AAA Sox notch first Zone 4 victory
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
The third inning of the Bryant Black Sox’ AAA American Legion game against Oxford Printing of Little Rock Tuesday night will not go on shortstop Matt Brown’s highlight film.
But the rest of the game just might.
Brown, whose two errors in the third led to two runs as Oxford tied the game 2-2 in the third, came back with an RBI double in the fourth to snap the tie, scored a fourth run on a wild pitch, then cracked a three-run homer to key a six-run fifth as the Sox run-ruled the Printers 10-2 at Bryant Hornets Field.
It was Bryant’s fourth win in a row to open the 2001 season and manager Craig Harrison insisted that the seeds for the victory were sown in the team’s previous three wins over the weekend.
“That was the key to this game,” he said. “Saturday night against Bauxite (in Bryant’s season opener), we were nervous. Bauxite’s got a good AA team but they’re not a AAA team and if it had been a good AAA team we would’ve struggled. But we were able to persevere through the game. We got our legs under us Sunday against Woodlawn. We struggled a little bit in the first game but found a way to win it then played well in the second game.
Nerves may have been part of Oxford’s problem. It was the team’s season opener and pitchers Chris Cobb and Torian Thompson combined to walk 12 and hit two in the five-inning game. Bryant only managed five hits in the game.
“We struggled again tonight,” Harrison said. “We didn’t play good defense, kicked a couple at short and we left seven (baserunners) on in the first three innings. I was real nervous that that was going to come back and get us. So, we made the decision that if we got the lead that we were going to start bunting the ball and try to pick up one run at a time. We’re still not hitting the ball like I think we can but then, they didn’t throw very many strikes.”
On the other hand, Bryant starter Brad Chism held Oxford to just three hits and the two unearned runs. He fanned five and walked just two as the Sox’s pitching continued to shine. Chism was the eighth hurler to take the mound thus far this season and, as a staff, the team has only surrendered five earned runs in the four games — all of those came in one inning.
“I’m real pleased with the start,” Harrison said. “Anytime you can start 4-0 and beat a good Oxford team . . . “
Both of Chism’s walks came in the first inning and the Sox turned a doubleplay to help him out of the jam.
In the bottom of the inning, walks to the first three batters — Matt White, Dustin Morris and Michael McClellan — loaded the bases. White scored when Brown grounded into a force at second then Morris came in on a sacrifice fly by Beau Hamblin.
Cody Graddy was hit by a pitch and Matt Lewis walked to load the bags again, but they were all stranded.
After Oxford tied the game in the third with Zack Davis’s two-out RBI single the only hit of the frame, Bryant loaded the bases again in the home half as Graddy singled, Lewis was hit by a pitch and Chris Sory walked. But, once more, all three were left on.
Chism worked around an error in the fourth then his teammates got him the lead. With one out, Morris singled to left. Brown came up with two out and ran the count to 3-2 so Morris was off with the pitch when Brown laced a liner down the left-field line. Morris scored all the way from first on the double. Brown took third on one wild pitch, then scored on another as Cobb was issuing a walk to Hamblin.
Blake Pizan cracked a one-out double for Oxford in the top of the fifth, but Morris, at second, made a sparkling back-hand stop on a hard grounder by Davis and McClellan dug out a low throw at first for the second out as Pizan took third. Chism then struck out clean-up hitter Zac Bradley to end the inning.
Bryant got the chance to add to the lead in the bottom of the fifth thanks to an error that put Lewis on base and, after Thompson relieved Cobb, a walk to Sory brought Cody Dreher to the plate. Dreher sacrificed the runners to second and third, bringing the Oxford infield in. White walked to load the bases then Thompson unleashed a wild pitch that brought Lewis home.
A walk to Morris loaded them up again for McClellan who launched a sacrifice fly to deep right to make it 6-2. On the next pitch, Brown ripped a three-run homer just inside the left-field foul pole to break the game open.
A walk to Hamblin and an infield single by Graddy appeared to go for naught when Lewis waved at a third strike in the dirt for what would’ve been the third out. But when Oxford first baseman Brett Hays couldn’t pull in the throw from catcher Andy Ross, Lewis reached safely and Hamblin hustled home with the game-ending run.
The Sox were scheduled to visit North Little Rock on Wednesday, May 23, then travel to McGehee for a doubleheader Friday.