ivan Tate had runners at the corners for Josh Alberius. Wells got him to bounce to Butler at first. The hurler covered the bag and took the toss for the third out.
In the bottom of the fifth, Parham made a splendid play to rob Garrett of a bunt single. But Taylor reached on an error then Butler unloaded on a 1-1 pitch, making it 5-1.
Brennan Bullock followed with a triple but a nice play by Alberius at short on a hard grounder by Landon Pickett caught Bullock trying to scramble back to third for the second out. Castleberry, making a bid for his third hit, spanked a liner that Alberius speared to retire the side.
Wells fanned the side again in the sixth around a two-out double by Parham then gave way to Davidson in the seventh. He retired the first two then issued a walk to Clint Green and a single to Tate before getting Alberius to fly to Garrett in center to end the game.
The Sox, now 9-9 overall, are set to host Hot Springs Lakeside on Monday before traveling to the Independence Day Classic in Columbia, Tenn., an event that features teams from the Nashville area, Cincinnati, Ohio; Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Douglasville, Ga.; Festus, Mo.; Decatur, Ala.; Paducah, Ky., among others including the team from Pontotoc, Miss., that ended Bryant’s run in the Mountain Home tournament on its way to the championship.
BRYANT BLACK SOX 5, LITTLE ROCK CONTINENTAL EXPRESS 1
Senior American Legion
Continental Express ab r h bi Black Sox ab r h bi
Tate, rf 4 0 2 0 Joiner, rf 3 0 0 1
Alberius, ss 3 0 0 0 Garrett, cf 3 1 1 0
Williams, cf 3 0 0 0 Taylor, ss 3 0 2 1
Manney, dh 3 1 1 0 Butler, 1b 3 1 2 3
Parham, 3b 3 0 1 0 Bullock, lf 3 0 1 0
Black, 1b 3 0 1 1 Pickett, dh 3 0 0 0
Hayes, c 2 0 0 0 Castleberry, 2b 3 1 2 0
Osborne, lf 3 0 0 0 Hurt, 2b 0 0 0 0
Aday, 2b 2 0 0 0 Cross, c 2 0 0 0
Green, ph 0 0 0 0 Brown, 3b 3 0 0 0
Imbro, p 0 0 0 0 Wells, p 0 0 0 0
Totals 26 1 5 1 Totals 26 5 8 5
Little Rock 010 000 0 — 1
BRYANT 210 002 x — 5
E—Parham, Black. LOB—Continental Express 7, Bryant 5. 2B—Butler, Taylor, Parham. 3B—Bullock. HR—Butler. SB—Garrett, Osborne. S—Cross. SF— Joiner.
Pitching ip r er h bb so
Imbro (L) 6 5 3 8 0 1
Wells (W) 6 1 0 4 2 12
Davidson 1 0 0 1 1 1