Clutch hits from Allen, Tatum help rally Senior Sox past Jonesboro
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).
FORT SMITH — After Drew Tipton singled in two runs in the top of the seventh to give the Bryant Black Sox a 7-3 lead over the Jonesboro Ricemen, it looked like things were settled when the two teams met in a winners bracket game at the Senior American Legion State Tournament.
But Jonesboro rallied for six runs in the bottom of the seventh to take the lead. Bryant answered in the eighth when a two-strike, two-out, two-run single by Logan Allen tied the game.
In near 100-degree weather, the two teams battled into the 11th inning when Connor Tatum delivered an RBI single with one out then scored later on a wild pitch to put Bryant up 11-9. Right-hander Zach Jackson, the fifth pitcher for the Sox, retired the side around a two-out error in the bottom of the inning and the Sox survived, advancing to the winners’ bracket finals.
Tonight at 7, Bryant will take on long-time Zone 4 and State rival Texarkana for a bid to the championship round on Tuesday (though both will play on Monday regardless, in accordance with the old College World Series format.
While Bryant was utilizing five pitchers, Texarkana got a big break in Saturday’s late game when, leading 3-0, in the sixth inning against the Russellville Patriots, the Razorbacks won by forfeit. Russellville’s lone coach was ejected from the game and, without a coach, the Patriots had to forfeit.
Russellville will take on Cabot Centennial Bank Sunday at 4 p.m., in an elimination game. Cabot knocked out the Conway Cougars Saturday, 6-5.
In another elimination game on Sunday, Jonesboro will be playing Fort Smith, which stayed alive on Saturday by ousting the Blytheville Casons, 8-4.
Blake Patterson, Bryant’s starting pitcher, led a 15-hit attack with three hits inluding a pair of doubles. Tipton, Brandan Warner and Jason Hastings each had two. Hastings scored four times.
Jonesboro took a 1-0 lead in the first on three singles, two after two had been retired. Tyler Cole singled in the run.
While Patterson kept them to that through four innings, working around a hit and an error in the second and a one-out single in the third, the Sox surged to the lead.
In the second, Trey Breeding walked and Hastings drilled a single to right. Dylan Hurt hit a tapper that Ricemen pitcher Kollin Stone fielded. Breeding was caught in a rundown but stayed in it long enough for Hastings to reach third and Hurt second.
That proved key when, with two down, Austin Kelly yanked a 3-2 pitch into the left-field corner for a two-run double.
The Sox made it 4-1 in the third. With one out, Patterson drilled a double and scored on a single by Breeding, who hustled to second on the late throw to the plate.
Hastings hit a roller that Stone fielded. As Breeding took third, Hastings was thrown out at first. A wild pitch allowed the run to score.
The Sox tacked on in the top of the fifth. Hastings walked, Hurt was struck by a pitch and Allen grounded into a force at second. Allen left early and drew an errant throw from Stone allowing Hastings to score.
The Ricemen whittled two runs off the lead in the bottom of the fifth. Tucker Hydrick doubled and, after Reed Fischbacher walked, Dillon Groves singled in a run. Another scored when Stone reached on an error.
Hastings made a nice play on a bunt by Trey Hall, getting the force at third. Though he balked runners to second and third, he set down the next two to keep it 5-3.
Despite a double by Tipton and an infield hit by Warner, the Sox were unable to change the score in the top of the sixth as Hall came on to fan two and keep it a two-run game.
Alex Shurtleff relieved Hastings and eased through a 1-2-3 home sixth and, in the seventh, the Sox upped the advantage. Hastings singled and, with one out, Allen walked. Shurtleff, trying to sacrifice, bunted for a hit to load the bases and, with two down, Tipton came through with the single that made it 7-3.
In the home seventh, Jonesboro took advantage of three walks with two hits to cut it to 7-5. Devin Dupree relieved Shurtleff but was greeted by Mason Gibson, who drilled a double to deep left-center, clearing the bases. He took third on a groundout and scored on a wild pitch to put the Ricemen ahead 9-7.
In the top of the eighth, Devon Austin relieved for Jonesboro and set down the first two he faced on a foul out and a strikeout. But Hastings worked a walk then so did Hurt.
Gibson was called on to relieve at that point and unleashed a wild pitch to put both in scoring position. Allen worked the count full before lashing a single to right to drive both in, tying the game 9-9.
Warner relieved in the home half and retired the first two he faced before Stone singled and stole second. Tacker Colbert beat out an infield hit and there were runners at the corners.
After Bryant manager Darren Hurt visited the mound to discuss what might happen, what actually happened, Colbert left first early. Warner looked at Stone at third then ran at Colbert to make him commit When Colbert struck out towards second, he threw to Hurt, who was covering second from his shortstop position. Hurt thrust a tag towards Colbert as he tried to maneuver around him and Stone broke for home.
But Colbert was ruled out before Stone got home, leaving it tied 9-9.
Both teams went down in order in the ninth, sending it to extra innings. In the top of the 10th, Patterson led off with a double, moved to third on a groundout by Hastings but was stranded there.
Jonesboro threatened to win it in the bottom of the 10th. Nash Thomas walked and Payton Gooch came on as a pinch-runner. Hydrick sacrificed him to second then the Sox issued an intentional walk to Fischbacher to set up a force play. But Gavin Stone, who had entered the game in the eighth, singled to left.
Allen charged in to get to the ball quickly in left field and Gooch was forced to hold at third. That proved to be crucial even though the Ricemen had the bases loaded with just one outand the middle of their batting order up.
Jackson, originally scheduled to be the Sunday starter, came on in relief at that point to face Kollin Stone. With the infield in, he lined a 1-2 delivery right at Hurt at short. Gooch took off from third like he thought there were two outs. He was easily doubled off and the game went to the 11th.
Allen led off with a walk. Jackson, making just his second plate appearance this summer, was unable to get the first two bunt attempts down but, with two strikes, he got the job done, moving Allen to second.
That brought up Tatum, whose reputation for bunting has apparently spread. Jonesboro brought in the corner infielders but Tatum pulled a 1-1 pitch on a soft-liner to right. Allen sprinted home and when the ball was misplayed in right, Tatum hustled to third.
Moments later, he scored on a wild pitch.
Warner and Patterson followed with singles as the Sox threatened to get more but Warner got hung up between second and third, and was tagged out to end the inning.
Jackson struck out Colbert, got Cole to ground to short and, after the error, fanned J.T. Schwarz to end the marathon.
“It didn’t look good three times,” Darren Hurt acknowledged. “There were three times where I didn’t know how we were going to get to the next inning.
“Logan Allen, with the two-run single to tie it then Connor — you know, he’s been struggling but he goes up there and gets the big hit after Panda (Jackson) lays down the big bunt. That’s the first bunt he’s laid down in — a two-strike bunt, at that. Then Tatum drives him in.
“There were a ton of big hits,” Hurt continued. “Shurtleff came in and, that’s the thing about not DH’ing, the guys that go in have got to go to the plate. But Shurtleff laid down a heck of a bunt.”
“We had some guys that really stepped up,” he emphasized.
With Jackson having pitched in both Friday’s and Saturday’s games, he’ll be unavailable on Sunday.
“If we can get to Monday, we’ll have a lot of guys back,” Hurt related. “I’m not going to throw Panda and Shurtleff three days in a row. They haven’t thrown a lot of pitches, thank goodness. But the goal’s going to be to get Panda at least one day off and get Shurtleff at least a couple of days off so, in the meantime, there’s some guys that are going to have to step up on the mound. And we’re going to have to glove it.”