Junior Sox on the verge of qualifying for State after 8-5 victory on Saturday
EDITOR’S NOTE: Because the look back at each day in Bryant athletic history has been so favorably received during the time when there was no sports during the COVID-19 shutdown, BryantDaily.com will continueposting 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
SHERIDAN — The Bryant Black Sox moved to within a win of earning a bid to the Junior Legion State tournament with an 8-5 victory over Little Rock Continental Express on Saturday.
And the one more win doesn’t necessarily just have to be their own. Since Sheridan is the host team for State, if the Yellowjackets were to defeat Pine Bluff Kell Saturday night advancing to the winners bracket final against Bryant on Sunday, the Sox would be assured of their trip to State as one of the top three finishers (along with Sheridan) at the District tourney. If Sheridan loses to Pine Bluff, Bryant would clinch a State bid with a win over Kell in Sunday’s winners bracket final or, short of that, winning the loser’s bracket final against whatever team survives the rest of the bracket.
Hardly a done deal but they’ve got themselves in position with their seventh win in the last nine games.
“All around, we played well,” stated Sox manager Brad Chism. “The kids knew the situation we were in. We knew if we’d win, there was a good chance Sheridan would win and we’d get in. And we were playing like we knew that.[more]
“We did have a few innings where we kind of lulled and sat back when we had a lead,” he added. “We’ve been trying to teach them once you’ve got a team down you’ve got to go for the kill. We didn’t do it and they put a three-spot on us on a bad play that shouldn’t have happened. But we came back in the top of the next inning and got two and felt better about it.”
Bryant led 6-1 going into the bottom of the sixth. Right-hander Caleb Milam had held Continental to just two singles and an unearned run. After the Sox were retired in order in the top of the sixth, Milam had a stretch in which he had retired eight in a row end on a lead-off walk to Josh Alberius. An out later, Adam Hamaker drew a walk and Thomas Fiedorek blooped a single to center to load the bases. After a visit to the mound by Chism, an errant pickoff throw to third allowed two runs to score then Jacob Green doubled in a third.
But Milam gathered himself and came back with a strikeout of John Osborn and induced a grounder by Hayes to Lucas Castleberry at short to end the inning.
“I went out there and they were asking for (the pickoff play) and I told them, let’s see a pitch first and see what they do, see if they get a big move,” Chism recounted. “They kept wanting to do it. My rule all year has been, if you think you can do it, do it, but if it doesn’t work we’re not going to do it again for a while. It didn’t work so I don’t expect to see that again any time soon.”
So the 6-1 lead was whittled to 6-4 going into the final inning. But Milam led off the seventh with a looping single to left-center and Evan Jobe fouled off a pair of two-strike pitches on his way to coaxing a walk. Tyler Brown then placed a bunt perfectly down the third-base line for his third hit of the game, loading the bases.
The momentum appeared to swing back to Continental when Brodie Nixon’s bouncer to third was niftily turned into a 5-2-3 doubleplay but, a pitch later, Blake Davidson laced a liner to the gap in right-center that evaded the diving attempt at a catch by center fielder Ivan Tate, going for a clutch two-out triple that eased the pressure considerably.
Still, a walk and a single to start the bottom of the seventh provided some tension before Milam, again, regained his form, and got Alberius to fly to center. Taylor Vanbrevlet flew out to right for a sacrifice fly as Ben Gibson scored but Milam got Hamaker to bounce to Brown at second for a force to end the game.
Bryant finished with nine hits in the game and five different players drove in runs. The Sox struck out just twice.
“We’re doing a better job of waiting for a fastball, not panicking when we’re down in the count,” Chism observed. “We’re looking for something we can drive. Our approach has been good and we’re coming up with bit hits.”
Bryant took the lead without a hit in the top of the first. Chris Joiner walked, took second on a wild pitch, third on Castleberry’s groundout and scored on a grounder to short by Dylan Pritchett.
Continental answered with its unearned run but a nice defensive play prevented a second run from scoring. With one out, Alberius reached on an error. He took second on a wild pitch and third on a grounder to second by Vanbrevlet. Walks followed to Hamaker and Fiedorek to load the bases for Green, who slapped a single to right to plate the run. But when Hamaker tried to score, Davidson fired to Pritchett at the plate who had the ball waiting for him.
Bryant responded with three in the top of the second. Milam was hit by a pitch then Jobe drew a walk. Brown sacrificed them to second and third before Nixon walked to load the bases. With two down, Joiner took four out of the zone for an RBI pass. Castlebery then got down 0-2 before shooting a liner inside the bag at third for a clutch two-run double, making it 4-1.
Milam hit a batter to start the bottom of the inning but retired the next three to send it to the third. After the Sox were unable to take advantage of a two-out, bases-loaded opportunity, the right-hander worked through a lead-off single by Alberius thanks in large part to a doubleplay. He then fanned Hamaker as he started his stretch of setting the Express batters down consecutively.
In turn, the Sox added a pair of runs to the lead in the top of the fourth. Joiner walked but was forced at second on a grounder by Castleberry. On a wild pitch that Green, the Continental catcher, couldn’t find, Castleberry sprinted all the way to third and, moments later, Pritchett singled him in to make it 5-1. Landon Pickett drew a walk and, after a wild pitch put runners at second and third, Milam delivered a sacrifice fly to bring home Pritchett.
Jobe, who was 2-for-2 with two walks, singled to start the fifth and Brown beat out an infield hit but a nice play by Vanbrevlet at third robbed Nixon of a hit and the Express got out of the inning with no further damage.
So, it stayed 6-1 until the bottom of the sixth.
It was the third time in four meetings this season, Bryant defeated the Little Rock team.
BRYANT 8, LR CONTINENTAL EXPRESS 5
Junior American Legion
Black Sox ab r h bi Continental Express ab r h bi
Joiner, cf 1 1 0 1 Tate, cf 4 0 1 0
Castleberry, ss 5 1 1 2 Alberius, ss 3 2 1 0
Pritchett, c 4 1 1 2 Vanbrevlet, 3b 3 0 0 1
Pickett, 1b 3 0 0 0 Hamaker, 1b 2 1 0 0
Milam, p 2 1 1 1 Fiedorek, dh 2 1 1 0
Jobe, lf 2 2 2 0 Green, c 3 0 2 1
Brown, 2b 3 1 3 0 Osborn, lf 2 0 0 0
Nixon, 3b 2 1 0 0 Riser, 2b 3 0 0 0
Davidson, rf 4 0 1 2 Gibson, rf 2 1 0 0
Maddox, p 0 0 0 0
Totals 26 8 9 8 Totals 24 5 5 2
BRYANT 130 200 2 — 8
LR Continental 100 003 1 — 5
E—Brown, Milam. DP—Bryant 1, Little Rock Continental 1. LOB—Bryant 8, Little Rock Continental 5. 2B—Castleberry, Green. 3B—Davidson. SB—Nixon. S—Brown. SF—Milam, Vanbrevlet.
Pitching ip r er h bb so
Milam (W) 7 5 3 5 5 4
LR Continental Express
Maddox (L) 7 8 8 9 6 2
HBP—Milam, Nixon, Joiner (by Maddox), Osborn (by Milam). WP—Milam 3, Maddox 3.