McClellan’s blast lifts Sox to victory
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
CONWAY — Right-handed pitcher Michael McClellan didn’t get the win on Thursday, July 19, against the Jonesboro Ricemen. But he made sure that his team did.
McClellan smacked a three-run homer in the bottom of the sixth that broke a 6-6 tie as the top-ranked Bryant Black Sox downed fourth-rated Jonesboro 9-7 at the Conway High School field.
Jonesboro, ranked fourth in the state by arkansasbaseball.com, came back to defeat the Conway Prudential Hawkes Realty Rockies (14-9), 13-0, in a second game at the park.
Jonesboro finished the day 26-9, the Black Sox improved to 34-12.
McClellan had started the game and pitched well. A five-run fifth had given him and the Sox a 6-2 lead. In the sixth, however, Jonesboro took advantage of two errors and a hit batsman to keep an inning alive and turned it into a four-run rally to tie.
Along the way, McClellan, emotional after what would be his final regular-season mound appearance, was relieved by Chance King who got out of the inning by getting Corey Ragsdale to fly out.
Ragsdale, a University of Arkansas signee who was drafted by the New York Mets in the second round of Major League Baseball’s supplemental draft, struck out twice and walked against McClellan.
In the bottom of the inning, Josh Harbison, in relief of starter Isaac Dillon (another University of Arkansas signee who will attend North Texas Community College next fall), retired the first Black Sox batter then issued a walk to Chris Sory. Dustin Morris then slashed a double to right-center. Sory tried to score on Matt White’s grounder into the hole at short but Ragsdale made the play and, with a quick, off-balance throw home, nailed Sory.
But, one pitch later, McClellan mashed his homer, his first in a season in which he has often been pitched carefully to, a season in which he has walked or been hit by a pitch 43 times through Thursday’s game.
“It’s about time,” he said, nonetheless, regarding the dinger.
The game also included a little drama involving Dillon and Bryant shortstop Matt Brown. The Black Sox defeated Dillon and the Ricemen in the first round of the Arkansas State University Tournament on July 5 and Brown had a key triple. On his next trip to the plate, Brown was hit in the jaw by a Dillon delivery. It broke his jaw and it looked like he was through for the season.
Courageously — and with a doctor’s clearance — Brown returned to the field after just 10 days and, on Thursday, faced Dillon again.
Jonesboro has a reputation for throwing at batters. Bryant is not the only team that has complained about it. Even Thursday, it flared up, though the Sox kept their cool.
After Bryant scored its first run in the fourth inning, Kevin Littleton was hit by a Dillon delivery. And, later, after McClellan’s go-ahead blast, Beau Hamblin had to duck out of the way of a delivery from Harbison.
Needless to say, it was a sweet victory, Bryant’s second in three meetings between the two teams.
Jonesboro held a 1-0 lead through three innings. Ragsdale walked, stole second and scored on Dillon’s two-out single to center. McClellan then picked Dillon off of first to end the inning.
Morris doubled and McClellan drew a one-out walk in the bottom of the inning but Jonesboro turned a doubleplay to preserve the lead.
Josh Allison, an Arkansas State University signee, led off Jonesboro’s fourth with a solo homer to make it 2-0 then Bryant got on the board in the bottom of the inning. White and McClellan cracked singles then advanced on a passed ball. Hamblin’s sacrifice fly brought White home.
Jonesboro had runners at second and third with one out in the fifth but McClellan fanned Ragsdale and got Allison to ground out to get out of the jam.
In turn, the Sox took the lead. Cody Graddy started the five-run fifth with a double. Sory sacrificed him to third then Morris reached on an error as Graddy came home. White then launched a two-run homer to left-center to put Bryant on top.
The inning continued with a walk to McClellan. Hamblin was then robbed of extra bases in center but Davis followed with a monster shot to right-center, his team-high 11th of the season.
Jonesboro’s tying rally in the sixth began with an error allowing Dillon to reach base. Mark Garmen was then hit by a pitch. McClellan got Steven Spencer to pop to second then John Findley drove a long fly to left-center that was dropped allowing Dillon to score.
A two-run single by Bryan Ward brought the Ricemen within a run. Cory Chastain sacrificed the pinch-runner D.D. Bowman to second then a passed ball got him to third. Lead-off man Joe Sugg then beat out a bunt single that allowed Bowman to score the tying run.
King got Ragsdale to fly out to end the inning then McClellan’s dramatic blast put Bryant back on top going into the seventh.
Jonesboro had life when Allison led off the seventh with a triple. Dillon’s sacrifice fly made it 9-7. King retired Garmen but walked Spencer to bring Findley up representing the tying run.
Hamblin relieved and earned his fourth save of the season by getting Findley to pop up to — fittingly — McClellan at first to end the game.