Black Sox open District tourney by dumping Continental
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
BENTON — The Bryant Bowen-Hefley Black Sox AAA American Legion team had tried unsuccessfully to notch their 20th win five times at the end of the regular season. Their sixth attempt came in the first round of the Area 5 District Tournament at Bernard Holland Park against Little Rock Continental Express.
And that made win No. 20 all the sweeter.
Kris Kuykendall drove in five runs including three with a key, two-out triple to highlight a four-run seventh as Bryant downed Continental 11-5.
Anthony Rose, who also homered in the game, picked up the victory on the mound by scattering six hits over the first 7 2/3 innings. Daniel Bennett finished up.
Bryant advanced to take on top-seeded Pine Bluff Simmons Bank in the second round on Saturday, once again with a 1 p.m. starting time meaning they would play in 100-degree weather for a second day in a row.
Ironically, Continental got Saturday off. The Express would return to action with an elimination game Sunday at 1 p.m., against Little Rock Oxford Printing.
“I can say nothing but good things about my players today,” stated Bryant manager Craig Harrison. “They really responded. We had the game plan down and we executed.”
“We’ve kind of been down a little bit,” Kuykendall said after the game. “(Today) we didn’t hit good at first but then we came through at the end. Everybody’s getting pumped up and ready to go. We know it’s time to win now. This was huge. This was one we wanted. We’re hoping to win it now.”
Kuykendall helped the Sox take a 2-0 lead in the opening inning. Brandon Fitts looped a single to right to start things. Billy Landers walked then J.J. Yant singled to center to load the bases. One runs scored on Logan Critz’ grounder to third then another came home when Kuykendall’s grounder up the middle was deflected by Continental pitcher Bill Pendergist to second baseman Bryan Scanlan for the second out of the inning.
Rose made that lead hold with shutout pitching over the first four innings.
But Pendergist was also effective, keeping Bryant down without another hit over the same span.
The Express finally broke through in the fifth and tied it.
Bryant responded by eking out a run to snap the tie in the bottom of the fifth. Dustin Morris, who went 3-for-3 with a walk from the No. 9 spot in the lineup, singled up the middle. Fitts sacrificed him to second then Pendergist balked. Landers’ grounder to short brought Morris home.
Rose then set the Express down in order in the sixth and, with two out in the bottom of the inning, added to the lead with his 10th homer of the season.
Bryant then came through with its big seventh-inning rally to relieve some of the tension in the game. Morris burned Continental’s shallow outfield alignment with a drive over James Watkins’ head in center for a lead-off double. An out later, Landers drew a walk.
Pendergist got the second out but Critz kept the inning alive by beating out an infield single, loading the bases.
“Logan got on, we had two outs — I was just hoping to score somebody,” Kuykendall recalled after the game.
“He came up and I went to the plate,” Harrison recounted. “’Kirk’ has a tendency to swing at the first pitch, so I said, ‘Kris, what we don’t want to do here is go up and swing at the first pitch, pop up and we’re out of the inning, leaving three and they’ve got the momentum back.’ I said, ‘Take a pitch. He’ll probably throw the first pitch down the middle — that’s fine.’ Sure enough, first pitch, right down the middle.”
Kuykendall actually took two more pitches, both balls, then lashed a liner down the right-field line and into the corner, clearing the bases.
“We were tight until then,” Harrison noted, “but that helped us breathe a little bit easier.”
Kuykendall scored too. After Pendergist was relieved by Dan Hudson, an errant throw back to the mound by catcher Jeb Steen allowed Kuykendall to alertly scamper in to make it 8-2.
Rose ran into a little trouble in the top of the eighth, surrendering a double to Pendergist and a walk to Jeb Steen to open the inning. But, despite a wild pitch, he retired the next two then came within a strike of getting out of the jam. But pinch-hitter Brad Kelley slapped a 3-2 pitch back up the middle for a two-run single and Bennett came on in relief.
“Anthony did a great job,” Harrison said. “A nine-inning game, it’s very rare that a guy’s going to throw the whole nine, especially when it’s 100 degrees.”
Bennett got Matt Turner to fly to left to end the inning and the Sox padded the lead more in the bottom of the inning. Morris again was the instigator with a lead-off single. Fitts sacrificed then Landers was hit by a pitch and Yant singled to load the bases.
Turner came on in relief for Continental and Critz greeted him with a sacrifice fly to make it 9-4. Kuykendall then added to his day with a run-scoring single to right-center.
With Bennett at the plate, Turner uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Yant to score Bryant’s final run.
Continental cut a run off the margin in the top of the ninth but Bennett got out of a bases loaded jam to end the game.