Mixed results for Sox on trip
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By ROB PATRICK
FAYETTEVILLE — Clint Eastwood wasn’t around but, for the Bryant Black Sox Senior American Legion team, Saturday, May 31, it was good, bad and ugly.
The good was very good. In a rematch of the 2007 State championship game, the Sox battled past Fayetteville Lindsey & Associates Dodgers, 8-6. Fayetteville features five players that saw significant playing time this spring for the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith with another, starting pitcher Taylor Shaddy, who is on his way there after leading the Fayetteville High School team to back-to-back Class 7A championships.
The bad came in the Sox’ second game of the day when shortstop Cody Walker broke a bone in his hand trying to go to his right to field a hard shot against the Oklahoma Outlaws of Midwest City, Okla. Walker, who had drawn praise from Sox coach Craig Harrison for his greatly improved defense particularly against Fayetteville, will be out four to six weeks.
The ugly ensued. Walker’s injury came in the midst of an 11- run inning for the Outlaws on the way to a 14-1 thumping of the Sox, their first loss of the season. The lone highlight for Bryant was a solo homer in the top of the fifth by Tyler Pickett, his first ever.
The Sox were scheduled to play Bartlesville, Okla., on Sunday but rain prevented it. They returned home with a 7-1 record overall this season.
Harrison agreed that the win over Fayetteville, highlighted by Jordan Knight’s four hits including a two-run homer in the top of the sixth that proved to be the difference, was his team’s best effort of the season. Tyler Sawyer, making his first start of the summer, picked up the win and Tim Bearden earned a save. Kaleb Jobe was on base five times and scored three runs. David Guarno had two hits and two RBIs.
“It shows a lot what focus does,” he said. “When you got out there and you’ve got something to prove, you battle every pitch offensively, defensively. I thought we made some great plays at short. Cody played a good game for us. He didn’t hit very good but I told him I don’t care if he doesn’t hit at all if he plays defense like that.
“I thought Sawyer battled on the mound,” Harrison continued. “We competed and I’m very proud of the way we handled today. It’s not even June yet but that’s a big win for us. Not a lot of people around thought we could do that. We’re going to play that underdog role as much as we can even though they all know who we are. We got a lot of new guys here. I’m proud of my team.”
The teams traded licks for most of the game. In the first, Bryant scored when Jobe walked, Sawyer singled and Knight, down to the last strike of the inning, pulled a single into left to bring Jobe home.
Fayetteville took advantage of an error that allowed lead-off man Colton West to reach base. He stole second and scored on a single by Shaddy. Blake Roberts walked but Sawyer got out of the inning with the help of a nice play in the hole by Walker to retire Garrett Meyer and save a run.
In the third, both teams added a pair of runs. For Bryant, Jobe and Sawyer walked and Guarno singled in a run. After a base hit by Knight loaded the bases, Pickett delivered a sacrifice fly to make it 3-1.
Fayetteville got those runs back in the bottom of the inning on a two-run homer by Blake Roberts.
“The home run was my mistake,” said Harrison, who calls the pitches. “We’d been getting (Roberts) out on breaking pitches and we got him out after that on breaking pitches but I tried to bust him in with a fastball. It’s not a very long ballpark, but he made a good swing on it and tied the game. I thought we were in control when that happened and then — but we kept scoring.”
In the fourth, after Sergio Arias was robbed of extra bases by left-fielder Cameron Walker, Cody Walker was hit by a pitch, raced to third on a single by Jobe and scored on a wild pitch.
In turn, a walk and a two-out double by West produced a tying run for Fayetteville in the home half of the frame.
The Sox took the lead for good in the fifth after Shaddy gave way to right-hander Chris Lantrip. Knight greeted the new hurler with his third hit and, after he moved up on a wild pitch, Pickett singled him to third. Drew Ransdell’s base hit made it 5-4.
Fayetteville made a bid to counter once again when Shaddy drew a lead-off walk in the bottom of the fifth, but Sawyer shut the door there. He fanned Roberts (on a breaking pitch) then combined with Ransdell at first for a splendid play to get Christian Allen. Initially, Allen was called safe but Pickett, the Bryant catcher, asked for an appeal to the homeplate umpire who ruled that Sawyer’s foot had not come off the base and the call was overturned despite protests from Fayetteville coach Ashley Patrick.
So when Meyer bounced out to Walker, the Sox held the lead coming to the plate.
And they added to it. Jobe drew the third of his four walks, advanced on a wild pitch and took third on Sawyer’s bouncer to the right side. Guarno singled him home to make it 6-4 then Knight, on a hit-and-run, unloaded on a 1-1 delivery from reliever Montana Prim and cleared the scoreboard in left-center.
“Sometimes on a hit-and-run you stay more focused than if you’re just up there swinging,” Harrison noted.
The Dodgers mounted a rally in the sixth. Aaron Bowen doubled and, with two out, West singled him home. Kyle Sargent then beat out a bunt hit to make it 8-5.
Harrison turned to Bearden, his closer in training. Fayetteville got another run on a double steal when Pickett’s throw to third got past Jobe allowing West to come home.
With Sargent at second, Bearden walked Shaddy putting the tying run on base with Roberts, the Dodgers’ clean-up hitter coming to the plate.
But Bearden stepped up there and recorded a strikeout to end the inning.
“I went to him in a tough jam and we’re going to do that,” Harrison commented. “He hadn’t proved it at all but he got baptized by fire there. I thought he made a good pitch on (Roberts) then we caught a break with their baserunning there in the seventh. He made some good pitches, threw a 3-2 curveball to get the last out.”
Indeed, after the Sox loaded the bases but couldn’t add to their margin in the top of the seventh, Meyer pulled a one-out single to left. Ryan Pongonis came on to pinch-run for the catcher with Chase Huchingson coming to the plate. The Sox caught the break when Huchingson tried to bunt and couldn’t make contact. Obviously surprised, Pongonis got too far off first and Pickett gunned to Ransdell to pick him off.
Bearden got Huchingson to line out to Knight in center on a 3-2 pitch to end it.
“We were playing behind (Pongonis),” Harrison recounted. “We weren’t going to turn two, Chase runs too good. ‘Let’s get an out and if the guy runs, let him run.’ For some reason, (Huchingson) wanted to try to bunt right there and he’s a big, strong kid. I know he hadn’t hit much this year but, in this ballpark especially, he’s the tying run. I don’t know why he tried to bunt. And the guy got caught.”
In the second game, Ransdell and Oklahoma lefty Waylon Moore looked like they were locked in a duel until the Sox committed errors on three consecutive batters to start the second inning and things went south from there. Fifteen Outlaws came to the plate in the 11-run debacle.
Moore held the Sox without a hit until Guarno belted a two-out double in the fourth. After the Outlaws added three more runs in the bottom of the fourth, Pickett led off the fifth with his solo jack. Austin Queck and Arias followed with hits but Moore forced the Sox to strand them, finishing the run-rule win.