Bearden’s return in relief helps Black Sox win opener
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
In the spring of the 2007 high school baseball season, Tim Bearden left the team and school to sign up for the National Guard. He got his G.E.D. and went to basic training and it seemed certain that his baseball playing days were over.
As basic training tends to, it helped Bearden do a lot of growing up. He’s now serving one weekend a month in advance of an assignment to Fort Sam Houston this fall for further training.
And, oh, by the way, he’s playing baseball again.
“I never thought I’d be playing,” he said. “But my best friend, Michael (Hayden), he wouldn’t leave me alone about it. He said I was just wasting all my talent. He kept bugging me and bugging me about it. And I realized I missed it.”
Fortunately, he had eligibility left for American Legion ball.
Recalled Bryant Black Sox Legion coach Craig Harrison, “I got a call from him a couple of weeks ago and he said, ‘Hey, I’d like to try.’ He came out here and threw a bullpen for us. He’s got stuff to work with and he wants to be here. He values what there is out here and he’s a good kid and he’s got his head on right now. He’s overcome some stuff — just like some others out here too.”
And, lo and behold, in the Sox’ 2008 season-opener on Monday, May 19, there was Bearden taking the mound with the game on the line in the fifth inning, his team locked in a 5-5 tie with Hot Springs Lakeside with the potential lead runs on base and one out. He gave up an infield hit to load the bases but then struck out two to get out of the inning. The Sox rallied for three runs in the bottom of the inning and Bearden worked a 1-2-3 sixth. With seventh-inning help from Tyler Sawyer, he thus became the winning pitcher in the first game of his return.
“He said, ‘Get me a run and this game’s over’,” Harrison related. “I like that. I like the guys that want to be here.”
“I’m trying to learn everything about it now,” Bearden said of the game. “I missed it so much especially when the team was in the World Series last year. I was crying when I found out they were there and I wasn’t.”
“I thought Tim did a fabulous job of coming in in a difficult spot, one that I didn’t want him in — I wanted him to start an inning fresh — but he came in with two on,” Harrison added. “We had a difficult play there and now we had the bases loaded. And he got out of it. I didn’t really want to use Sawyer in the end but I didn’t want to stretch Timmy to three innings.”
It was a dramatic victory for the defending State and Regional champion Sox with the game-winning rally keyed by the hustle of one newcomer Sergio Arias and a clutch hit from another, Cody Walker.
“We won and we battled to win,” Harrison noted. “We could’ve folded. We ran into a couple of situations where things didn’t go our way and we stepped up. Right off the bat, we’re down 2-0.”
Indeed, with an infield hit, a triple and a sacrifice fly, Lakeside took the 2-0 lead in the first off Bryant starter Kaleb Jobe who then worked a pair of scoreless frames to give his teammates a chance to rally to take the lead.
They picked up a run in the second when Jobe and Jordan Knight drew one-out walks and, with two down, Drew Ransdell, down to his last strike, came through with an RBI single.
In the third, Trent Daniel’s one-out single sparked a three-run uprising. Sawyer lashed the first of his two doubles and David Guarno singled both of them home to put the Sox up 3-2.
Guarno swiped second and drew a wild throw that allowed him to take third. But, after Jobe walked, Guarno was still at third with two down. That’s when Tyler Pickett surprised Lakeside with a perfect bunt down the third base line that he beat out for a single as Guarno cruised home.
Zach Ritter led off the Lakeside fourth with a double but Jobe struck out the next two batters and had a two-strike count on Matt Spradlin who hit a grounder to the right side that Ransdell, the Sox first baseman, ranged far to his right to field. The ball got past him and though Arias, at second, was able to field the ricochet, his throw to Jobe covering first was too late and Ritter scored to make it 4-3. Jobe kept it there, though, with another strikeout, his eighth in the four innings.
“Kaleb settled down and threw okay,” Harrison said. “We’ve got some guys in positions that hadn’t played there a whole lot and even though they may have played there in high school, it’s still a different game here, I think. The ground ball that Doc went for was aggressive. It was the wrong play but he was aggressive and we talked about it.
“Our defense is not real good right now and we struck out too much but we’ve had worse games,” he added. “And we won. And (Lakeside) threw their number one pitcher (Art Slaton). He’s pretty good. But he got tired because we made him work a little bit.”
The Sox added a run in the bottom of the fourth on doubles by Walker and Sawyer.
“Walker in the lead-off spot — I like him there,” Harrison commented. “He’s not your typical lead-off guy because he’s going to swing. But, if he gets a pitch he can handle, he’s going to hit it hard somewhere.”
Preston Adami relieved for the Sox in the top of the fifth and retired the first batter he faced. But a pair of hits and a pair of errors allowed Lakeside to tie it and Bearden came on.
“Pad (Adami) came in and he was throwing the ball up in the zone and he doesn’t throw hard enough to be up there so we had to get him out,” Harrison said. “But he’ll be all right. He just needs to work on keeping the ball down.”
The tell-tale home fifth began with Slaton recording his seventh and eighth strikeouts but he then issued a walk to Pickett and was replaced by Nick Merriweather who walked Ransdell but appeared to be out of the inning when Arias tapped one toward short. But Ben Crumpton, the Lakeside shortstop, didn’t charge the ball hard and wound up having to rush his throw with Arias sprinting down the line. The throw was wild and not only did Arias reach but Pickett scored to put the Sox ahead. Walker followed with a clinching two-run single to center.
Bearden, who had struck out the last two in the top of the fifth, struck out another to start the sixth. Tyler Hill lined out to Walker at short then Crumpton bounced out to Arias at second.
The Sox were unable to take advantage of a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the bottom of the sixth but Sawyer mowed Lakeside down — including two on strikes — in the top of the seventh to close it out and pick up the save.
Junior Sox outlast Lakeside, 13-11
By ROB PATRICK
Jimi Easterling, Brady Butler and Ben Wells each had two hits and two runs batted in as the Bryant Black Sox Junior American Legion team opened the 2008 season by outlasting their counterparts from Hot Springs Lakeside, 13-11 in five innings on Monday, May 19, at Bryant High School field.
The two teams traded error-riddled nine-run outbursts along the way but Austin Queck came on in relief for the Sox to reinstate order to earn the save for Easterling. Lakeside had the potential tying and lead runs on base with two down when Queck entered. He got the final out of the inning and, after his teammates added an insurance run in the bottom of the fourth, the right-hander worked around a lead-off walk in the fifth, fanning a pair to end the game.
The Sox took a 3-0 lead in the first after Easterling had worked around a two-on, one-out jam in the top of the inning. Sergio Arias was hit by a pitch to start Bryant’s first. He swiped second and scored on a base hit by Easterling who, in turn, swiped second.
Butler reached on an error that sent Easterling to third and, after Butler swiped second, Queck’s grounder to short drew a wild throw to first allowing both to score.
Lakeside committed seven errors in the game, Bryant four.
Lakeside used a hit batsman, a double and a single to cut the lead to 3-2 in the second. In the third, a double and another hit batsman gave Lakeside a chance to tie it. Logan Karsten singled to right but when Carlos Gallegos, the lead runner tried to score, he got in a rundown between third and home and was tagged out.
Bryant’s nine-run third began with a bad-hop single off of Butler’s bat. He stole second and scored on a double by Wells. A balk and a wild pitch allowed Wells to score as Queck walked. With one out, Jonathan Wade laced a drive to right-center and legged it out for an RBI triple to make it6-2. J.D. Sample reached on an error as Wade scored.
Another error allowed Brennan Bullock to reach base and yet another miscue put Arias aboard as Sample scored. Easterling doubled in a run and, after a pitching change, Butler singled in a pair before scoring on another double by Wells to make it 12-2.
But the Sox returned the favor with three errors in the top of the fourth and, along with three walks, Lakeside had five hits to cut the margin to 12-11.
Taylor Parker doubled in a run early in the inning then capped it off with a two-run single later. Karsten contributed a two-run single and Trenton Johnson singled in a run.
In the bottom of the inning, Nathan Hines drew a walk, Sample sacrificed him to second and Bullock bounced a single to left to chase him home to negate some of Lakeside’s momentum and give Queck some wiggle room which, as it turned out, he didn’t need.