AAA Sox sweep Mtn. Home
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By ROB PATRICK
During their three-game sweep of the Mountain Home Lockeroom Alley-White Post 52 AAA American Legion team, the Bryant Blacksox pitching staff (with the help of some, at times, spectacular defense) allowed just five runs on seven hits.
The weekend set began with right-handers Justin Wells and Todd Bryan combining on a four-hit shutout in a 3-0 win on Saturday evening and concluded Sunday afternoon with ace lefty tossing a five-inning no-hitter with 15 strikeouts. In between, on Saturday night, the Sox got encouraging moundwork from right-hander Daniel Minton in a 10-4 win.
The results improved the Sox to 5-0 on the season after one week. So far, so good, said Bryant manager Craig Harrison.
“The first week, we wanted to work on two things: one, getting all of our pitchers some innings and we’ve accomplished that,” he said. “All of our pitchers have thrown, some have thrown twice. I’m really impressed with the way Minton’s come out. Of course, (Daniel) Price, Travis and Wells and (Cory) Lambert have thrown all year. We’re looking for some depth. We’ve talked to some other guys about some bullpens (Monday) that don’t normally throw. Todd thinks he pinched a nerve in (spring) football. He’s only thrown one inning but he said he’d be ready.
“Obviously, our pitching’s our strength but hitting as well,” Harrison added. “I thought (Sunday) we came out in the second inning and hit the ball pretty good.”
In Sunday’s romp, the Hornets scored eight runs on seven hits in the second to make it a rout. Bryan, the hottest-hitting Blacksox player went 2-for-2 with a walk, scored three runs and drove in two. That made him 10 of 15 (.667) at the plate so far this season.
Zack Young and Lambert also had two hits in the game, Young drove in three runs.
“We’re still tinkering with the lineup,” Harrison allowed. “We’ve got different guys in different spots. Young’s playing all over the place, second, short, third. We just need some depth all over the field. We’ve got some guys that aren’t going to be here at times this summer, so we’ve got to know when we put a guy out there that he’s been there before and he knows what to do. Plus, we’ve got to have guys like Zack, we need their bats in the lineup.
“We’ve got some things we’re still working on. But I’m satisfied with where we are.”
In the finale, Mountain Home managed just four baserunners. Wood pitched around an error in the first and a walk in the fourth. In the third, he issued a one-out walk to nine-hole hitter Travis Ifland. After Wood’s eighth strikeout of the game, he fanned Brian Biehler with a pitch in the dirt. At first catcher, Dustin Easterly couldn’t locate the ball after he’d knocked it down so he had to rush his throw to first in hopes of retiring Biehler and ending the inning. But the throw hit Biehler in the back and Ifland wound up at third.
Moments later, Ifland scored Mountain Home’s lone run on an errant pickoff throw.
The only out that wasn’t a strikeout by Mountain Home was a fly to right by Travis Pitts to open the fourth. After the walk that followed, Wood struck out the last five he faced.
“What can you say, when you strike out 15 in five innings?” Harrison marveled. “It was a good game for Travis because we didn’t just throw the fastball. I mean, the walk to the nine-hole hitter was a 3-2 breaking pitch, by design. And, when he came in, I told him, ‘You know you can throw a fastball and that guy’s out but when you get up against some better teams or you get to the next level, you’ve got to throw that pitch for a strike.’
“We threw the split-finger a lot and we threw the change-up quite a few times,” said Harrison, who calls pitches from the dugout, “so it wasn’t just strictly go out there and throw 90.”
The Sox got all the runs Wood would need in the first when Bryan laced a single up the middle, swiped second and took third on a wild throw. Wells lashed a single to bring him home.
The eighth began with a single by Lambert, a walk by Carpenter and an unsuccessful fielder’s choice on a grounder to short by Andrew Moseley, that loaded the bases.
With one out, Dustin Tinkler drew an RBI walk and Bryan singled in two. With two down, Young doubled in a pair and Richie Wood beat out an infield hit to make it 7-0.
Another single by Lambert and an error that allowed Jeff Carpenter to reach base loaded the sacks again. This time, Moseley came through, smacking a two-run single up the middle.
In the third, Bryan walked, took second on a balk and scored on Young’s second double of the game.
Saturday, game one
In five innings, Wells allowed three hits, walked two and struck out eight. Bryan relieved an allowed just one hit and a walk while being helped considerably by a pair of spectacular catches in deep center by Tinkler.
With two down in the sixth, Tinkler robbed Perry Chapman of extra bases with an over-the-top catch as he sprinted away from the infield. With one out in the seventh, T.J. Spencer made a bid for extra bases and again, Tinkler raced toward the fence to make a tumbling over-the-shoulder grab.
The Bryant defense also included a pair of doubleplays, both started by Wells. The first came in the second inning after an inning-opening single, Wells bounced off the mound to field a tap by Spencer. Bryan, at short, turned it at the bag and threw to first.
The next batter Zak Proctor, incidentally, drilled a double but Wells got out of the inning by striking out Brian Coggins.
The second twin-killing came just before Tinkler’s first catch. Bryan had been greeted by Biehler’s bloop single but Ryan Jackson grounded to Wells at short. He made the play at second and threw to first.
The Hornets scored a run in the first. Tinkler walked and Bryan singled. After Tinkler was thrown out trying to score on Well’s grounder to third, Travis Wood laced an RBI double to left-center.
In the third, Wells singled and raced to third when Wood’s single to left was bobbled. He then scored when Young grounded out.
An insurance run came home in the sixth when Young singled and took second on another error. Carpenter then came through with a two-out RBI single.
Saturday, game two
Minton allowed just one hit before being relieved in the fourth after he’d reached his pitch-count limit. Carpenter relieved and struggled with his control, walking four and giving up two hits. Lambert relieved and issued an RBI walk and hit a batter to force in a run before getting out of the inning by inducing a doubleplay ball from Bailey Bodenhamer.
By that time, however, the Sox had the game well in hand, scoring twice in each of the first two innings to build a 4-0 lead then breaking the game open with a six-run fourth.
Bryan, in off the bench, went 2-for-2 and catcher Josh Groves had two hits. Young drove in three.
The game also included a whopping seven hit batsmen. Tinkler, Bryant’s lead-off man, was hit three times. He also walked and scored twice.
The Sox’ two-run first came thanks to one of those hit batsmen, Carpenter, three walks, a passed ball and an RBI groundout by Young.
In the second, Korey Hunter and Groves smacked singles to get things started. Hunter scored on a wild pitch. After Tinkler and Carpenter were hit by pitches to load the bags, Young drew an RBI walk to make it 4-0.
The fourth-inning uprising began with singles by Bryan, Young and Richie Wood. Bryan scored after racing to third on a wild pickoff throw prior to Young’s hit. A walk to Lambert loaded the bases and Daniel Price delivered a run with a sacrifice fly. Another scored on Hunter’s groundout. Groves singled in a run then, after Tinkler was hit again, scored when Carpenter’s fly to right was botched. Bryan then capped the inning with an RBI single.