AAA Sox win league title, bye at District
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
There was a time when Craig and Tic Harrison managed the Bryant Black Sox AAA American Legion team like Earl Weaver. They’d send the Sox up hacking and someone would step up and hit a bomb. Suddenly, it was a big inning.
Of course, that was somewhat understandable. When they started coaching the Sox, they played in Ashley Park’s tiny Babe Ruth field. You could count on a handful of homers in any given game.
Recently, however, because the Sox play on the spacious Bryant High School field and, because of the nature of their teams, they’ve had to adjust. It’s been a gradual change and they’re still a little more Tony LaRussa than Whitey Herzog but the adjustments have worked out and in their most important game of the 2005 regular season, the Sox played small ball and pitched their way to their fourth consecutive Area IV regular-season District crown with a 3-0 win over Little Rock Post 1 Blue on Friday, July 15.
Daniel Price and Justin Wells combined on the shutout, scattering eighth hits. Todd Bryan provided a clutch two-out RBI single in the fourth then a bunt and a double steal contributed to a two-run sixth for the Sox.
The game ended with the tying run at the plate in Blake Bumgardner facing Wells, his former Central Arkansas Sox teammate, and David Isom, who went 3-for-3 in the game, on deck. Wells fanned Bumgardner to end the game, freezing him with 2-2 a fastball on the outside corner.
The win, which improved Bryant to 28-6 overall and 11-1 in league play, clinched a first-round bye in the District Tournament for the Sox. Bryant will need two wins at the tournament which was set to begin Thursday, July 21, at UALR’s Gary Hogan Field, to earn a return to the AAA Legion State Tournament in Jonesboro.
“Boy, oh, boy, this is why we coach,” Craig Harrison said after Friday’s game. “To see players execute like our guys did tonight. I thought we played pretty good baseball. So many little things.
“Todd’s two-out hit there was really key,” he added. “You know, all year we’ve been bunting in the first inning, doing things that Tic and I normally haven’t done because we had to with this team. We know if we can get a 1-0 lead it’s like being 10-0 for some reason. The guys just relax and play good baseball.”
Price and Blue’s Justin Mack were locked in a scoreless duel for three innings. Price had worked out of a two-on, one-out jam in the second and pitched around a single and an error in the third while Mack got out of a bases-loaded, two-out mess in the second and a two-on, one-out pickle in the third.
In the fourth, Richie Wood worked for a two-out walk for the Sox. Travis Queck then reached on an error to set up Bryan who singled to left on a 3-1 pitch to drive in Wood. On a close play at the plate, Wood made a splendid head first slide around the tag of catch Justin Harris.
Price pitched around a one-out double in the fifth with Bryan tracking down a drive by Bumgardner in right-center for the third out. Young walked but was forced at second on a grounder to short by Price. A relay to first was wild and Price made it to second. Wells singled him to third and Mack gave way to Chris Brown for Blue. Lambert greeted him with a line drive but it was right at Mack at second to end the inning.
And the running may have taken its toll on Price. He surrendered a lead-off double to Isom in the top of the sixth and Harrison brought in Wells. He struck out the first two then got the third out, with Isom at third, on a grounder to short that concluded with a nice scoop at first by Lambert.
“Daniel was throwing his heart out, but he got tired,” Harrison said. “He’s been playing a lot and it’s taken some out of him. He got through five and we made a decision that, with a one-run lead, if we’re going to get beat it’d be with a fresh Wells on the mound. He went out and did the job. That was nice fastball there at the end.”
The Sox created a little breathing room in the bottom of the sixth. Wood led off with a single up the middle then Queck, trying to sacrifice, got his bunt in the right place for a base hit.
“Anytime Richie gets on to lead off an inning, we can do some things so we bunted,” Harrison noted. “It was obvious in the first inning when we bunted that the second baseman went to second. The first baseman was real slow, he’s usually a catcher, and if we could get it down over there, we knew we could possibly beat it out. Worst case, we’re at second with one out.”
An out later, with Danny Riemenschneider at the plate, Wood and Queck burned Little Rock with a double steal. Riemenschneider then delivered a sacrifice fly to make it 2-0.
Queck alertly tagged and went to third on the play.
“We tried to hit and run and I noticed the third baseman didn’t move, so the next pitch we called the (double) steal and that paid off with the sac fly,” Harrison commented. “Then we pulled that crazy stuff at the end.”
That paid off too remarkably. The count went to 0-2 on Aaron Davidson and Harrison sent Queck home trying to steal a third run, hoping that the 0-2 delivery would be a waste pitch in the dirt. But it wasn’t and Davidson swung (with Queck not 20 feet away) and grounded to short. Whether the sight of Queck stealing home had anything to do with it or not, Little Rock shortstop Brandon Welch goosed his throw to first. It was in the dirt and Davidson reached safely as Queck scored.
In the seventh, Harris singled, then Wells struck out the next two before Mack kept his team’s hopes alive with an infield hit, setting up the final showdown between Wells and Bumgardner.
“The first part of our season is over now,” Harrison said. “Now it’s on to step two which is the District Tournament. We know that that intensity level is going to be up now but I think our guys are ready for it. We’ve learned how to play since our trip to Oklahoma, they really understand the game a lot better and I’m so proud of them.”