Clutch hits lift Sox by Blue
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
LITTLE ROCK — For most of the high school season this spring, right-hander Chris Brown was one of the few bright spots for the Little Rock Parkview Patriots. When Brown was on the mound, the Pats played tough.
In his only appearance against the Bryant Hornets, however, Brown went four innings, gave up 10 hits and 16 runs, half of them earned, as Bryant rolled to a 21-5 win.
But this summer, Brown is pitching for the Little Rock Post 1 Blue team, which is basically one of two Little Rock high school all-star teams. And, going into the Monday, June 27, date with the Bryant Black Sox, he hadn’t allowed an earned run all season.
That’s why it was big for the Sox to strike for three runs in the opening inning of the key Area IV District contest at Gary Hogan Field. Though Blue rallied to tie, the Sox went on to win 5-3 to improve to 5-0 in District play, 13-5 overall. Justin Wells went the distance on the mound, retiring the last 11 batters he faced and allowing just two baserunners — one of which was erased in a doubleplay — after the second inning.
“We’ve been saying all year that the key to our season is the ability to hit the baseball,” stated Sox manager Craig Harrison, who was pumped up about his team’s effort after the victory. “How key is it then to get two on and two out and get the two-out hit.”
It’s been something that has plagued the Sox this season, leaving runners in scoring position.
But in the first, Daniel Price and Cory Lambert both came through with two down. Price’s lined single to right scored Todd Bryan, who had led off the inning with a walk and a stolen base. An errant throw to the cut-off man from the outfield allowed Aaron Davidson, who had walked with one out, and Price to advance to second and third.
“We got a break there,” Harrison asserted. “We hadn’t had a break all year either.”
And Lambert stepped up and took advantage, lacing a single to right that plated them both and made it 3-0.
Blue got two of the runs back in the bottom of the inning. A.J. Hughes was jammed by a Wells fastball. Zack Young, the Sox third baseman, charged the ball and made a nice play but his throw on the run was wide and the speedy Hughes sprinted all the way to third.
An out later, Blake Bumgardner drew a walk. A wild pitch allowed Hughes to score and Bumgardner to reach second. With two down, David Isom singled up the middle to make it 3-2.
In the second, a one-out double by Justin Walker put the tying run in scoring position but Wells struck out Justin Harris and had a 3-2 count on Hughes. Walker was running on the pitch and Hughes walked. The throw to third was in the dirt and ricocheted off Young’s glove far enough that Walker scored to tie it.
But Wells kept it tied when he got Justin Mack to bounce out to Young to end the inning. That started the stretch in which Wells and the flawless Bryant defense retired 15 of 17 batters to finish out the game. Isom singled with two out in the third for the last Little Rock hit. Brown walked to lead off the fourth but Wells snatched a bunt by Walker and started a 1-6-3 doubleplay to start the final stretch of 11 retired in succession. During that time, shortstop Danny Riemenschneider and Lambert, the Sox first baseman, both turned in stellar defensive plays, while Wells recorded five of his eight strikeouts.
Meanwhile, the Sox were smacking the ball around even when they were making outs. In the third, Davidson and Young singled with two down and Price laced a shot that Isom snagged at third in self-defense.
In the fourth, Wells, who came into the game in an uncharacteristic slump with a .174 batting average for the season, smacked a double to right-center. Travis Queck, one of Bryant’s hottest hitters, followed with a drive to right and was robbed of an extra base hit by Walker. Walks to Devin Hurt and Bryan loaded the bases but all three were stranded.
In the fifth, however, the Sox got the runs that they needed for the win and, again, a two-out hit proved key. Davidson singled and Young walked to set the table. A wild pitch allowed Davidson to go to third then Price delivered the tiebreaker with a long fly to center. Young tagged and went to third on a fly to right by Lambert then scored on Wells’ clutch single up the middle to make it 5-3.
It was Wells’ first two-hit game since the second game of the season.
“Justin settled down and he was the old Justin there for the last five innings and at the plate too,” Harrison stated. “I’m really glad to see him hitting the baseball.
“And it was up and down the lineup,” he added. “Every at bat, we challenged and made the guy (Brown) work. We told the guys, ‘These guys have played all weekend (at a tournament in Sheridan). They’re tired. Make them work. Don’t go out there and have 1-2-3 innings with six pitches. We had some good at-bats tonight, even our outs. The guys in the lineup, you might not have seen them earlier in the year but they’re the guys that are swinging the bats right now and that’s who we’re going to play in the big games. Going with the hot hand.”
The Sox were scheduled to play another key District game on Tuesday, June 28, at Gary Hogan against Little Rock Post 1 Red. They then were off to Alton, Ill., for their annual trip to the Tournament of Champions.