By Rob Patrick
With injuries and an already thin staff, the Bryant Black Sox Junior American Legion team flat ran out of fresh arms at the end of the season last summer when they finished runner-up at the District Tournament and made it to State. They finished with a 23-18 record after being ousted from the State tourney after two games.
A pitching shortage shouldn't be a problem this summer, according the manager Brad Chism, who served as an assistant for last year's squad.
"I think, at this point, we've got about 11 or 12 pitchers," he stated. "Last year, we had five or six. I feel comfortable putting any of these guys out there. I think we can get outs with them. We've got good defense behind them that'll make plays and up and down the lineup, as far as I can see, we can hit. Some positions, we're two and three deep. So, I think, all around, we're in good shape."
The Sox open the 2009 season on Monday, May 18, at home against the Hot Springs Junior team.[more]
This summer, all Junior division teams are 17-and-under. There will be Legion divisions. The Senior division includes players 19-and-under that draw from larger school districts; the AA division includes 19-and-under teams that draw from smaller school districts; the Junior division; and the A division for 16-and-under teams. There will be State tournaments in each division.
"We've got a good group this year," Chism said. "They've been taught well all through the spring and we're further along at this point than we were halfway through the summer last year. They know where to go and I believe they know what to do at any time when the ball's hit to them. I think we'll do well this year."
Chism will be assisted by another former Sox player, Dustin Tinkler, and Elliott Jacobs, who was a two-sport star at El Dorado before playing quarterback at Arkansas State University. Ironically, the team has three lefty coaches and only one lefty on the deep pitching staff, Steven Lacamu.
The pitchers also include Tyler Brown, Jake Clark, Blake Davidson, Tyler Gattin, Evan Jobe, Austin Johnson, Chris Joiner, Matt Neal, Landon Pickett and Dylan Pritchett. Caleb Milam will probably do most of his pitching for the Senior team but help out at first base on the Junior squad.
"From what I've seen, we've got what could be about a seven-man rotation," Chism said. "Right now, we've got three, four, maybe five guys that could be No. 1's for us.
"In the field, we're hurting for catchers and we've got one second baseman," he continued. "We've got two shortstops but everywhere else we're three or four deep. We've got enough utility guys that I think I can plug somebody in if I need to at second or short and we'll be good."
Brown is the lone player listed at second. The shortstops are Lucas Castleberry and Joiner. At first, Davidson, Johnson, Lacamu, Neal and Pickett will see time along with Milam. Listed at third isMilam, Brodie Nixon, Pickett and Pritchett. Nixon, Pickett and Pritchett are the catchers. Clark, Chris Jackson, Jobe, Joiner, Reese O'Rourke and Pitchett will roam the outfield. The team could also get help from Hunter Mayall and Caleb Garrett who are both starting with the Senior team.
BRYANT BLACK SOX
Junior American Legion
May 18 — Hot Springs Jr.
May 20 — at HS Lakeside Jr.
May 23 — #Hot Springs
May 23 — #LR Express
May 24 — #Sheridan
May 31 — LR Express Jr (2)
June 1 — at Pine Bluff Jr.
June 2 — LR Express Jr.
June 4 — Conway Christian
June 6 — at Texarkana Jr. (2)
June 7 — at Hope Jr.
June 8 — at Lake Hamilton A (2)
June 10 — at Benton Jr. (2)
June 15 — At Hot Springs Village AA (2)
June 16 — Pine Bluff Jr.
June 17 — Jacksonville Jr.
June 18 — at Conway Christian Jr.
June 20 — LR Blue Jr.
June 25 — at White Hall Jr.
June 28 — at North Little Rock Jr. (2)
June 29 — Benton Jr.
July 3 — Junior District Tournament, Sheridan
July 10 — Junior State Tournament, Sheridan
#Benton Junior Tournament (at Bauxite)