Fast start sends Sox to first 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
JONESBORO — The AAA American Legion State Tournament at Arkansas State University’s Kerr Field in Tomlinson Stadium couldn’t have started any better for the Bryant Black Sox.
Todd Bryan, who started the Sox’ State bid-clinching win in District Tournament play, worked a 1-2-3 first inning (thanks in part to catcher Aaron Davidson’s missile of a throw to second to nail a would-be base-stealer) then Bryant erupted for nine runs in the bottom of the inning on the way to a 13-1 run-rule win over Fayetteville’s Lindsey & Associates Dodgers.
The win improved Bryant to 32-6 and set up a second-round showdown with emerging rival Sylvan Hills on Monday (see related story). It was the first step in the Sox’ mission to return to the State finals and, this time, capture the State title. In a deeply disappointing end in 2004, the Sox lost twice in the championship round as Fort Smith Kerwins earned the championship.
This year’s champion will advance to Regionals which will be in Pine Bluff.
“We’ve been saying all year, we left something in Fort Smith last year and we’ve been working all year to get back to here,” asserted Bryant manager Craig Harrison. “Man, that first inning was nice. We were really focused. I haven’t seen a group that focused in a long time.
“I’m real excited, the players are real excited,” he added. “I’m trying to tone them down now because we’ve got to sit until Monday. But that was fun. That was fun.”
After giving up the one-out single in the first, Bryan allowed just three more hits the rest of the way including Louie Lancaster’s solo homer in the top of the sixth, Fayetteville’s lone run.
“I thought Todd really set the tone on the mound,” stated Harrison, who along with assistant coach (and brother) Tic Harrison lettered in baseball at ASU. “We were going back and forth on who to throw today and it just shows the depth we have when we can run him out there. And, man, he did a fine job. He had his breaking pitches working, threw strikes. Going into the sixth inning, he’d only thrown 58 pitches.
Bryan walked two and struck out six in the game.
Offensively, the Sox started out patient with Fayetteville ace Tyler Patterson of Westville, Okla.
“We kind of had book on him,” noted Harrison. “I’d seen him in Mountain Home and I knew he was a little antsy on the mound but he threw hard and he had trouble with breaking pitches. I mean, it scripted just perfect.”
In fact, Bryan worked a walk to start the bottom of the inning and Danny Riemenschneider, who would go 3-for-4 in the contest, beat out a bunt for a hit.
Fayetteville then started to get rattled. Aaron Davidson’s grounder to second got through for an error that allowed Bryan to score. And when the late throw to third by right-fielder Blake Neill was wild, Riemenschneider scored as well. Davidson was awarded third when the throw went into the dugout.
Zack Young followed with an RBI single to right then Daniel Price, up to sacrifice, pulled back from ball one. On the next pitch, Price polled a long homer to left that made it 5-0.
“Actually, Daniel missed the bunt sign on his home run,” Harrison related. “It was 3-0, nobody out and a man on first and I said we’re just going right back to what we did with Danny. We picked up that their second baseman wasn’t covering. I gave him the bunt the first pitch and he took it for a ball. I gave it again but he swings and there it goes.”
The inning continued with Justin Wells getting hit by a pitch. An out later, Richie Wood hit a grounder that shortstop Ryan Salsbury bobbled before trying to get a force at second. His throw was late and all hands were safe. And when Travis Queck was hit by a pitch, the bags were loaded for Bryan, who belted a double off the fence in left to make it 7-0.
After Patterson gave way to reliever James McCarty, Riemenschneider hit a roller to the right side that first baseman Blake Kastl charged in to field. But McCarty was late covering the bag. Riemenschneider not only beat the plate at first but Kastl’s throw got past McCarty allowing Bryan to follow Queck across the plate and Riemenschneider to make it to second.
Fayetteville put its first two on board in the top of the second with a single and a walk but Bryan set down the next seven in succession.
The Sox added a pair of runs in the second on walks to Cory Lambert and Wood followed by RBI singles from Queck, who was 2-for-3, and Riemenschneider.
A walk and an error with one out in the top of the fourth gave Fayetteville another chance to score but Bryan got Nathan Cook to bounce back to the mound and the pitcher started a 1-6-3 doubleplay to end the inning.
He struck out the side in the fifth. In the sixth, Lancaster belted his homer with one out then Kastl reached on an error. Non-plused, Bryan retired the next two and pitched around a one-out single in the seventh to close out the win.
Wells added some cushion in the bottom of the sixth, following a walk to Young with a blast over the fence in left, setting the final margin.