AAA Sox sweep key league twinbill
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
Cory Lambert’s older brother Mitch got a little time away from his military assignment in Iraq, so Cory and his folks took a few days and met him. Mitch, understandably, wanted to be near water. They spent a few days together at the beach.
Bryant Black Sox manager Craig Harrison wasn’t expecting Cory, a lefty pitcher for the AAA American Legion team, to be back by Saturday, June 3, when their team played a Zone 4 doubleheader against the Texarkana Razorbacks. But there he was. The family had made the long drive home in one chunk and made it back in time. And Harrison not only inserted him into the lineup for the first game, he put him on the mound for game two.
Texarkana managed two runs on two hits in the first inning of that second game but, after that, Lambert found his groove and went the distance shutting out the Hogs the rest of the way on two hits in the Black Sox’ 5-2 victory that made it a sweep of the league twinbill.
In the opener, big lefty Casey Grisham limited Texarkana to two hits over the first five innings and, with stellar relief help from Justin Wells, the Sox held on for a 3-2 win.
“That was big for us,” Harrison stated. “Texarkana’s a good ballclub.”
Texarkana’s 2-0 lead in the first came after a pair of singles and a walk loaded the bases with one out. Nick Formby’s sacrifice fly got the first run home and that appeared to be the only tally the Hogs would get but a pop to shallow right was dropped and the second run came in.
After that, however, Lambert shackled the visitors, giving up an infield hit in the second and a lead-off base hit in the fifth. He worked around a pair of errors in the third, the only time after the first that Texarkana got a runner past first.
“I started to get a feel for my change-up and my two-seamer and my four-seamer were working good for me,” Lambert noted. “I really just held with those pitches the whole game. I couldn’t get a feel for my curveball and slider.
“We were pitching like we have with him, a lot of breaking pitches and it was flat and it wasn’t working,” Harrison concurred. “The second inning when he went out, I said, ‘Let’s kill it and throw the change-up.’ The second inning, he threw good. When he came back in, I said, ‘They’re not going to score again.’”
“My change-up was working pretty good,” Lambert acknowledged. “It had a lot of sink to it and they were getting out front, hitting little groundballs to third base. And grounders and pop-ups are what I want to win games and that’s what I got.”
“I felt like, if he could throw the change-up for a strike, we could play with their hitters,” Harrison added. “That’s the first time in awhile I really felt that me and the pitcher — besides Travis (Wood) or Wells where they throw 100 miles an hour — but a control pitcher, that me and him were in sync every pitch.”
Meanwhile the Sox rallied with singles runs in the second, third and fourth to grab the lead. In the second, Devin Hurt walked and advanced to third on a pair of wild pitches by Texarkana starter Mark Mitchell. David Martin walked and when Grisham grounded into a 3-6 doubleplay, Hurt scored.
In the third, Justin Gaddy drew a lead-off walk and worked his way to third on wild pitches, as well. With two down, Wells reached on an error and Gaddy scored.
The fourth inning began with a double off the bat of Hurt. Martin, on an 0-2 pitch, stroked an RBI single to center to give the Sox the lead.
Ryan Chavez relieved Mitchell in the fifth and kept it 3-2 until the top of the seventh. (Texarkana was the home team in the second game despite the fact that the games were played at Bryant High School field as the date stood in for the team’s home-and-home Zone 4 contests.)
In the seventh, Chavez hit Tyler Pickett with a pitch and Joey Winiecki singled him to third. Winiecki stole second and when the throw from catcher Jeremiah Miller was misplayed, Pickett scored. Moments later, Travis Queck cracked an RBI single to left-center to make it 5-2.
Winiecki, by the way, had two hits in the game, extending his hitting streak to all seven Bryant games this season.
Lambert closed out the win by retiring the last eight batters he faced.
In the first game, Wells picked up the save in more ways that one. The right-hander relieved Grisham after a pair of scratch hits and a walk loaded the bases in the top of the sixth, threatening Bryant’s 3-0 lead.
Wells got Formby to hit a grounder to deep short. Ryan Wilson fielded the ball and tried to get a force at third only to have the runner from second, Chavez, beat the throw as a run scored. The second run came in when Garrett Underwood bounced out to Wilson at short. Rick Waren followed with a lined shot back at Wells, who just got his glove up in time to knock it down. He checked the runner at third and threw Underwood out at first.
That brought up Dustin Wolcott. With a 0-2 count, Wells unleashed his split-finger fastball. It somehow hit the front of home plate and popped straight up into the air. Jimmy Woolery, the runner at third, sprinted for home as Bryant catcher Aaron Davidson searched for the ball. Wells rushed in and scooped up the ball in front of the plate and made a headlong dive at the corner of the plate as Woolery went into his slide. On a bang-bang play, Woolery was called out to end the inning.
Wells went on to finish the game, striking out the last two n the top of the seventh.
“That was the only chance we had,” Harrison said of Wells’ play. “And he got him. It was a (Derek) Jeter type play, like Jeter in the playoffs (Yankees vs. A’s, 2001) where he ran across and flipped the ball home. He’s an athlete and it was an athletic play.
“Casey threw well,” added the manager. “Getting the three-run lead was big but you get one or two runners on and the tying run’s at the plate just like that. We already had Wells ready. We didn’t really want to use him for a two-inning close and really didn’t want to put him in with the bases loaded. But we had to go, do-or-die. His stuff is so good when we bring him in with a man on third, we’re about relegated to one pitch because the other stuff is so hard to handle. Wilson made a real good play and we got an out, then we got lucky on the line drive back to the box.”
Grisham and Texarkana starter Steadman Dewberry dueled over the first four innings. Bryant scratched out a run in the third when Gaddy slapped a double down the line in right, Winiecki beat out a bunt for a single and Queck hit a blooper to right that was trapped on the diving attempt at a catch by Texarkana’s Tim Fellows. Winiecki, unsure whether the catch had been made or not, was forced at second but Gaddy scored on the play.
Texarkana’s lone hits over the first five innings were a two-out single in the fourth by Formby and a bad-hop single to lead off the fifth by Waren.
The Sox broke through for two important runs in the fifth to ease some of the tension. Queck singled with two down, stole second and raced home on a double by Wells. Davidson singled up the middle to chase in Wells.
Fellows and Chavez grounded singles up the middle to start the Texarkana rally in the top of the sixth.