By Rob Patrick
The Bryant Black Sox Senior American Legion team did its part. As the Sox eased to a 15-1 win in five innings over the rival Benton McClendon’s team at Bryant High School Field, the rest of the story was unfolding in Texarkana.
The Sox came into the night with a 7-2 record in Zone 4, a game behind Texarkana and Sheridan. Those two teams were playing a doubleheader against each other in Texarkana and the outcome would determine which two teams garnered the top seeds at this weekend’s Zone Tournament and the first-round byes that go with them.
As it turned out, Sheridan and Texarkana split the twinbill just as Bryant had with each of them, leaving all three sharing the regular-season league title at 8-2.
The way Bryant manager Darren Hurt has it figured, Texarkana gets the top seed because it holds a run-differential advantage over the other two. That leaves the two seed going to either the Sox or the Jackets and, because Bryant beat Sheridan by more than Sheridan beat Bryant, the Sox should get it.
He was expected to verify that with league officials this morning.
For their part, the Sox notched their 22nd win in 26 games this season with one regular-season contest remaining, a nine-inning outing against Sylvan Hills tonight at 6.
The Sox actually found themselves trailing Benton early. Right-hander Hunter Wray retired the first six Bryant batters while, in the bottom of the first, Corky Welch singled and Ryne Besancon doubled him home, only to be caught in a rundown between second and third for the final out.
(Benton was the home team despite the fact that the game was played in Bryant because the game was making up a playing date at Benton, where, this week, the Babe Ruth 14-year-old South Arkansas State Tournament was taking place.)
Jordan Taylor, the Bryant starter, surrendered a one-out double to Matt Frelin in the second then set down the last 11 Benton batters on the way to the win. He fanned six in the game and not only didn’t allow a walk but never got to a three-ball count in the game.
And the Sox grabbed a 2-1 lead in the third. Hayden Lessenberry who, along with Ozzie Hurt and Hunter Mayall, had three hits in the game, beat out a roller to third to lead off the inning. Hayden Daniel walked. Hurt came up and attempted to bunt, taking a couple of pitches with the Benton’s Brad Neighbors charging hard from first and Welch doing the same from first while shortstop Tanner Bates raced to cover third and second baseman Dylan Oliver hustled over to cover first.
On the 1-1 delivery, Hurt executed the old “butcher boy” play, faking a bunt then pulling back and chopping a single through the vacated shortstop spot to drive in the tying run. And when Mayall belted a sharp one-hopper off the glove of Wray, the bases were loaded for Tyler Brown. He proceeded to deliver the go-ahead run with the first of Bryant’s four sacrifice flies in the game.
Wray escaped further damage in the inning but not without the help of his centerfielder Levan Steward who had to sprint back to the base of the fence in the deepest part of the park to haul in a two-out drive by Landon Pickett.
But the Bryant bats had awakened and neither Wray, nor Besancon, nor Welch would quiet them. The Sox scored five in the fourth and eight in the fifth to make it a run-rule victory.
Tyler Nelson started the fourth with a bloop single to center. He stole second and, with one out, Lessenberry walked. Daniel beat out a bunt single to load the bases for Hurt, who came through with his second RBI single.
Mayall followed with a two-run shot into a right to make it 5-1. Brown yanked a double into the left-field corner to plate Hurt.
Besancon relieved for Benton but Taylor greeted him with a sacrifice fly before he could get out of the inning.
The fifth-inning blitz started with an error that allowed Nelson to reach. Josh Pultro walked and Lessenberry pulled a single into left to load the bags for Daniel, who launched the third sacrifice fly of the game.
Hurt’s third hit loaded the bags again and Mayall shot a single past Oliver to make it 9-1.
Welch took the mound at that point and, on a 3-1 count, hit Brown to force in a run. Taylor’s sacrifice fly made it 11-1.
The carousel continued to turn as Pickett and Nelson drew walks to bring another run in. A double by Pultro chased in two then Lessenberry capped off the scoring with his third hit to drive in Nelson.
BRYANT BLACK SOX 15, BENTON McCLENDON'S 1
Senior American Legion
McClendon's ab r h bi Black Sox ab r h bi
Holicer, dh 2 0 0 0 Mayall, lf-1b 4 2 3 3
Neighbors, 3b 2 0 0 0 Brown, 3b 2 1 1 3
Welch, 1b-p 2 1 1 0 Taylor, p 2 0 0 2
Besancon, rf-p-1b 2 0 1 1 Pickett, 1b 3 0 0 0
Steward, cf 2 0 0 0 Graddy, pr-c 0 1 0 0
Frelin, c 2 0 1 0 Nelson, ss 3 3 1 1
Oliver, 2b 2 0 0 0 Pultro, rf-lf 3 2 1 2
Fortner, lf 1 0 0 0 Lessenberry, c 3 2 3 1
Massey, ph 1 0 0 0 Schalchlin, rf 0 0 0 0
Bates, ss 1 0 0 0 Daniel, cf 1 2 1 1
Wray, p 0 0 0 0 Hurt, 2b 4 2 3 2
Totals 17 1 3 1 Totals 25 15 13 15
Bryant 002 58 — 15
Benton 100 00 — 1
E—Bates. LOB—Bryant 6, Benton 1. 2B—Besancon, Frelin, Brown, Pultro. SB—Nelson. SF—Taylor 2, Brown, Daniel.
Pitching ip r er h bb so
Taylor (W) 5 1 1 3 0 6
Wray (L) 3.1 7 7 8 2 1
Besancon 1 5 4 3 1 0
Welch 0.2 3 3 2 3 0
HBP—Brown (by Welch).
Bryant 15, Benton 1