Backs to the wall, AAA Sox make it to State
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
PINE BLUFF — The Bryant Blacksox hammered out 15 hits including game-ending two-run homers by Korey Hunter and Jeff Carpenter, and Travis Wood pitched six innings of three-hit relief on short rest in a 16-6 win in eight innings over Little Rock Blue on Tuesday, July 27 at Taylor Field. The win, Bryant’s 31st in 38 games this summer, clinched a spot in the AAA American Legion State Tournament starting Saturday, July 31, at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith. It also advanced the Sox to the championship round of the Zone 4 Tournament against the Texarkana Razorbacks. Both teams will represent the league at State. Bryant needed a win over Texarkana late Tuesday to force a winner-take-all District final on Wednesday. Texarkana needed one win in the two games to claim the tournament title and the league’s top seed at State. Texarkana defeated Bryant 6-4 in the winners bracket final, a game that was scheduled for Saturday but was rained out, began on Sunday before being interrupted by rain then completed on Monday.
The winner of the District Tournament was set to open State play against Russellville, the No. 2 team from Area 2, at 10 a.m. on Saturday. The Area 4 runner-up would take on Fort Smith Kerwins, the top team from Area 1, at 7 p.m.
Bryant, the regular-season champions of Area 4, received a first round bye in the District Tournament. Needing two wins to go to State, the Sox knocked off rival Benton 5-3 on Friday to set up the game with Texarkana.
Bryant 16, Little Rock Blue 6
A night after their own mistakes contributed to their demise, the Sox took advantage of five Little Rock Blue miscues including three in a three-run fifth that took much of the starch out of the Little Rock team in a game in which the winner went to State and the loser went home.
Bryant trailed 2-1 going into the third inning when, for the first time in the tournament, the bats came to life. Todd Bryan, who had two hits and scored four runs in the game, got things started with a single up the middle. A perfectly executed hit-and-run with Bryan on the go and Carpenter slapping a single through the vacated hole at second base revved things up. Justin Wells followed with an RBI single to tie the game, Travis Wood walked then Scott Peeler delivered the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly. Richie Wood and Cory Lambert followed with RBI singles to make it 5-2.
Lambert had started the game on the mound, giving up a run in the first and another in the second before giving way to Daniel Minton, who worked out of a bases-loaded jam. After Minton pitched around a walk in the top of the third and the Sox took the lead, a lead-off walk in the fourth brought Wood, the Bryant ace, to the mound.
Wood, who walked six and struck out eight in his six innings of relief, hit a batter and walked one as Little Rock loaded the bases with two out but Andrew Taylor, the Blue clean-up hitter, struck out to end the inning with Bryant’s 5-2 lead intact.
Three of the four Little Rock infielders committed errors in the fifth and starting pitcher Jon Ashworth walked three as Bryant’s lead increased to 8-2.
Making a bid to comeback, Little Rock whittled on the lead in the seventh on a two-run double by Blake Bumgardner. But, in the bottom of the inning, Bryant scored four times, taking advantage of another Little Rock error which allowed Dustin Easterly to reach base with one out. Hunter walked but was forced at second on a grounder by Bryan as Easterly went to third. But Carpenter and Wells came through with RBI singles then Travis Wood tripled to clear the bases, making it 12-4.
In the top of the eighth, Little Rock scored twice more with Taylor driving in a run with a single that was misplayed in the outfield, allowing a second run to score.
However, Bryant countered with the blasts by Hunter and Carpenter. Hunter’s came after Dustin Tinkler had singled; Carpenter’s followed a double by Bryan.
Texarkana 6, Bryant 4
Texarkana scored three unearned runs in the bottom of the seventh to snap a 3-3 tie and right-hander Steve Smith made it hold up despite a ninth-inning rally by the Sox as the Razorbacks nabbed a bid to State.
The uprising began with one-out hits by C.T. Almond and Dylan Moseley. But Bryant’s Daniel Price, the team’s third pitcher of the game, induced a groundball that might’ve been the start of an inning-ending doubleplay. An error, however, kept the inning going, loading the bases. Dane Peavy followed with a sacrifice fly to right as Almond scored. And, on the relay back to the infield, the Sox committed two errors. Moseley scored when the throw from right was dropped. Adam Cobb headed for third which was unoccupied by a Bryant fielder. One of the Bryant infielders tried to get there while a teammate tried to connect with him with a throw on the run. They failed to make connections however. The ball wound up going to the fence in foul territory and Cobb scored easily to make it 6-3.
In the ninth, Price drew a one-out walk and Bryan beat out an infield hit that sent Price to an unoccupied third base. A balk on Smith allowed Price to score then Carpenter reached base on catcher’s interference, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate. Wells blasted a liner to left but it was right at the Texarkana outfielder for the second out. Travis Wood popped to third to end it.
On Sunday, Bryant had taken an early 2-0 lead when Scott Peeler’s two-out double chased home Bryan and Travis Wood.
Texarkana made it 2-1 in the second then Peeler singled in Carpenter in the top of the third to make it 3-1. An error, a pair of singles and a wild pitch allowed Texarkana to tie it in the bottom of the third. Wells, the Bryant starter on the mound, preserved the tie, however, by striking out two to strand a runner at third.
After retiring the side in order in the fourth, Wells was hit for a double in the fifth and, with one out, hit a batter before a thunderstorm suspended the game until Monday.
When play resumed, James Leigh took the mound for Bryant against Cobb, Texarkana’s tough left-handed hitting center fielder. A close 2-2 pitch didn’t go Bryant’s way and Cobb wound up walking. Daniel Price relieved at that point, however, and retired the next two to leave the bases juiced.
Price didn’t allow a hit until the crucial seventh inning.
Bryant 5, Benton 3
Travis Wood struck out 13 and scattered four hits in eight innings and Price picked up a save by getting the final out with the tying runs on base in the ninth as the Sox topped their Saline County rivals.
Bryan, Wells and Peeler each had two hits for the Sox who trailed 1-0 after three innings. In the fourth, however, Wells singled, Travis Wood walked then Peeler reached to load the bases when his sacrifice bunt drew an errant throw. Zack Young delivered the tying run with a sacrifice fly then Lambert’s grounder to second was booted, giving Bryant a 2-1 lead. Dustin Easterly’s squeeze bunt proved successful to make it a two-run lead.
Benton had scored its first run off Wood in the third after he had struck out the first five batters in the game. Seth Lee singled, advanced on a botched pickoff, took third on a flyout by Colt Huskey and scored on a passed ball. In the fourth, Matt Little’s infield single was followed by another misplayed pickoff. Little reached third on the play then scored on a two-out single by Ross Rankin.
Bryant got that run back in the top of the fifth. Bryan blooped a single to right-center, Carpenter sacrificed him to second and Wells chased him home with a double.
It stayed 4-2 until the ninth. In the top of the inning, Tinkler drew a one-out walk, stole second and took third on an infield hit by Bryan. Carpenter then hit a chopper to third. With Tinkler breaking home on the play, all Rankin, the Benton third sacker, could do was throw to first for the out as Bryant’s lead became 5-2.
That eased the tension in the bottom of the inning. Daniel Minton relieved Wood and retired the first two he faced. But the second out came on a hot comebacker to the mound off Rankin’s bat. The ball struck Minton on the thigh. Though he was able to throw to first and get the out, then continue, singles by Austin Samples, Josh Curtis and Huskey followed cutting the lead to 5-3 and putting the potential tying runs on base.
But Price entered and got Cody Rickard to foul out to Peeler at first to end the game.