Sox drub Colts, make 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
NORTH LITTLE ROCK — The American Legion baseball commissioners for Zones 3 and 4 spent much of their day on Tuesday, July 31, negotiating with the state commissioner in hopes of getting the runner-up teams in their respective post-season league tournaments to Mountain Home for the AAA State tourney.
Most summers, that’s a given, each zone gets two representatives at State. But this year, an old rule was instituted allowing the AA State Tournament champion to play in the AAA State Tournament, giving that team a shot at making regional play along with the AAA teams.
Determined to keep the State bracket to eight teams including the host team, the State office determined before the season that the runner-up teams from Zones 3 and 4 (as well as those from Zones 1 and 2) would play each other in advance of State with only the winner qualifying.
Though they didn’t like it, the coaches and zone commissioners went along with the plan until, for a variety of reasons, the AA State champion Hot Springs Lakeside team decided not to participate in the AAA tourney. In the wake of that decision, Zone 4 Commissioner Craig Harrison came up with a nine-team bracket that would’ve allowed all four runner-up teams to play in the double-elimination State Tournament without the AA entry. Instead of taking Harrison’s suggestion, however, the open bid was offered to (and accepted by) AA runner-up Paragould and the play-in games commenced as planned that evening.
So, at DeJanis Memorial Field at DeSalvo Stadium in North Little Rock, Harrison’s Bryant Black Sox, runner up in the Zone 4 tournament, took on the North Little Rock Colts, runner-up in Zone 3 while, in Harrison (the town), Rogers, Zone 1 runner-up, played Searcy, the Zone 2 runner-up.
Behind stellar pitching by Ryan Wilson and a late scoring outburst, Bryant claimed the trip to State with an 11-2 win over North Little Rock while Rogers was knocking out Searcy 4-1.
The Sox were thus set to open play at State on Friday, Aug. 3, against Zone 2 champion Jonesboro.
Both Bryant and North Little Rock came in arm weary. The Sox had played five games in three days through Sunday, July 29. The Colts had it even tougher after losing early in their District tournament and fighting back through the losers bracket. They were playing their eighth game in six days.
It figured to be a slugfest but, for four innings, Wilson and Colts starter Travis Bearden dueled to a scoreless tie. In fact, Bearden held Bryant hitless as he worked into the fifth but he walked six including the first two in the fifth and was replaced by Brandon Von Ohlen. Bryant lead-off man Joey Winiecki greeted the new hurler with a bunt that he beat out of a hit as he moved Trent Daniel and Kaleb Jobe up to second and third. Jake Jackson then came through with a solid single to left to snap the tie. A second run scored when Aaron Davidson bounced into a doubleplay.
“Our approach is always to get into the bullpen,” stated Black Sox coach Tic Harrison. “We knew if we could get in their bullpen, especially on this night, with them playing eight games in six days, we could score some runs. And, eventually, it happened.”
The Sox plated two more runs in the sixth thanks to a clutch two-out, two-run single by Jobe. Jordan Knight had led off the inning with a single and, an out later, Tyler Pickett had been hit by a pitch. A grounder by Daniel moved the runners into scoring position for Jobe who pulled a 2-0 pitch into right to make it 4-0.
A seven-run ninth took the mystery out of the outcome. By then, closer Aaron Davidson had relieved Wilson who left with Bryant up 4-1.
”We wanted to get a lead, try to get deep into the game then get Davidson in there with a lead,” Harrison added. “It took us a little longer than we wanted. We were a little flat at the plate. But the players were ready to play, which is good. They came out ready. We hit a lot of balls hard and they caught them. We just had to stay at it.”
The Colts had baserunners aboard in every inning against Wilson but couldn’t dent the plate until the seventh. Clark Sims singled with one out then was forced at second on a grounder to first by Dean Larsen. Matthew Stripling cracked a double then Wilson hit Patrick Strack with a pitch and walked Tyler Thompson to force in the run.
But he kept his composure and got Bearden to fly to center to end the inning. In the eighth, a lead-off single on Wilson’s 110th pitch ended his work in the hill for the night and Davidson came on to retire the side.
Winiecki started Bryant’s big ninth off Cody Gill, the third Colts pitcher, with his third hit of the game. He stole second, took third on a wild pitch and scored on a grounder by Jackson to make it 5-1. With two down, an error kept the inning alive as Devin Hurt reached base and the floodgates opened. Knight beat out an infield hit and drew a wild throw to first, putting runners at second and third for Tyler Sawyer who drove both home with a double. Pickett walked and Wilson delivered a two-run double, making it 9-1 and forcing another pitching change.
Jobe walked, Winiecki was hit by a pitch and Jackson drew a free pass that forced in a run. Davidson singled to make it 11-1.
North Little Rock didn’t go quietly in the bottom of the inning but managed just one run. With the bases loaded, Davidson induced a grounder to Sawyer at first to end it.