Senior Sox jack Jacksonville
EDITOR’S NOTE: In this time of COVID-19, with no sports action, BryantDaily.com will be posting 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
JACKSONVILLE — Whether it was because they weren’t happy with their play at the annual Twin Lakes Classic in Mountain Home after winning the tournament two years in a row, or the fact that they were facing teams with pitching challenges, the Bryant Black Sox Senior American Legion team came out smoking at the plate in their first two games after the tourney. A night after putting up 17 runs in five innings at Stuttgart, the Sox racked up 20 on 18 hits at Jacksonville, beating Gwatney Chevrolet, 20-6, at Dupre Park on Wednesday, June 18.
“I think it’s a little of both,” commented Bryant manager Craig Harrison. “I think we’re focused in a little more. I think our pride was hurt a little over the weekend when we didn’t come out of that pool play. We’re a better team now than we were. We played teams just like this three weeks ago and we kind of struggled through those games. We didn’t really hit it. We were scoring because they couldn’t catch it a lot of times. We’re swinging the bats and the guys are feeling good. You can see when a guy’s dug in.”
A night after driving in seven runs, Bryant center fielder Jordan Knight knocked in five in the win over the Motormen, including a two-run homer. Tyler Sawyer and Michael Haydon each had three hits and all nine Sox starters hit safely.
“First of all, putting (Garrett) Bock in the lead-off spot has helped us,” Harrison related. “He gets on base, makes some things happen. Then our two through six guys and even seven and eight tonight are swinging the bat. We’re swinging it up and down. They’ve learned how to hit and hit in spots, to get good counts to hit in.”
Harrison tempered his enthusiasm, however, acknowledging the season is only at the halfway point with some tough assignments (and better pitching) ahead.
“You know, it comes and goes but I like our approach to the game,” he said. “They’re bringing it now every night because they know they’ve got something to build on. We didn’t go up to Mountain Home and win. And (Zone 4 rivals) Little Rock Blue is playing good and (Little Rock) Continental (Express) is playing good and Pine Bluff beat Continental the other night.
“But I’m proud of the way we’re playing,” he concluded. “We played better defensively tonight. It’s coming around.”
Both of the Sox’ routs included 10-run second innings. This time, that came on the heels of an eight-run first.
Bock got to third to start the game when he beat out an infield hit, drew a wild throw to first and another to second. Walks to Kaleb Jobe and Sawyer loaded the bases and another to David Guarno forced in the first tally. Tyler Pickett stroked a single to left to make it 2-0 then Knight doubled in a pair to make it 4-0.
A base hit by Haydon gave Bryant five runs before the first out was recorded.
Sergio Arias kept things rolling with an infield hit that brought Knight home and Bock slashed a single to right to make it 7-0. Arias, who hustled to third on Bock’s hit scored moments later when Jobe bounced into a force at second.
Jobe started the game on the mound and improved to 3-1 on the season with the win. He gave up a run on a double, a walk and a single in the first but struck out the side along the way.
Bryant’s big second inning began with Guarno being hit by a pitch and, after Pickett walked, advancing to third on a wild pitch and scoring on a passed ball. Knight walked and Jacksonville finally changed pitchers with Matt McAnally taking the ball from Brian Thurman who proceeded to not only leave the lineup but, apparently, quit the team.
Haydon smacked a single to right to make it 10-1 game the Justin Blankenship blasted his first Legion homer to right-center, a three-run shot.
The carousel revved up again when Arias reached on an error and, with one down, Jobe singled, though he was thrown out after a wide turn at first as Jacksonville second baseman Terrell Brown cut off the throw from right field that was headed to third to try to get Arias.
But Sawyer doubled to bring Arias home then scored on a single by Guarno that was misplayed in center allowing him to sprint all the way to third. Pickett singled him in then Knight unloaded on the very next pitch to make it 18-1.
Tyler Wisdon relieved McAnally and got the final out of the inning but, in the third, the Sox made it an even 20 when Blankenship walked, advanced on a tap-out by Bock and scored on a double by Jobe. Singles by Sawyer and Guarno brought him around.
Jacksonville managed a run in the bottom of the third and, with Arias and Tim Bearden getting in some moundwork in the fourth and fifth, respectively, the Motormen added two in each inning to set the final score.
The win improved the Sox to 14-3 overall going into a game at North Little Rock.