Davidson, AAA Sox blast LR 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 — While leading the Harding University Bison with eight saves this spring, Aaron Davidson got very few cuts at the plate. In fact, just 18 official at bats.
“I think I played (in the field) in six games maybe,” he recalled on Tuesday, April 5, after he capped off a three-hit night with a two-run homer in the Bryant Black Sox’ 12-0 win over Little Rock Post 1 Blue at Curran-Conway Field.
Needless to say, Davidson has knocked off any rust that may have accumulated.
“It’s like riding a bike,” he said. “You never forget. I felt pretty good up there.”
The game was Bryant’s first in Zone 4 action this season. The Sox improved to 4-2 overall as they bounced back after being shut out two days before by Fayetteville.
“It looked like the team of old there,” stated manager Craig Harrison. “There’s a lot to say about what focus can do. We had a good practice (Monday). We focused on making some adjustments at the plate and it showed tonight. We had some good at-bats. We struck out a lot early but our focus is to try to work their starters deep into counts and get them out of the game. Once we get into people’s bullpens, we figure we can make hay with them. Because we think we have a good bullpen and, if we can get in theirs, we can do some damage.”
Indeed, the Sox built an early 3-0 lead which right-hander Tyler Sawyer made hold up. Blue lefty Dustin Ward settled down and kept it 3-0 until running out of gas in the top of the fifth when he issued one-out walks to Ryan Wilson, Devin Hurt and Jordan Knight. Tyler Brown relieved and, on his second pitch, Trent Daniel drilled a single up the middle that got past the outfielder and cleared the bases, breaking the game open.
The Sox added six more in the top of the seventh including the final two on Davidson’s blast to left-center.
“I guarantee, we’re going to be a good team after this,” Davidson declared. “We were all focused, we played together. There was no back-talking each other in the dugout. We’re all getting along. We’ve got that team chemistry coming together.”
Sawyer ran into trouble in the bottom of the fifth when Blue loaded the bases with one out on a double by Cody Hill, a single by Taylor Brown and a walk to Tyler Brown. But, after a visit from Harrison, he buckled down and struck out clean-up hitter Tim Watson and got the final out on a force at second.
Sawyer walked the first batter of the sixth and gave way to Tanner Zuber. A pair of singles loaded the bases with one out, but Zuber also worked out of it, fanning Hill then getting an assist from Wilson at third, who made a nice play on a shot by Taylor Brown to get a force at third, ending the threat.
“I thought Tyler Sawyer threw the ball really good,” Harrison stated. “We worked mostly fastballs the first time through the order, came back and mixed it up then, late, after we got the big lead, just laid it in there thinking if they can hit their way back into the game then so be it. I thought Tanner threw good. We were really just throwing a lot of fastballs. Both of them got out of jams. I thought Sawyer really did a good job of re-focusing there.”
Bryant’s early success was sparked by lead-off man Joey Winiecki, who returned to the lineup Sunday after being out with back problems. Winiecki also had three hits, scored three runs and drove in a pair.
He opened the game with a single up the middle. Tyler Pickett walked that, what appeared to be a hit-and-run but turned out to be a straight steal attempt by Winiecki, Davidson laced a base hit through the right side of the infield to drive in the first run.
“When Joey gets on, it does a lot for us,” Harrison commented. “We did a good job of being patient at the plate with him on base and when he gets on second, he’s on his own. It really wasn’t a hit and run, it was just him running and then we hit the ball. But when he gets on it puts a lot of pressure on the defense.”
Pickett, who took third on Davidson’s hit, scored on Wilson’s grounder to second to make it 2-0.
In the second, Winiecki was hit by a pitch (though Blue manager Mike Johnson argued that the ball hit the bat instead of Winiecki, which appeared to be the initial call of the umpires). The Bryant speedster was on the run again when Pickett ripped a liner down the line in left for a double. Winiecki scored all the way from first to make it 3-0.
In five innings, Sawyer struck out seven and allowed four hits. He pitched around a single in the first, an error and a hit in the second and a walk in the third.
In Bryant’s seventh, Hurt walked and Knight was hit by a pitch. Daniel grounded into a force at third but Alex Kehrees slashed a single to right to load the bases for Kaleb Jobe who came through with a drive that burned the left fielder for a two-run double. A two-run single by Winiecki plated Kehrees and Jobe and set the table for Davidson.
Zuber worked a 1-2-3 home seventh capped by a nice play from Hurt at short on a hard grounder up the middle to end the game.
Resilient AA Sox surge past LR Blue
By ROB PATRICK
LITTLE ROCK — The Bryant Black Sox AA American Legion team overcame deficits three times and, with a four-run rally in the fifth, clawed their way to a 10-9 win over Little Rock Post 1 Blue at Curran Conway Field on Tuesday, June 5.
Kaleb Jobe and Preston Adami had key hits in the tell-tale inning and came up big on the mound. Adami, the second of four Bryant hurlers, picked up the win and Jobe came on to pitch out of a jam in the seventh and pick up the save.
Justin Blankenship, Michael Haydon and Ryan McKnight each had two hits to pace the Sox’ offensively.
“They’ve really worked hard on battling at the plate instead of just going up there to hit the baseball,” noted Bryant manager Mark Kehrees, “and learning situation hitting. They’ve come a long way in three weeks, I think. That’s probably the most improved part of our game.
“There’s three parts to the game and my job’s to teach all three,” he added. “We just don’t do all three good on the same night yet. But we will.”
Errors cost the Sox who came into the game after playing three games in as many days over the weekend at a tournament in Harrison.
“The defense is where we’ve got to solid up. And we will,” Kehrees reiterated. “Our pitchers are all tired. Everybody that threw tonight, threw this weekend. So, nobody got to throw more than 45 pitches.”
Still, only five of the nine Little Rock runs were earned.
The Sox trailed 7-5 after four innings of the six-inning contest. To start the field, Trey Burkhalter hit a shot to third that was mishandled and Haydon drew a walk. Jobe then greeted a new pitcher with an RBI double and Adami singled to center to tie the game. The go-ahead run scored on a wild pitch as Jeremy Burge was drawing a walk. Another walk to McKnight brought another pitching change with the bases loaded. Jeremy Beadle’s sacrifice fly gave Bryant a 9-7 lead.
Adami and the Bryant defense then worked the only 1-2-3 inning of the game in the bottom of the fifth. In turn, the Sox added what proved to be the difference-making run in the top of the sixth. Burkhalter reached on an error and Haydon sacrificed him to second. Jobe’s grounder to short was booted putting runners at the corners for Austin Queck who was robbed of a hit by Blue second baseman Billy Brackens but picked up the RBI nonetheless.
Burge relieved Adami in the bottom of the inning and an infield hit, a single to left and a one-out hit batsman loaded the bases. Jobe relieved at that point. Blue’s Christian Cooley delivered a run with a sacrifice fly then Kelly Ward’s bloop single made it 10-9 with the tying and go-ahead runs on base.
But Jobe induced a grounder to Queck at second to end the game.
Bryant had taken a 1-0 lead in the opening inning. Blankenship singled but was forced at second on a grounder by Tyler Sawyer. An errant relay in an attempt to make it a doubleplay allowed Sawyer to reach second. A pair of wild pitches allowed him to come around to score.
Blue took advantage of a one-out error in the bottom of the inning, to take a 3-1 lead. Nate Longinotti doubled in a run, Cooley singled one in and the third run scored on a groundout. The inning ended when Ward tried to score from third on a wild pitch only to have the ball ricochet off the backstop to Jobe, the catcher, who flipped to Queck, the starting pitcher, in time to nab him.
The Sox tied the game in the top of the third. Blankenship led off with a double and, with one out, Burkhalter singled him to third. Haydon delivered the run with a single up the middle but Burkhalter was thrown out trying to get to third on the play. Still, a walk to Jobe and an RBI single by Queck allowed the Sox to knot it at 3.
Blue, however, greeted Adami with a two-out, two-run rally to regain the upper hand.
Back, again, came Bryant though. In the top of the fourth, Burge walked, McKnight singled and both scored when Beadle’s sacrifice bunt drew a wild throw to first.
Blue countered with two in the bottom of the inning to go up 7-5 and set up the dramatic finish.