Senior Sox put finishing touches on championship
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
The Bryant Black Sox Senior American Legion team put the final touches on their seventh consecutive Zone 4 regular-season championship by jumping to an 8-1 lead then hold on to defeat Little Rock Continental Express, 9-7, at Bryant High School Field on Wednesday, July 16.
The Sox had already clinched the top seed for the league’s post-season tournament despite a 7-5 loss to Little Rock Blue the night before. Blue, the only team that could’ve caught Bryant, had lost to the Sox 6-2 earlier in the year so Bryant had the tiebreaking advantage even had Continental upset them in the league finale on Wednesday.
But Trent Daniel, working on short rest in part as a showcase for the new coaching staff at Arkansas State University, limited Continental to one run on three hits over the first four innings as the Sox built their lead. He walked one and struck out seven, giving him 93 punch-outs in 46 innings this summer. He improved to 6-1 as the Sox improved to 25-8 and 13-1 going into their regular-season finale at home against North Little Rock on Saturday, July 19.
“It’s fun to win and we’ve got a reputation,” commented manager Craig Harrison. “You just don’t want to give anybody else a chance to think that they can take it away from us. I’m proud of my team this year.
“Every win, you go home and you sleep better,” he added. “Last night (after the loss to Blue), I didn’t sleep good again even though we had wrapped it up. I was trying to piece together who was going to pitch tonight, knew I didn’t want to throw Trent a whole lot since he was on three-days rest, plus we didn’t want to burn him in a game that we didn’t have to win but we wanted to win and we were out here to win. We got four out of him, probably could’ve gone another one but that was good enough.”
Justin Blankenship, who has emerged in recent weeks as a solid reliever, took over for Daniel and surrendered a three-run home to Scott Chalene in the fifth. After the Sox tacked on a run in the bottom of the inning, Sergio Arias, helping out before the Bryant Junior team began State tourney action the next day, came on and worked a 1-2-3 sixth before Continental took advantage of an error to rally for three runs in the seventh.
“J.B.’s arm was a little tender,” Harrison said. “He didn’t tell me that. I put him in and the guys on the bench told me. So we just tried to piece that one inning together. We knew Sergio was going to be gone Friday and I asked Brad (Chism, the Junior team assistant coach) if he was key in their plans (Thursday) on the mound and he said no. So, we went with him and, in the last inning, they got some baserunners but they really weren’t centering the ball on him.”
A nice running catch of a foul pop with the bases loaded and one out by first baseman Michael Haydon helped stem the tide in the inning and drew praise from Harrison. Continental’s Mark Thompson tagged and scored on the play then Michael Alonso drilled a two-run single but Arias got Jim Manney to bounce out to Tyler Sawyer at short for a game-ending force out.
Continental drew first blood in the game with a run in the top of the first. Jordan Getchall walked, advanced on a groundout and scored on a two-out single by Matt DeSalvo.
No one got past first against Daniel after that.
The Sox countered with two in the home first. Garrett Bock walked, Tyler Pickett doubled and Sawyer singled both in.
In the second, Haydon led off with a shot to right for his second home run in the last 10 days. An out later, Bock walked again, Pickett was hit by a pitch and Sawyer beat out an infield hit that drew a late wild throw that allowed Bock to score, making it 4-1.
Daniel opened the third with a double, Haydon singled him to third and Pickett beat out an infield hit to pick up the RBI.
A three-run fourth began with a walk to David Guarno, who stole second and took third on a wild pitch. He scored when Kaleb Jobe reached on an error. And, after Jobe swiped second, Haydon was hit by a pitch and Blankenship sliced an RBI single to left to make it 8-1.
Blankenship surrendered a pair of singles in the top of the fifth but had two retired before Chalene’s three-run shot. DeSalvo followed with a single but the Bryant right-hander got Alonso to bounce out to end the inning.
Bryant’s final run was scored by Jordan Knight who beat out an infield hit, stole second and scored on a base hit by Jobe in the bottom of the fifth.