AAA Sox finish with sweet win
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
NORTH LITTLE ROCK — The primary thing that Bryant Black Sox AAA American Legion manager Craig Harrison wanted from Monday’s game against fifth-ranked North Little Rock was a chance to play — a chance for his team to stay sharp, for his pitchers and hitters to get some work under game conditions in preparation for the upcoming (and all-important) Area 5 District Tournament at Benton.
He even decided ahead of time to use a different pitcher every inning and thought he had an understanding with the North Little Rock Colts’ manager David Cassanelli that he would do the same.
Harrison stuck with his plan, but Cassanelli didn’t. Colts’ ace Jonathan Richmond, bound for the University of Arkansas team this fall, started against the Sox and didn’t come out — for awhile.
The game went about as you would expect at first, North Little Rock built a 7-0 lead, then made it 9-1. But, with Richmond still on the hill, the Black Sox rallied for seven runs in the fifth and, despite using six pitchers, beat the Colts 10-9 in eight innings.
It was the third straight win — all against ranked teams — for the seventh-rated Black Sox as they ended the regular season 26-12. They open District play Friday, July 21, at 8 p.m., against Oxford Printing of Little Rock.
“We came out here with one thing in mind,” Harrison said after the game. “And that was just to play a game, throw everybody one inning and, you know, if we just took our lumps like we were taking our lumps then we were going to do it.
“I thought we had an understanding,” he added. “But we come out here and they’re throwing their ace and the guy was stealing with a big lead and it just kinda ticked us off. We were over here saying, ‘What are they doing?’ you know? They did it to us last year too. We came out here throwing (seldom used pitcher) Joey Brown and they had (Gary) Hogan throwing.”
Hogan, last year’s Colts’ ace, pitched as a freshman at Arkansas this spring.
“We played a good game that night and, tonight, it’s 9-1 and it looks like it’s going to be a run-rule and we just peppered them to death with hits all over the park. We put the ball in play and, in the last inning, the winning (combination) is a walk and a bunt.”
It was a very satisfying win for the Sox, who early in the season, suffered a pair of tough one-run losses at North Little Rock. And it, indeed came down to a walk and a bunt in the top of the eighth. With the game tied 9-9, Tad Beene drew the walk to open the inning off reliever Bucky Weaver. After Brian Harper came in to relieve, Dustin Morris set down a sacrifice bunt. Third baseman Jay Sayes charged the ball, fielded it and cut loose a wild throw into the right-field corner. Right fielder Scott Vincent was late backing up the play and Beene circled the bases to break the deadlock.
Morris, who reached third on the play, was stranded, however, when Harper struck out the next three.
Beau Hamblin, the sixth Bryant pitcher working in his third inning on the mound after catching the first five frames, gave up a lead-off double to Dustin Knight to start the bottom of the eighth. But, using the slow-slower-slowest curveballs and occassionally spotting his fastball as he had in two previous shutout innings, Hamblin got clean-up hitter Jimmy Scott to bounce out to second.
Todd Jackson then popped up to shallow right field. Knight tagged up at third and came home. Right fielder Anthony Rose cut loose a throw that was too high and, apparently, Knight slid in under catcher Cody Graddy to tie the game.
But Harrison called for an appeal at third. Hamblin, who wound up with the ball at the backstop, threw to third baseman Matt Lewis. The home plate umpire called Knight out for leaving third too soon and the game was over without a North Little Rock protest.
“I’m very proud of my group,” Harrison said. “No matter what happens, we’ve had one heck of a season. And these guys have learned that they can win. And, you know, we’ll take out chances now going into District.”
Bryant’s only base-runners in the first three innings came on a walk and a pair of North Little Rock errors.
For the Sox, 16-year-old Chance King made his first start. Obviously nervous, King allowed four runs on five hits but, after the first four hits, picked himself up by striking out Jackson. Marcus Brawley doubled to make it 4-0 but King picked him off second then ended the inning by striking out Vincent.
Anthony Rose worked a 1-2-3 second then 16-year-old Matt Lewis took over in the third. Chris Watts doubled and Knight cracked a homer to make it 6-0. Two outs later, Brawley doubled again and he scored when Vincent’s single to right was misplayed.
The Black Sox managed a run in the fourth on a double by Rose (he was 3-for-5) and a clutch two-out single by Matt White (2-for-4 with four RBIs).
But, with Chris Sory on the mound for Bryant, North Little Rock pushed two more across the plate in the bottom of the inning. An error prolonged the inning and Jackson smacked a two-out, two-run single to make it 9-1.
But the cracks that were beginning to show in Richmond in the fourth split wide open in the fifth. Lewis led off with a single to right then Beene rifled a base hit up the middle. Morris flew to right but reached when the ball wasn’t caught.
With the bases loaded, Michael McClellan and Hamblin slapped RBI singles and, an out later, White cleared the bases with a triple.
And, when White scored on Sory’s grounder to short, the Sox had turned 9-1 into 9-8.
Graddy pitched a scoreless inning and the Sox tied it in the sixth thanks to some heady base-running by Beene. Richmond, still in the game for North Little Rock, walked Beene to start the inning. Morris then hit a high hopper between third and short. Brawley, the third baseman, ranged far to his left but couldn’t come up with the ball. Shortstop Taylor Guillory did, however, and just nipped Morris at first. But Brawley didn’t hustle back to cover third and Beene took advantage, rounding second and sprinting into third uncontested. He scored on McClellan’s grounder to first.
Rose followed with a double that just missed going out in left-center and, finally, Richmond came out of the game. Weaver relieved and kept the Sox at bay until the eighth.
In the meantime, Hamblin worked out of a two-on, one-out jam in the sixth and pitched around a two-out single by Guillory in the seventh.
Hamblin picked up the win to improve to 5-2 on the season.