FORT SMITH — Trailing 4-1, the Bryant Black Sox Junior (17) American Legion team started a rally in the top of the seventh on Tuesday night. Christian Motes walked, and Blaine Sears was hit by a pitch to help get them started. And when Lawson Speer was plunked as well, the Fort Smith Sportsman Athletics Junior team had to change pitchers.
Gabe Fennell became the third Fort Smith pitcher and he entered with the bases loaded and nobody out. Noah Davis greeted him with a lined single to left on a 3-1 pitch, chasing home Motes.
But Fennell got Ryan Riggs to crack a hot grounder to second where Sportman Athletics started a doubleplay as Sears scored to make it 4-3. Speer advanced to third with the tying run, but he remained there as Fennell struck out Garrett Wilson to end the game.
Fort Smith held on for the 4-3 win as the Sox fell to 11-9 going into a doubleheader at home against Russellville, set for Monday, June 25.
Lefty Tyler Bates went five innings for the Sox, scattering eight hits and giving up three runs. He walked one and struck out five. Kannon Allison worked the sixth and struggled with his control. He walked three and wound up giving up a run despite not giving up a hit.
Davis, coming off a 5-for-5 night on Monday, added two hits on Tuesday. Ryan Riggs had two as well. Will Hathcote and Zion Collins accounted for the other two Bryant hits.
Fort Smith staked out a 3-0 lead over the first two innings. Kadin Hyatt drew a lead-off walk in the home first and, with one out, Fennell doubled to chase him home.
Bates came back with a strikeout and a grounder to Collins at second to end the inning with no further damage.
After Collins’ lead-off single in the top of the second came to naught, Fort Smith scored two more when Nick Phelps and Logan Bolin each singled and Tatum Lomon doubled them home before being thrown out trying to stretch it to a triple.
Bates again got a strikeout to help prevent further damage.
And the Sox got on the board in the top of the third when, with one out, Davis belted a double then scored when Riggs ripped a single to right. Riggs wound up at second on the late throw to the plate, but he was stranded there as Caleb Hahn, the Fort Smith starter, struck out the next two batters.
Bates worked around a two-out triple by Jimmy Hall in the bottom of the third, but the Sox were set down in order in the fourth.
The game went to the bottom of the sixth, 3-1, but Fort Smith added on with three walks and a wild pitch. The Sportsman tried to squeeze in another run, but Allison pounced on the bunted ball and got it to his catcher in time for the out.
The lefty then got the second out on a liner to Speer in center. The inning ended when Allison picked off the runner at second, setting up the Sox’ comeback attempt in the top of the seventh.