Weary AAA Sox deny Pine Bluff
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
After playing seven games in four days and making the long trip back to Bryant from Alton, Ill. (just east of St. Louis) on the night of their last two games, everyone associated with the Bryant Blacksox AAA American Legion team was bone tired going into Tuesday’s Zone IV matchup with Pine Bluff Simmons First.
Ranked No. 1 in the state earlier this season, Pine Bluff was geared up for a re-match with Bryant after the Bankers had blown a six-run lead at home, losing to Bryant 9-6 on June 26. And with the regular season winding down and seeds up for grabs for the District Tournament in Bryant (the top seed gets a huge advantage with a bye in the first round), the visitor’s intensity was palpable.
The Sox really had every reason to expect to get beat. Every pitcher had worked considerably at Alton, often in blazing heat.
Scotty Yant took the ball. Despite his recent history against Pine Bluff — his only rough outings of the Legion and high school seasons came at Taylor Field in the Bluff — Yant took the ball.
And the Sox somehow mustered the effort to turn back the Pine Bluff challenge with a 6-5 win. And there was no doubt in the outcome for them, said manager Craig Harrison.
“Even though we were tired, we expected to win,” he stated. “Scotty just gutted it out. He was upset because he didn’t get the win, but he was just so gutsy out there. I had just told him to give us four innings, to go out there and just throw strikes for four innings and if they hit it and we didn’t field, that’s okay. He had a rough start but then put together a couple of good innings and just kept battling them.”
As it turned out,Yant worked into the seventh and the Sox held a 5-3 lead. A one-out walk on a borderline 3-2 pitch in the top of the seventh aggravated him and when the next batter, Corey McCoy doubled to right-center, Harrison brought in Chance King. An error allowed both runners to score, tying the game and costing Yant the victory.
But Bryant rallied to win in the bottom of the seventh on a two-out RBI single by Derek Chambers.
The win improved the Sox to 28-11 on the season, 7-3 in Zone IV, good for a two-game lead over Sheridan and Arkansas Trailer going into their last league games, a twinbill at home with Texarkana on Sunday.
“A split with Texarkana will clinch the top seed,” Harrison acknowledged.
Early in Tuesday’s game, the feeling of déjà vu reared up in the first inning as Hudson Smart belted a long two-run homer to center, a rare feat at Bryant Field, to put the Bankers on top. But Yant battled back to strikeout two around a double by Eric Forestiere to keep it at that.
Pine Bluff added a run in the third on a sacrifice fly by Smart but got a big lift when Matt White fired a strike to third to nail Matt Morgan who was trying to go first to third on a single by Forestiere.
Bryant responded by taking the lead in the bottom of the inning, taking advantage of a wild stretch by Pine Bluff starter Matt Mullikin and a pair of errors. A.J. Nixon beat out an infield hit to start the inning. Walks to Clay Jones and Andrew Norman loaded the bases then Nixon scored on a wild pitch. A single by B.J. Wood brought in Jones then another wild pitch allowed Norman to score the tying tally. After Jeff Carpenter walked, White grounded into a doubleplay as Wood scored the go-ahead run.
The Sox added an insurance run in the fifth on an RBI single by White.
Pine Bluff threatened in the sixth but exceptional plays in the field by Wood, from shortstop, and Nixon, in right.
After Pine Bluff tied it in the top of the seventh, they got a runner to third with the potential go-ahead run, but King retired Smart and Morgan on groundouts to preserve the tie.
In the bottom of the inning, Carpenter drew a one-out walk but there were two out before the Sox got going. Cody Graddy kept the inning alive with a solid single to left then Kevin Littleton drew a walk to load the bases for Chambers. On an 0-1 delivery, Chambers lined a single to right to win it.
The Sox were scheduled to host Sylvan Hills in a nine-inning game on Thursday, July 11 before playing Texarkana on Sunday.