Blacksox AAA sweeps McGehee
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
Like the Stuttgart Ricemen, the McGehee AA American Legion team is one with which the Bryant Blacksox AAA teams rarely have much trouble. But given the hope of victory that a seven-run first inning can provide, the Ricemen culled a victory over the Sox in the first game of a doubleheader on Wednesday, May 22.
Lesson learned, the Sox busted Stuttgart’s balloon 16-2 in a three-inning nightcap then, on Friday, May 24, took nothing for granted in a home-opening twinbill with McGehee.
With Kevin Littleton and Jeff Carpenter combining on a two-hit shutout, Bryant eased past McGehee’s ace lefty Bradley Swift, 3-0, in the first game. In the second, head coach Craig Harrison cobbled together a lineup with three starters unavailable and the Sox rolled to an 11-2 win in five innings.
Lefty Derek Chambers and right-hander A.J. Nixon combined to limit McGehee to just three hits in the second game. Nixon, who spent the early part of the evening at the Bryant Hornets spring football scrimmage, was unavailable for the first game. In the second, B.J. Wood, who also participated in the scrimmage, was unavailable along with Cody Graddy, Matt White and David Moore. Graddy, the team’s starting catcher, and White, the starting center fielder, left after the first game to participate in the high school all-star event in Fayetteville held Saturday. Moore was on a senior trip with his classmates from Central Arkansas Christian academy.
So, with a couple of guys seeing time at unfamiliar positions, the Sox got a lift. Jeff Carpenter, usually at third, donned the catching equipment and did a credible job with Justin Woods stepping in at third for the first time. Actually, Woods came in to play third initially when Carpenter went to the mound in the first game and, in the seventh inning, turned in a sparkling play to get the first out.
It turned into a big play when the next McGehee batter walked. Instead of the tying run at the plate, McGehee had one on and one out and Carpenter retired the next two to end the game.
Littleton took a no-hitter into the fourth. Aaron Pombianchi broke it up with a lead-off double but was thrown out trying to steal third.
By then, the Sox had the runs they’d need. Two scored in the first when White walked, swiped second and came home on a single by Chambers. When Graddy slapped a single to right and it was misplayed by McGehee’s Eric Henderson, Chambers came all the way around.
After Littleton worked around a couple of walks in the top of the second, the Sox added a third run. Andrew Norman walked and Woods was hit by a pitch. After Carpenter sacrificed them to second and third, Scotty Yant walked to load the bases. Norman scored on White’s grounder to third which was booted by Chesley Martin.
McGehee never got a runner past second. But, after the second, neither did the Sox against Swift who fanned seven, walked four and hit two. Singles by Carpenter and Norman were all the Sox managed.
Littleton finished by retiring four in a row then Carpenter took over in the fifth. Chad Haller greeted him with a bunt single but the Sox turned a doubleplay and the seventh inning walk was the only other McGehee baserunner.
In the second game, McGehee scored a run in the first off Chambers. Haller walked, was sacrificed to second and, when Jim Lindley singled to right, the relay throw from first baseman Matt Lewis was wide at third.
Bryant countered with five in the bottom of the inning, though. Carpenter walked and Norman singled him to third. Lewis grounded into a force at second as Carpenter scored to tie it at 1.
Littleton singled and Nixon was hit by a pitch to load the bases then McGehee starter Daniel French balked home a run. Littleton scored on a wild pitch then Chance King laced a double to right-center to drive in Nixon.
After Woods walked, Yant’s fly to right was misplayed allowing King to score the fifth run.
McGehee’s Neal Doughtery looped a single to right. A walk to Nick Allison then a double steal set up French who delivered a sacrifice fly to make it 5-2. Allison went to third on a two-out single by Haller but Chambers made a good play on a bunt by Chad Barnes to get the final out.
Littleton’s two-out single and theft of second gave the Sox a chance to get that run back. Nixon came through with the clutch RBI single.
Chambers retired the side in order, fanning two, in the top of the third, and Bryant starting putting the game away in the home half. King got his second hit, a solid single to center and Woods walked. Yant grounded to second but a bad throw allowed all hands to advance safely. Another balk by French brought King home then Hight, the McGehee shortstop threw one away when Norman hit him a grounder. Both Woods and Yant scored to make it 9-2.
In the fourth, Cody Dreher and Woods drew walks and Yant chased them home with a triple into the gap in right center.
Nixon relieved in the fifth and wound up with four strikeouts. His third strike on the third one got away from Carpenter allowing Pambianchi to reach base.