Clincher for AAA Sox turns out not to be, yet
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
When the Bryant Blacksox AAA American Legion team began its Zone 4 doubleheader with the Texarkana Advanced Medical Razorbacks at Bryant Field on Tuesday evening, they had it figured that they needed at least a split to clinch the top spot in the league and the first-round bye at the upcoming District Tournament that went with it.
So, there was a bit of a letdown after they got some splendid relief pitching from Justin Woods and came from behind for a 6-4 win in game one. Texarkana took advantage of the Sox lackluster play in game two to forge a split with an 8-2 victory.
And, somewhere along the line, it was discovered that what had been believed wasn’t quite correct. The results of the evening left Bryant 8-4 and finished with play in the Zone. But instead of Texarkana picking up its fourth loss in the first game, it was discovered that the Razorbacks emerged from the twinbill with a 5-3 mark, still a game ahead in the loss column.
So, the Blacksox will need some help to gain that top spot. And their prospects are not exactly grim. Texarkana still has doubleheaders to play against Pine Bluff Simmons First, the third-place team in the league, and an always dangerous Benton team. The Hogs must sweep both to stay ahead of the Sox.
Still, the miscalculation, as well as the Bryant team’s lack of competitiveness in the second game, didn’t sit well with manager Craig Harrison and his brother/coach Chris.
The loss snapped Bryant’s nine-game winning streak but the win was their 30th of the season. They’d take a 30-12 to North Little Rock on Thursday, July 18. On Friday, they were set to host Jonesboro and Benton in a three-team doubleheader that will serve as Bryant’s final regular-season home game. Benton and Jonesboro were set to play at 4 p.m., with Bryant and Jonesboro slated for a 7 p.m. start. Jonesboro is currently ranked No. 1 in the state by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Bryant is No. 2.
On Tuesday, the Sox fell behind early against Texarkana. Left-hander Cody Dreher, coming back after a bit of a layoff because of a sore elbow, struggled, giving up three runs on four hits. Woods came on with the bases loaded and two out and got Joe Velasquez to ground out to B.J. Wood at short to end the inning.
Woods went the rest of the way giving up just one hit over 6 1/3 innings. He struggled early with his control before settling in to retire the last 10 batters he faced and 13 of 14.
Bryant cut into the Texarkana lead in the second when Derek Chambers doubled to left-center and A.J. Nixon belted a triple. And when the throw from the outfield evaded the cutoff man, Nixon sprinted home as well.
The Razorbacks made it 4-2 in the top of the third. With one out, Woods walked Dane Peavy, hit Tye Whatley and gave up a single to Ben Smith. But the bags were still loaded with two outs. Woods hit Brandon Attaway, however, forcing in the run.
After that, he allowed just one baserunner.
The Sox came back to tie it in the bottom of the third, without a hit. Scott Yant and Wood walked. Jeff Carpenter grounded into a force at second, hustling to first to avoid a doubleplay. Carpenter then swiped second and Matt White hit a bouncer to third with Yant breaking for the plate. But the throw home by Whatley short-hopped the catcher and Yant slid in safely.
Cody Graddy’s hard grounder to Attaway at short then drew a wild throw and Carpenter scored the tying tally.
It stayed 4-4 as Woods and Bryan Bearden dueled, until the Bryant sixth when Kevin Littleton singled to right, just the Sox’ third hit of the game. Littleton stole second then took third on a grounder to the right side by Chambers. Nixon walked then, with the infield in and Nixon on the move, Clay Jones came through in the clutch with a bouncer up the middle. The single plated Littleton with the tiebreaker. Nixon, who dashed on to third, scored when Yant grounded to first. Though pulled in, Peavy fielded the ball and touched first before throwing home, giving Nixon just enough time to beat the rap.
Aided by a fine diving stop by Carpenter at third, Woods worked a 1-2-3 seventh.
Walks and an untimely error hurt the Sox in the second game as Texarkana took a 4-0 lead despite having just one hit. Chambers, the starter for Bryant, issued a pair of walks to open the second inning then, on a sacrifice bunt by Smith, Carpenter charged and fielded the ball only to unleash a wild throw to first. Both runs scored. Smith was stranded at third, thanks in large part to a nice two-out play at short by Wood and a good grab by Littleton at first.
(Texarkana was the home team in game two because the two teams were supposed to play home-and-home but opted for the doubleheader at Bryant.)
Attaway walked and stole second to start the bottom of the third. He took third on a groundout and remained there as Chambers fanned Jonathan Scott. But back-to-back walks on 3-2 counts loaded the bases after that and when Ben Smith rolled one between first and second for an infield hit, two runs scored. Littleton ranged far to his right to try to field the ball with a dive. Unfortunately, Norman, the second baseman, had moved into position to field it only to have the ball ricochet off Littleton and into short right field.
Bryant got on the board in the top of the fourth on singles by Littleton and Jones and a sacrifice fly by Nixon.
But Texarkana busted the game open in the bottom of the fourth, scoring four runs all after two were out.
After Jones’ single in the fourth, the Sox didn’t manage another hit the rest of the game — they finished with three — but in the sixth, Graddy’s fly to left was dropped and he eventually scored on a sac-fly by Jones to make it 8-2.