Sox win Benton tourney
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
BENTON — In the third inning of the Sunday, May 28, finals of the Benton AA American Legion Invitational wood-bat tournament, Bryant’s Justin Gaddy hit a rocket but had nothing to show for it as Fort Smith second baseman Michael Brown speared it for an inning-ending out.
But these things have a way of evening out in baseball.
In the bottom of the seventh, Gaddy came up with the game tied 1-1, the bases loaded and two outs. This time, he made enough contact to hit a bouncer up the middle which was just far enough out of the reach of second sacker Josh Spencer to go for a game-winning RBI single.
Gaddy and Bryant’s Black Sox thus captured the championship of the tournament with a 2-1 win over Fort Smith Coke, in a splendidly played final that included just two walks and no errors between the two teams.
Bryant wound up going 5-0 in the event, providing the Fort Smith team’s lone loss. The win improved the Sox to 8-1 on the season and extended their winning streak to seven.
“We tell them all the time, pitching and defense wins championships,” stated Sox manager Mark Kehrees. “The whole tournament, I’m going to say, we played pretty good defense and our pitchers threw a lot of strikes. And, in this league, if you throw strikes, you’ll have a chance to win.”
The Sox opened the tournament with three wins in pool play, defeating Pine Bluff Kells, 7-1, on Friday, May 26, then bouncing Little Rock Post 1 Blue, 5-2, and Sheridan, 11-4, on Saturday, May 27. In the championship round, Bryant ousted Little Rock Post 1 Red, 5-1, on Sunday to advance to the finals against Fort Smith Coke which had defeated Sheridan in nine innings earlier in the day to advance.
“The kids are working hard,” Kehrees commented, noting that it’s still early in the season. “We’ve still got a lot to learn to play really good baseball but they’re a fun group to coach.”
The Sox got complete game efforts on the mound in their last three wins. Tim Bearden whipped up a three-hitter in the title game after lefty Alex Kehrees held Little Rock Red to one unearned run while scattering seven hits in the semfinals. Ryan Guffy turned in his best performance of the season in the win over Sheridan on Saturday, giving up six hits. Only two of Sheridan’s four runs were earned.
In the win over Blue, Ryan Wilson and Gaddy combined on a two-hitter and, against Pine Bluff, Trent Daniel, with an inning of help from Bearden, scattered five hits and surrendered just one unearned run.
Defensively, Bryant committed three errors against Sheridan but, in the other four games combined, had just three more.
Bryant 2, Fort Smith 1
Bearden didn’t give up a hit until, with two outs in the third, Brown doubled just inside third and Hank Rogers blooped an RBI single to left-center.
After that, the right-hander retired 13 of 14 to finish the game. The lone baserunner came on an infield hit with one out in the sixth.
“He threw 75 pitches, seven innings,” Mark Kehrees noted. “That’s hard to beat. What Bearden has that’s wonderful is three pitches he can throw for strikes. In Legion or high school baseball, that typically gives you a chance to win a lot of ballgames.”
Meanwhile, the Sox missed a scoring chance off of Fort Smith’s Brice Wilson in the second when Kehrees and Daniel singled then were able to move to second and third with two down only to be stranded.
In the fourth, however, the Sox tied it. Tyler Pickett beat out an infield hit, went to second on a sacrifice by Kehrees and third on a swinging bunt in front of the plate by Matt Hargrave. Jake Jackson then came through in the clutch with a lined single to center to tie it.
Wilson gave up another infield hit to Daniel but got out of the inning. He retired the next seven he faced before Jackson opened the bottom of the seventh with another single to center.
Rogers came on in relief and got Daniel to bounce back to the mound for a force at second. But Daniel beat the return throw to first. On the next pitch, Cody Walker singled into the hole at short.
With two down, a passed ball on the first pitch to Ryan Wilson allowed the runners to move to second and third. Thus, in order to set up a force at every base, Fort Smith completed an intentional walk of Wilson to bring up Gaddy who slapped an 0-1 delivery just to the right of second base for the game-winner.
“We hit the ball hard a lot in this game but mostly right at them,” Mark Kehrees noted. “But the right one fell at the right time.”
Bryant 5, LR Red 1
Like Bearden, Alex Kehrees finished strong, retiring 11 of the last 12 batters he faced after Little Rock Red scored its lone run in the fourth to cut Bryant’s lead to 3-1.
Tyler Pickett drove in two of those first three runs for the Sox, both after Ryan Wilson had reached base. In the first, Wilson legged out a triple on a drive into the left-field corner then Pickett stroked a single to center.
Pickett proceeded to steal second and move to third on a wild pitch. A late errant throw by Red catcher Matt DeSalvo allowed him to score to make it 2-0.
In the third, Wilson drilled a one-out double and, again, Pickett laced a single to center to chase him home.
Kehrees had pitched around a pair of lead-off singles in the second. In the third, a lead-off double by Phillip Lay was erased when Lance Black lined to Pickett at third who threw to second for a doubleplay.
In the third, however, Bryant’s lone error of the game allowed DeSalvo to reach base. Kehrees then issued his only walk of the contest and John Murphy followed with a bunt single to load the bases. Hayden Blair singled to right to drive in the run.
With no one out and the bases still juiced, it looked like the Sox’ lead was in jeopardy. But Kehrees struck out Daniel Pere then got Corey Allen to tap back to the mound for a force at the plate. Lay followed with a grounder to Wilson at short for an inning-ending force at second.
The only other baserunner Red managed came on a lead-off single in the sixth by Osborn.
The Sox added some insurance in the top of the sixth. With one down, Daniel beat out an infield hit then scored all the way from first on a double by Gaddy. With two down, Hargrave singled in Gaddy to make it 5-1.
Bryant 11, Sheridan 4
The Sox used the running game to effect, swiping eight bases to take advantage of 11 hits, eight walks and three Sheridan errors.
Jordan Knight, Cody Walker, Logan Cruse and Ryan Guffy each had two hits with Knight and Guffy driving in two runs apiece.
Sheridan led 1-0 after one inning, scoring on a single, a stolen base and an error. But Guffy retired the next three to strand a runner at second.
After loading the bases in the first, the Sox took the lead in the second after two were out. Preston Adami and Jackson got things going with singles. Knight chased both home with a triple then followed across the plate when Pickett reached on an error.
Two errors and a sacrifice fly allowed Sheridan to cut it to 3-2 in the third. Austin Davis’ single gave Sheridan a chance to tie it but Knight threw out Nathan Ware at the plate to end the inning.
Still, Sheridan gained the lead in the fourth on a single and a pair of doubles.
After that, however, Guffy allowed just one hit and a walk the rest of the game.
Bryant regained the advantage with a four-run fourth. Jackson and Knight walked to start the inning then stole their way to second and third. Jackson scored on a wild pitch to tie the game then Knight came home when Walker reached on an error.
Walker stole second and scored on a double by Cruse to make it 6-4. Guffy then greeted Sheridan’s fourth pitcher of the game with a two-out RBI single.
In the fifth, Jackson and Knight were hit by pitches and Pickett singled in a run. Knight scored on the front end of a double steal to make it 9-4. With two down, Jeremy Burge walked and Guffy delivered another RBI single.
Walker singled in a run in the sixth to set the final score.
Bryant 5, LR Blue 2
Gaddy had a single, a double, a triple and two runs batted in to lead the Sox, who scored four times in the first and added an unearned run in the fifth.
Wilson shut out Blue on two hits over the first five innings and had retired eight in row before issuing his first walk to start the sixth. Blue’s Tyler Brown followed with a grounder to short but the inning was complicated when the lead runner, Taylor Brown, beat a toss to second.
Wilson’s first pitch to Nathan Longinotti was wild, allowing the runners to advance to second and third and Gaddy came on in relief. Longinotti’s sacrifice fly got Blue’s first run in then Hunter Sinele singled in a second run. But, after giving up another hit, Gaddy got out of the inning then pitched around a one-out single in the seventh to finish the game, fanning the last two batters.
Bryant’s four-run first began with a one-out error that allowed Jackson to reach base. Knight and Kehrees singled to bring Jackson around to score then Gaddy ripped a triple into the gap in right-center to make it 3-0. Daniel’s bouncer to short brought Gaddy home.
A walk, a dropped flyball in right and a wild pitch tacked on a fifth run in the fifth for the Sox.
Bryant 7, PB Kells 1
After Kells scored its only run on a two-out error, a stolen base and bloop single in the first, Daniel pitched out of jams in the second, third and fourth and the Sox rallied for two runs in the fourth, two more in the fifth and were in the midst of a three-run sixth when the 2 hour, 15 minute time limit ended the game.
The Sox were shut out on two hits over the first three innings and Pine Bluff starter Jonathan Halbert had retired the first batter of the fourth when Tyler Pickett worked the count to 3-2 then fouled off five two-strike deliveries before bouncing an infield hit off the pitcher’s glove and past the Kells shortstop. He then scored from first on a long double by Daniel, tying the game.
Knight reached on a fielder’s choice, stole second, took third when Walker reached on an error then came home with the go-ahead run on a balk by Halbert.
Daniel struck out the side around a two-out infield hit in the top of the fifth and the Sox added to their lead in the bottom of the inning without a hit. Wilson was hit by a pitch, Jackson sacrificed him to second then he swiped third and scored on Gaddy’s grounder to short. Walks to Kehrees, Pickett and Daniel loaded the bases and, after a pitching change, a wild pitch allowed Kehrees to score to make it 4-1.
Bearden struck out two around a walk in the top of the sixth then Bryant scored three more on a double by Burge, two walks, two wild pitches and two errors.