Pickett’s clutch hits lift Sox past Lakeside
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
HOT SPRINGS — Tyler Pickett has been to war for the Bryant Black Sox. After catching almost all of the Sox’ 52 games in their run to the American Legion World Series last summer, Pickett knows what it takes to win. He’s returned to the Sox after red-shirting as a freshman at Southern Arkansas University and has assumed a valuable leadership role.
One of the least obvious aspects of that leadership comes when the team is facing an opponent that may not have it’s full attention. Perhaps it’s a foe they’d already beaten this season and the focus just isn’t there. And when it winds up being a closer game than expected, somebody has to bear down and come through to avoid the upset.
On Tuesday, June 3, that’s what Pickett did with a pair of clutch two-out RBI hits that proved crucial in a 3-2 win over Hot Springs Lakeside.
In addition, the catcher came up with a big defensive play to end the game. Lakeside had cut a 3-1 deficit to 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh and the potential tying and winning runs on base. Bryant closer Tim Bearden, struggling with his control, worked the count to 3-2 on pinch-hitter Carlos Gallegos and struck him out. Pickett couldn’t cleanly pick the pitch but with first base occupied, Gallegos was retired. But the runner at first, either thinking that there were two out and he should be running on the 3-2 delivery or thinking that the pitch had gotten past Pickett, started out for second. The Bryant catcher pounced on the loose ball and fired to first for the final out of the game.
“We dodged a bullet,” manager Craig Harrison said later.
The game was a duel between Bryant’s Kaleb Jobe and Lakeside’s Ryan Montgomery. The Sox broke through with two runs in the third which Justin Blankenship led off with a single to right, Bryant’s first hit of the game. Sergio Arias sacrificed him to second and he advanced to third on Jobe’s grounder to the right side giving Pickett his first two-out RBI opportunity. And he delivered with a drive off the wall in left.
A pitch later, Tyler Sawyer doubled down the right-field line to make it 2-0.
Jobe, meanwhile, shut out Lakeside on just three hits over five innings, issuing just one walk and striking out eight.
Montgomery put the stops on the Sox too, working around two-out singles by Brady Butler and Blankenship in the fourth and a lead-off double by David Guarno in the sixth.
In the home sixth, Jobe issued his second walk to Montgomery. He recorded his ninth strikeout but then Nick Merriweather followed with a drive to left center that chased Montgomery home. With Merriweather at second, Mitchell Scott reached on an error to put runners at first and third and Harrison turned to Bearden, his closer.
Bearden fanned Zach Dickey but walked Jonathan Rogers to load the bases. He then got Matt Spradlin to pop out to Blankenship in left to preserve the 2-1 lead.
In the top of the seventh, Blankenship reached on an error and Arias sacrificed him to second. Jobe grounded out as Blankenship took third, setting the stage for Pickett again. After looking at a pair of pitches out of the zone, Pickett beat out an infield hit as Blankenship scored a vital insurance run.
Bearden struck out the first batter in the bottom of the seventh but then hit two batters in a row. Art Slaton beat out an infield hit and lead-runner Ben Crumpton caught the Sox unawares by rounding third and sprinting home to score on the play.