Win over Texarkana, Texas provides boost for AAA team
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
Year after year, one of the most impressive teams the Bryant Blacksox AAA American Legion team runs up against is the Indians of Texarkana, Texas. But head coach Craig Harrison keeps them on the schedule to challenge his team and there have been times when a win over the Texans has proved a catalyst to a strong stretch drive of a season.
After the Sox managed just two hits on Friday night against Benton furthering their offensive problems, the prospects for a twinbill against the Indians on the following afternoon didn’t seem too tantalizing. And they hardly felt worthy of the No. 2 ranking in the state bestowed on them by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Saturday morning.
But then again, Harrison and his brother Tic, who assists him, made the team run sprints after the Benton game. You say, “So?”
Well, the last time the Harrisons made their team run was after another loss to Benton on June 26, 2000. The 7-1 loss was their fourth in a row. They were 11-9 on the season.
“Everybody hated me after that,” Craig Harrison recalled. “A bunch of them were going to quit. We said if we have nine show up for the game at Hot Springs Village the next day we’d go play and if we had eight we’d just forfeit and go fishing. But they all showed. No one would talk to me but we just pounded Hot Springs Village. Even after that it was a little tense.”
But everything was soon peachy. The Sox followed that up with a trip to St. Louis where they won the prestigious Alton, Ill., Tournament of Champions. They went on to come up a win short of the State Tournament in 2000, then won the District in 2001 and came up a win short of the State finals.
In all, the Sox were 67-21 since that night, going into Friday’s game against Benton.
This time, the sprints didn’t cause the animus that they did previously but who could argue with the result when the Sox came out Saturday and flashed some leather, got great pitching and put some hits together for a 4-3 win over the Texas team.
In a five-inning second game, Texarkana pounded Bryant’s stretched pitching staff for 13 hits including seven doubles in an 8-1 win. But a split under the circumstances was just fine with the Harrisons.
In the victory, Scotty Yant shut out the Indians on just three hits over the first five innings. An error opened the door for a two-run rally in the sixth but Chance King relieved and got out of the inning thanks to a spectacular run and catch by Matt White in right-center. He then worked through the seventh with a little more help to get the save.
Third baseman Jeff Carpenter and shortstop B.J. Wood turned in a couple of top-notch plays during the game, and Carpenter came through with a clutch hit that drove in what proved to be the decisive run in the bottom of the sixth.
Offensively, the Sox produced more hits and more runs in the first inning against Texarkana than they had all game against Benton. Wood and White singled to open the inning. An out later, Cody Graddy pounded an RBI single to left to make it 1-0.
In the second, Matt Lewis cracked a single up the middle, then raced to third when Carpenter’s grounder to third resulted in a wild throw to first. Wood picked up the RBI with a bouncer to first.
After Yant worked around the first Indians’ hit in the top of the third — with a little help from Wood — the Sox made it 3-0 in the bottom of the inning. Derek Chambers and Graddy singled, Kevin Littleton moved them up with a sacrifice bunt and Clay Jones delivered a sacrifice fly.
It stayed that way until the sixth. Todd Erwin reached on an error for Texarkana. Cody Crisp sacrificed him to second then Drew Stubbs singled him to third. Stubbs was then gunned down trying to steal by Graddy before Steve Trout doubled to left to break up the shutout.
King came in and surrendered an RBI single to Aaron Thompson then Manley Roraback laced a liner to right-center. White, playing the king-sized Roraback to pull, sprinted from left center and made a diving catch in the gap to end the inning and preserve the lead.
In one of those situations where little things mean a lot, the Sox got a vital insurance run in the bottom of the sixth. Jones led off the inning with a single and, with one out, Harrison had him on the run with Lewis at the plate. That kept the inning alive when Lewis hit a sharp grounder to third and the only play for Crisp was at first.
Two pitches later, Carpenter came through with the clutch, two-out RBI single to left to make it 4-2.
A walk to Cody White started the seventh. An out later, White scored when Brian Williams’ double to left was fumbled. Williams wound up at third with Erwin at the plate.
On the first pitch, Erwin hit a bouncer down the third base line that Carpenter charged and fielded, catching Williams wandering off the bag. Carpenter chased him toward home and tossed to Graddy who made the tag. Meanwhile, Erwin had rounded first and was headed to second. Graddy turned and gunned the ball to Andrew Norman who chased Erwin back toward first, then threw to Chambers who made the tag to end the game with a particularly well-executed doubleplay.
In the second game, Stubbs had three hits to lead Texarkana to victory. Each of the Indians’ first six batters had a double including Thompson with two. Stubbs also had a triple.
Bryant got two of its three hits in the second. Chambers walked took second on a wild pitch and scored on a two-out single by Cody Dreher that cut Texarkana’s lead to 2-1 at the time.
But a two-run third and a four-run fourth enabled the Indians to pull away.