Bryant finds a way past Hot Springs
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
HOT SPRINGS — Some things, declared Bryant Black Sox Senior American Legion team manager Craig Harrison, you can just count on.
“The sun comes up in the East, the Yankees have the highest payroll, and we don’t play well when we get home from St. Louis,” he declared after his team eked out a 5-4 win over the Hot Springs AA team on Tuesday, July 8.
Indeed, it was the team’s first game after their annual trip to the Metro East Tournament of Champions in Alton, Ill., near St. Louis.
In years past, the Sox often played a league game upon their return and invariably that would not go well. Last year, for instance, Bryant won the tournament and was on their way to an unprecedented post-season run to the World Series but lost to Zone 4 rival Benton in their first game back from St. Louis.
Two years ago, they split a pair of games at UALR with Fayetteville and Evansville, Ind., in non-league games but, in 2005 when they were again on their way to a State title, they lost to league-rival Pine Bluff the first game after winning the T of C crown.
This time, Harrison scheduled the league games before the trip and the team improved its Zone mark to 9-0 with five more ahead, using a non-league buffer of Hot Springs and Cabot on the heels of the trip.
And they got by Hot Springs thanks to some fine relief pitching from Justin Blankenship and a two-out RBI single by Jordan Knight in the top of the sixth that snapped a 4-4 tie.
Blankenship, a right-hander, was making his first appearance on the mound for the Senior team. He had helped out an arm-weary Junior Black Sox squad at North Little Rock on June 20, and absorbed a loss knocking off the rust of not pitching since last summer.
At Hot Springs, however, he retired seven of the eight batters he faced, struck out five and picked up the win in relief of starter Preston Adami.
Bryant built a 4-0 lead, sparked by Michael Haydon’s two-run homer in the second. Kaleb Jobe had doubled with one out in the inning and, with two down, Haydon came through with a bomb that cleared the center field fence at Hot Springs Boys Club field.
Blankenship kept the inning going with a double to right-center and, after a walk to Garrett Bock, Tyler Pickett fisted a single over the second baseman’s head to make it 3-0.
In the third, Knight walked, advanced on a wild pitch, took third on a passed ball and, after Jobe walked, scored on a double by Trent Daniel to make it 4-0.
Adami had pitched around an error and a pair of singles in the first then didn’t have any trouble until his mound counterpart Andrew Love drilled a solo homer with one out in the bottom of the fourth. Randy Young singled but Adami retired the next two to keep it 4-1.
Despite three singles and a walk, the Sox had been unable to add to their total in the top of the fourth and all they mustered in the fifth was a bunt single by Daniel who was subsequently thrown out trying to steal.
In the home fifth, Adami’s location faltered a bit and Hot Springs took advantage. Bo Snider doubled and, with one out, Tyler Ellis singled. A double by Gary Taylor made it 4-2 with the tying runs in scoring position. Harrison brought on Blankenship who unleashed a wild pitch which allowed Ellis to score. He fanned Jonathan Hall but walked Love. Hot Springs then worked a double steal and Love stayed in a rundown long enough for Taylor to score the tying run.
In the top of the sixth, Hot Springs reliever Kyle Green retired the first two he faced but then issued walks to Tyler Sawyer and David Guarno to bring up Knight who shot a sinking liner into right-center to snap the tie.
Blankenship made it stand up with a 1-2-3 sixth then striking out the side in the seventh.