Sox hold off Pine Bluff to nab share of Zone lead
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).
By ROB PATRICK
PINE BLUFF — The middle of the batting order and the top of the pitching staff came through for the Bryant Blacksox AAA American Legion team when it grabbed a share of first place in Zone 4 with a 6-5 win over Pine Bluff Simmons at Taylor Field on Friday, July 11.
The win improved the Sox to 28-10 overall this season, 8-4 in Zone 4 games. Pine Bluff fell to 22-12 and 4-4. Along with the Little Rock Diamonds and Sheridan, it made for a four-way tie atop the Zone standings going into the final week of the regular season.
Bryant and Pine Bluff played a second game which was called at the end of the time limit with the score tied 5-5.
Lefty Travis Wood allowed just one hit over the first five innings, shutting Pine Bluff out until he began to tire. Pine Bluff rallied from the 6-0 deficit and had the tying run at third when Bryant manager Craig Harrison called on his other ace Scott Yant. Facing Pine Bluff clean-up hitter Derek Drewitt, Yant ended the game with a three-pitch strikeout.
The 3-4-5 hitters for the Sox, Derek Chambers, A.J. Nixon and Scott Peeler each had two hits in the game. Chambers scored twice, Nixon scored once and drove in a run and Peeler knocked in two.
Wood wound up with 10 strikeouts. He allowed five hits — three of them in the four-run seventh — walked one and hit won. The five earned runs he allowed more than doubled his total for the season. In his first 40 innings this season, he had allowed just three earned runs.
Eric Forestiere, one of the Pine Bluff aces, absorbed the loss, lasting just three innings and giving up five of Bryant’s runs.
The Blacksox, who have had trouble hitting in the clutch all season, came through repeatedly in the game. In fact, all six runs scored after two were out and no one on base.
In the first, Chambers singled with two down and scored all the way from first when Nixon doubled. Peeler then singled up the middle to make it 2-0.
In the second, Todd Bryan’s two-out single to left got things started. He swiped second and scored on a double into the gap in right-center by B.J. Wood. A single by Jeff Carpenter made it 4-0.
A walk to Andrew Norman with two away in the third led to a fifth run. Clay Jones reached on an error then David Moore slapped a single to right to drive in Norman.
Travis Wood allowed a one-out single to Neil Reynolds in the third, then walked Hudson Smart but left them stranded.
In the fourth, Leonard Ogden relieved Forestiere but Chambers, Nixon and Peeler all singled — again with two down — to make it 6-0. In the bottom of the inning, Wood struck out the side around a walk, wading through the heart of the Pine Bluff batting order.
Simmons broke up the shutout in the bottom of the sixth when Nick Macrass cracked a triple to deep center with one down. It was the Bankers’ second hit of the game. Macrass scored on Eric Forestiere’s grounder to short.
In the seventh, Zack Hale singled but Travis Wood struck out Jason Shriner. An odd play followed. Reynolds hit a liner toward B.J. Wood at short. He grabbed it and fired to first for what initially appeared to be a game-ending doubleplay. But the umpire ruled that the ball had been trapped and all the throw did was retire Reynolds. Hale, who had come off the bag briefly, returned to first before he could be tagged out and the inning continued.
Dustin Koonce walked, then Travis Wood came within a strike of ending it against Hudson Smart only to hit him with a 1-2 delivery, loading the bases for Macrass who cleared them with a double off the wall in left to make it 6-4.
A double by Forestiere made it a one-run game. Enter Yant who struck out Drewitt on a pitch in the dirt. Moore, the Bryant catcher, dug it out and threw to first to end the game.
In the second game, it was Bryant which rallied. Trailing 5-1, the Sox scored four times in the top of the sixth to tie it. In the bottom of the inning, Daniel Price pitched around a double and a walk to preserve the tie as time ran out.
Nixon had two more hits and reached base four times in the game. He just missed putting the Sox ahead in the top of the sixth with a grand slam. But the drive was just foul down the left-field line. On the next pitch, he singled in a run and eventually scored the tying tally.
Right-hander Justin Woods gave the Sox some solid relief, working three innings and giving up just one run after starter Daniel Minton struggled with his control and lasted just six batters.