Black Sox sweep to title in 30-team tournament
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).
ALTON, Ill. — Maybe the Bryant Black Sox AAA American Legion team should’ve been using the old wooden bats since the outset. They certainly seemed to take to them at the annual Metro East Tournament of Champions held in and around Alton, Ill., near St. Louis over the holiday weekend.
The Sox, already on a four-game win streak, made it 11 straight by whisking through seven games at the tournament to capture the championship. On Monday, July 4, Bryant defeated Evansville, Ind., 6-5, for the title. Evansville was the only team Bryant defeated twice in the tourney, the only two defeats the Indiana team suffered.
In pool play, the Sox downed Maumelle, 7-3, and host Alton, 7-2, on Friday, July 1. The next day, they completed the pool sweep by edging Evansville, 2-1, and knocking off St. Louis American National, 10-5.
In the championship tournament of the 30-team field, the Sox ousted Highland, Ill., 9-5, on Sunday, July 3. In the semifinals on Monday, they eliminated Brentwood, Mo., 11-2, to get to the final.
The wins improved the Sox to 21-5 on the season. They were set to return to Area IV District play at Pine Bluff on Thursday, July 7, before hosting Benton on Friday, July 8.
It was the third time in six years that Bryant has won the prestigious tourney, but this is the first since wooden bats were introduced.
Coaches Craig and Tic Harrison were thrilled with their team’s play. “We really played well,” Craig Harrison said. “We started hitting and our pitchers were awesome. It surely was a lot of fun.”
Bryant 6, Evansville, Ind. 5
The Sox took the lead with four runs in the fourth, added one in the fifth then held on thanks to some clutch relief pitching by lefty Casey Grisham.
A base-running blunder helped as well. Grisham had relieved starter Aaron Davidson in the sixth with two on and nobody out, Bryant up 6-3. A walk loaded the bases ahead of a two-run double. Still, with no one out, Grisham got the next batter to bounce back to the mound. The runner at third stayed put as Grisham threw for the out at first but the runner at second, ran to third, forcing the runner there to head home where a relay from first sacker Cory Lambert to Josh Groves completed the unorthodox doubleplay.
Grisham got the next batter to bounce back to the mound and the Sox escaped with the lead.
In the seventh, Grisham retired the first two easily but issued a walk on a 3-2 count. The next batter singled but made too big a turn around first. Shortstop Justin Wells threw to Lambert to nail him trying to get back to the bag to end the game and the tournament.
The Sox led initially, 1-0, when Todd Bryan led off the game with a walk, took second on a passed ball, was sacrificed to third by Danny Riemenschneider and scored on a sacrifice fly by Davidson.
Evansville took a 3-1 lead in the second but left a runner at third when Davidson got the final out on a comebacker.
The game-turning Bryant fourth began with consecutive singles by Zack Young, Daniel Price, Wells and Lambert to plate the tying runs. A one-out walk to Groves loaded the bases for Bryan who walked to give the Sox the lead. Riemenschneider then made it 5-3 with a sacrifice fly.
Meanwhile Davidson was in the process of setting down eight Evansville batters in a row. In the top of the fifth, Young walked, swiped second, took third on a single by Wells and scored on a grounder by Lambert that was misplayed.
Davidson surrendered inning-opening singles to open the home sixth before giving way to Grisham.
Brentwood, Mo. 2
On June 18, the Sox had defeated Brentwood and star outfielder Scott Van Slyke (son of former Major Leaguer Andy Van Slyke) in pool play at the Mountain Home Twin Lakes Classic. But that was a one-run game. This time, the Sox jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the top of the first and led throughout, topping off the win with a six-run seventh.
Bryan went the route on the mound for the Sox and held Brentwood without a hit through 4 2/3 innings. He wound up with a three-hitter, walking three and striking out a pair. At one point, he retired nine in a row.
And Bryan was involved in both of Bryant’s big offensive innings. In the first, he walked and took second on an errant pickoff throw. After Riemenschneider walked as well, Bryan advanced to third when Davidson grounded into a force at second. A passed ball allowed the first run to score.
A walk to Young was followed by an RBI double from Price. Young scored on a wild pitch then Price was thrown out on a fielder’s choice that allowed Richie Wood to reach base. After a walk to Wells, Lambert singled to make it 4-0.
The Sox tacked on a run in the fourth when Wells blasted a solo homer.
It stayed 5-0 until Brentwood’s two-run sixth. Both runs scored after there was two out and no one on. A walk, a single and a double that was misplayed in the outfield produced the runs. But Bryan forced Brentwood to strand a runner at third when he got the next batter to tap out in front of the plate.
Bryant put the icing on the win in the seventh starting with back-to-back homers by Wells and Lambert. After a pitching change, Travis Queck singled, Bryan walked and Riemenschneider was hit by a pitch. Queck scored on a wild pitch then Davidson and Young drove in runs with base hits.
Bryan eased through a 1-2-3 home seventh to close it out.
Bryant 9, Highland, Ill. 5
Bryan picked up the save in relief of James Leigh who had a four-hit shutout through five innings but surrendered a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth and three in the home seventh. With two on and two out in the seventh, Bryan came in and got a strikeout only to have the batter reach base on a passed ball on the third strike. With the bases full, he induced a game-ending grounder to short.
Bryant claimed the upper hand by scoring in each of the first three innings. In the first, Bryan singled and took second on an error. Riemenschneider doubled him in then scored on a single by Davidson.
In the second, Wells cracked a double, Queck reached on an error and Bryan singled to make it 3-0.
Young walked to open the third. Price doubled him to third and Wood brought him home with a grounder to the right side. Lambert then singled in Price to make it 5-0.
It stayed that way until the top of the sixth when the Sox got four runs that proved to be the difference in the contest. Price had the key hit of the inning, a three-run jack with two down in the inning. Bryan had singled and advanced on an error. With two down, Davidson singled him in. Young walked and Price unloaded to make it 9-0.
A bunt single and a pair of walks loaded the bases for Highland in the bottom of the inning. A two-out, two-run single broke up the shutout.
Bryant 10, St. Louis American-National 5
Wood made his first appearance of the season on the mound and Young just his second. With relief help from Davidson, the Sox rode an early 8-0 lead to victory.
Bryan, Riemenschneider and Lambert each had two hits with Lambert driving in three runs.
A five-run first took some of the pressure off of Wood whose first inning of work went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning.
Bryant’s initial uprising was instigated by Bryan who singled and scored all the way from first on a double by Young. Grisham singled then Wood hit a grounder to third. An errant throw to second in an effort to get the force allowed Young to score. Lambert singled in a run, Queck picked up an RBI with a groundout then Devin Hurt’s two-out single capped the inning.
In the second, Riemenschneider singled, Young was hit by a pitch Wood singled in a run and Lambert drove in two with a base hit.
St. Louis picked up two in the bottom of the inning then both team scored single tallies in the third. For the Sox, Hurt walked and Groves was hit by a pitch ahead of Riemenschneider’s two-out RBI single. In the fourth, Wood launched a lead-off homer to make it 10-3.
St. Louis scored unearned runs in the fifth and sixth before Davidson shut the door, pitching around a two-out single in the seventh to end it.
Bryant 2, Evansville, Ind. 1
Wells shackled Evansville on four hits over seven innings, giving up an unearned run in the second. He struck out seven and walked just one.
The Sox tied the game in the fourth. With two down, consecutive hits by Young, Price and Wells did the trick. In the fifth, Queck reached on an error, Hurt walked and Bryan singled to load the bases for Riemenschneider who delivered a sacrifice fly and what turned out to be the winning run.
After working around a single and an error in the fourth, Wells retired 13 of the last 15 batters he faced. A two-out single in the fifth and a one-out double in the sixth was all that Evansville could manage.
Bryant 7, Alton, Ill. 2
Lambert went the distance and finished strong, retiring 14 of the last 16 he faced after giving up two runs on four hits over the first three innings.
Young provided offensive support with a pair of hits and three runs batted in.
Alton took a 1-0 lead in the top of the opening inning, putting together a single and a double with one out. Bryant tied it in the home second after Lambert worked out of a two-on, one-out jam in the top of the inning. The Sox’ run came on a single by Wood, a walk to Grisham and a sacrifice bunt by Queck that drew an errant relay throw trying to catch Wood wandering too far off third.
Alton took a 2-1 lead in the top of the third but left runners at second and third as Lambert worked out of the jam. He would give up a lead-off single in the fourth then set down nine straight before a lead-off walk in the seventh.
In the meantime, the Sox took the lead in the fourth. Young doubled, advanced to third on a grounder by Wells and scored when Wood reached on an error, tying the game. Wood then swiped second and drew a wild throw that allowed him to race all the way home.
In the fifth, Groves was hit by a pitch, Bryan singled and Riemenschneider reached when his sacrifice bunt was misplayed. With one away, Young cleared the bases with a double to give Bryant a 6-2 advantage.
Hurt followed walks to Groves and Bryan with an RBI single in the bottom of the sixth to set the final score.
Bryant 7, Maumelle 3
Price helped his own cause with a two-run double that keyed a four-run fourth for Bryant, turning a 2-1 lead into a 6-1 advantage.
Price scattered seven hits in going the route. He walked four and struck out 12.
Maumelle took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third with an unearned tally. Bryant answered with two in the bottom of the inning as Young and Price came through with two-out RBI singles after Bryan had walked and Riemenschneider singled.
Price worked around a two-out single in the top of the fourth then the Sox took control of the game. Wood singled to lead off the inning. Queck beat out a bunt for a hit and Bryan slapped a base hit. Wood and Queck scored on errors. With Bryan at third, Young walked and Price delivered his two-run two-bagger.
Maumelle managed a pair of runs in the top of the fifth to make it 6-3 but Bryant got one of those back in the bottom of the frame on a triple by Queck that chased home Wells who had reached on an error.
Price worked around an error in the sixth and a one-out double in the seventh to nail down the victory.