By Rob Patrick
HOT SPRINGS — The road to the Junior American Legion State Tournament just got a little[more] tougher for the Everett Black Sox of Bryant.
In a game with a State bid on the line, the Sox, who came into the game 23-0, suffered their first loss of the season, 6-2, to a fired-up Little Rock Cobras team on Sunday morning. So instead of having a spot secured at State, which will be held in Cabot starting next weekend, the Sox will need to beat Sheridan at 5:30 Sunday evening then win another game on Monday to get to the losers bracket final and nail down a bid. They're two wins away.
Three of the 10 teams at the Zone 4 tourney at Lakeside High School advance to State. Along with the Cobras, the winner of Sunday afternoon’s Texarkana-Lakeside game will advance. The loser will play on Monday against the survivor of the Bryant-Sheridan contest.
Little Rock broke open a 1-1 game with a five-run third in which only one of the runs was earned as a pair of two-out errors led to four of the runs. The Sox actually out-hit the Cobras, 8-5.
“We struggled in the field the last game,” said Sox manager Tyler Brown, referring to Friday’s 18-8 win at Malvern to open the tournament. “And we carried it over to today. I told the guys before we played, it’s the little things that are going to win you games. I’ve said it all year. Unearned runs aren’t going to help.”
Asked if his team was looking past the Cobras, Brown stated flatly, “Absolutely. We were undefeated coming in and I kept hearing some of the guys saying, we’re 23-0 for a reason. I told them before this tournament, the records don’t matter. This is the post-season, okay? Everybody wants to win. Everybody’s out for us. We’re Bryant. We have Bryant across our jersey. Everybody wants to beat us. We’re going to see everybody’s ‘A’ game, every single game, every time we come to the field, every single pitch. And if we don’t come to play, things like today are going to happen.
“We didn’t come out with a plan at the dish,” he added. “We didn’t have very good execution and when we got base-runners on, we didn’t do anything with it. Our hitting’s going to be all right, though. We’ve got to clean up our defense and, if we do that, we’re going to make a run at this thing.”
Every other time this season that the Sox trailed going into the late stages of a game, they've been able to rally to win and it looked like they might do that again. Trailing 6-1, the Sox started the top of the sixth with Dalton Holt, Evan Lee and Blake Patterson each cracking singles to produce a run. Devin Dupree got a sacrifice bunt down to move Lee and Patterson into scoring position. But Little Rock’s lefty starter Jeff Plemmons got out of it with no further damage — barely. With two down, Bryant’s Hunter Oglesby scalded a 2-1 pitch but his liner was right at Cobras’ third baseman Collin Fisher to end the threat.
In the seventh, Drew Tipton reached on a two-out error by Fisher but Plemmons, who kept the Sox off-balance the entire game, got Holt to fly out to deep right to end the game.
Holt had relieved hard-luck starter Bailey Bowers after the rugged third inning. He shut out the Cobras over the last three frames without a hit, walked one, hit two batters and fanned one.
Little Rock grabbed the lead in the opening inning when Ryan Panyard led off the game with a double over the bag at third. Luke Vanover sacrificed him to third and he scored on a wild pitch.
The Sox got a lift when Jack Lee singled but was thrown out trying to get back to first after rounding the bag too far on a nice play by Tipton.
Bryant tied it in the top of the second when Patterson singled, took second on a grounder to third by Trey Breeding and scored on Oglesby’s single past Fisher. Oglesby swiped second but was stranded.
After Bowers retired the Cobras in order in the bottom of the second, the Sox made a bid to take the lead when Holt belted a two-out triple but he stayed at third as Plemmons ended the inning with the first of his two strikeouts.
The game-turning bottom of the third began with a single to right by Fisher. Adam Wright was hit by a pitch but on a nice play by third baseman Brandan Warner, Panyard’s sacrifice bunt attempt resulted in a force at third.
On the next pitch, however, Vanover singled to load the bases. Jack Lee was hit by a pitch to force in the tie-breaking run.
Clean-up hitter Jacob White tapped to Warner at third, who threw home for a force, unsure that he could get a step-on-third, throw-to-first doubleplay.
But the Bowers and the Sox appeared to be out of the inning when Dylan Hays hit a long flyball to left. But, in front of the fence, the ball was dropped. With everybody running with two out, all three scored to make it 5-1.
Hays wound up at second. He took third on a single by Jarrod Collier then scored on when Breeding, Bryant’s catcher, and Bowers missed connections on a throw back to the mound.
Plemmons worked around a one-out single to Dupree in the fourth then a one-out error in the fifth.
LITTLE ROCK COBRAS 6, BRYANT EVERETT BLACK SOX 2
Zone 4 Junior Tournament
Black Sox ab r h bi Cobras ab r h bi
Tipton, 2b 4 0 1 0 Panyard, cf 2 1 1 0
Holt, rf-p 4 1 2 0 Vanover, ss 3 1 1 0
E.Lee, lf 3 0 1 0 J.Lee, c 1 1 1 1
Patterson, 1b 3 1 2 1 White, 2b 3 1 0 0
Dupree, dh-rf 2 0 1 0 Hays, 1b 3 1 0 0
Breeding, c 3 0 0 0 Collier, lf 3 0 1 0
Oglesby, cf 3 0 1 1 Plemmons, p 2 0 0 0
Dale, ss 3 0 0 0 Fisher, 3b 2 0 1 0
Warner, 3b 3 0 0 0 Wright, rf 2 1 0 0
Bowers, p 0 0 0 0
Totals 28 2 8 2 Totals 21 6 5 1
Bryant 010 001 0 — 2
Little Rock 105 000 x — 6
E—Patterson, E.Lee, Breeding, Fisher, White. DP—Little Rock 1. LOB—Bryant 6, Little Rock 5. 2B—Panyard. 3B—Holt. S—Vanover, Dupree, Panyard.
Pitching ip r er h bb so
Bowers (L) 3 6 2 5 0 1
Holt 3 0 0 0 1 1
Plemmons (W) 7 2 2 8 0 2
HBP—Wright, J.Lee, Plemmons (by Bowers), Paynard, Fisher (by Holt).