Flawless defense, stellar pitching and a couple of blasts get Senior Sox back on track
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
JONESBORO — No errors. No walks. No runs.
Tyler Nelson, Matt Neal and Dylan Cross combined on a[more] three-hit shutout while Landon Pickett and Brady Butler blasted home runs as the Bryant Black Sox Senior American Legion team bounced back from its first loss of the season with a 5-0 win over the Blytheville Century 21 Casons on a scorching hot Saturday afternoon.
The Sox are set to play Paragould in the consolation final of the Ray King Ricemen Classic at Arkansas State University’s Tomlinson Field today.
After committing seven errors in their 6-4 loss to Blue Valley Southwest of Kansas City, Mo., on Friday, the Sox played flawless defense in Saturday’s win. Nelson pitched four innings, allowing just two hits then Neal retired all six batters he faced. Cross finished and three Blytheville batters were unable to hit a ball beyond the mound. Though one swinging bunt went for an infield hit, Cross ended the game by picking off that runner at third.
The trio of Bryant pitchers walked no one. In fact, at one stretch, they combined to retire 10 in a row — a string that included sparkling defensive plays by Ozzie Hurt at second, Lucas Castleberry at third and Josh Pultro in center. Blytheville had runners on base in just three innings and the Sox hurlers wound up facing just one over the minimum.
“The pitching was really, really good,” acknowledged Black Sox manager Darren Hurt. “Tyler had some soreness. He didn’t look real comfortable on the first pitch of the (fourth) inning. I went out to get him and he said he could go and felt okay but, after the inning, he was done.
“Matt wanted to go another inning but I said, ‘You’ve done your job. And we need you to do it again tomorrow,’” Hurt related. “And he kept his pitch count down again. He was dealing. He looked good. He threw all his pitches today. He got to use his knuckler and everything.”
It was the second day in a row that Neal and Cross closed out a contest. It appears they may be settling confortably into the roles of set-up man and closer.
“And the defense,” Hurt emphasized. “I mean that’s the thing — we made our plays, made a couple of plays we haven’t been making.”
Bryant led 2-0 through five innings. In the sixth, Pickett smashed a solo homer over the 370 sign in left-center. With two down, Chris Joiner earned a walk and Butler pulled one down the line in left for a two-run shot to make it 5-0.
“Those were big ones,” Hurt acknowledged.
Butler, back from college, didn’t play this spring so his 2 for 3 day with three runs batted in was significant.
“Those two (hits) Brady had were huge,” Hurt said. “He was big, and we need him. We need him swinging the bat.”
Bryant took the lead in the opening inning. With two out, Hunter Mayall’s drive to left was played into a triple when Blytheville’s Ricky Gable Jr., misjudged the ball. Pickett, who was also 2 for 3 with two RBIs, got Mayall home with an infield hit.
Nelson retired the first four he faced before Jake Westmoreland singled. But the Sox turned a nifty doubleplay, started by Jordan Taylor at short and turned by Ozzie Hurt at second.
In the third, Justin Roberts was hit by a pitch and, after he moved to second on Crolin Lee’s tap back to the mound, Nelson picked Roberts off. That proved timely when Gabler laced a single to center.
As it turned out Gabler’s hit was the last one for Blytheville until the scratch hit in the seventh by Taylor Jolly.
Blytheville starter Joey Johnson settled in and retired eight of nine but, with one out in the fourth, Josh Pultro cracked a single to left. He moved up to second when Joiner was robbed of a hit by third baseman Ryan Nolen. But Butler picked up the run with a clutch single to right, making it 2-0.
After taking over in the fifth, Neal struck out three of the six batters he faced. Cross surrendered the infield hit to Jolly then Johnson tapped in front of the plate. Catcher Hayden Lessenberry popped out from behind the plate, snatched up the ball and threw to first for the out as Jolly went to second. A balk by Cross got Jolly to third but Cross got Nolen to tap back to the mound and, moments later, he picked Jolly off third to end the game.
BRYANT 5, BLYTHEVILLE CENTURY 21 0
Senior American Legion
Black Sox ab r h bi Casons ab r h bi
Castleberry, 3b 4 0 1 0 Diamond, 2b 3 0 0 0
Taylor, ss 4 0 0 0 Jolly, ss-p 3 0 1 0
Mayall, 1b 3 1 1 0 Johnson, p-ss 3 0 0 0
Brown, 1b 0 0 0 0 Nolen, 3b 3 0 0 0
Nixon, ph 1 0 0 0 Westmoreland, 1b 2 0 1 0
Garrett, rf 0 0 0 0 Wierzbicki, c 2 0 0 0
Pickett, dh 3 1 2 2 Roberts, rf 1 0 0 0
Pultro, cf 3 1 1 0 Lee, cf 2 0 0 0
Butler, rf-1b 3 1 2 3 Gable, Jr., lf 2 0 1 0
Lessenberry, c 2 0 0 0
Hurt, 2b 3 0 0 0
Nelson, p 0 0 0 0
Neal, p 0 0 0 0
Cross, p 0 0 0 0
Totals 28 5 7 5 Totals 21 0 3 0
BRYANT 100 103 0 — 5
Blytheville 000 000 0 — 0
E—none. DP—Bryant 1. LOB—Bryant 4, Blytheville 1. 3B—Mayall. HR—Pickett, Butler. SB—Butler.
Pitching ip r er h bb so
Nelson (W) 4 0 0 2 0 1
Neal 2 0 0 0 0 3
Cross 1 0 0 1 0 0
Johnson (L) 5 2 2 5 0 4
Jolly 2 3 3 2 2 1
Balk—Cross. HBP—Roberts (by Nelson).