By Rob Patrick
CONWAY — Though it could safely be called a tune-up, Tuesday’s nine-inning game between the Everett Black Sox of Bryant and the McDonald’s Big Macs of Harrison at UCA’s Bears Field, probably shouldn’t be construed as a preview.
That is so, even though the two teams may well meet again this Saturday as part of the AA American Legion State Tournament at Bryant (games will be played at Bryant High School Field and at Bishop Park).
Harrison used five pitchers, Bryant used four and both teams agreed to substitute and re-enter players as they saw fit. The result was a game that lasted well over three hours. But then, it wasn’t so much the substitutions and pitching changes that extended the game, it was the fact that between the two teams there were issued a whopping 22 walks to go with seven hit batsmen, nine wild pitches, four passed balls and five errors as well as 25 runs and 25 hits.
Bryant rallied from a 9-4 deficit to win 15-10, improving to 21-5 on the season going into the 14-team State bracket. The Sox will be one of two teams with a first-round bye (the other is a staunch Pine Bluff National Bank squad). They’ll make their tourney debut on Saturday night at 7 at BHS. And their opponent will be the winner of Friday’s 2 p.m., contest between Stuttgart’s Ricemen and the Big Macs of Harrison.
In Tuesday’s contest, the Black Sox benefitted from 16 of those walks including five of them during a game-turning six-run sixth.
Trevor Ezell and Wes Akers each had three hits for Bryant. Jason Hastings and Cody Gogus added two each. For Harrison, Logan Murray had three hits and Tate Stokes two.
There wasn’t a single half inning when somebody didn’t get on base.
Harrison broke out on top in the first. After Bryant second baseman Korey Thompson robbed lead-off man Jenner Jones of a hit with a diving stop, Nathan Kane beat out a bunt single. Stokes was hit by a pitch then Murray singled in the first run. Stokes, who had sprinted to third, scored on a wild pitch.
In the bottom of the inning, Ezell lashed a liner to right that he legged out for the first of his two triples in the game. Hastings’ sacrifice fly delivered the run. The Sox loaded the bases on a single by Wes Akers and walked to Harrison Dale and Chase Tucker but Jones, the Big Macs’ starter, got out of the inning with the lead intact.
Akers, who struggled in the first inning as the Sox starter, eased through the second. Though he plunked Jones with one out, catcher Trey Breeding threw him out trying to steal to end the frame.
Ezell’s second triple came with two out in the bottom of the second and, again, Hastings came through with the RBI, belting a double to left.
Tucker took a turn on the mound for Everett, which had been idle since the July 2 contest at Lakeside (another State tourney entry). Stokes greeted him with a double and Murray singled him home to make it 3-2. With one out, Eric Crawford singled and left first early. The Sox played it well and wound up retiring Murray when he made a move to the plate.
Though Bryant loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning, the second Big Mac hurler Hunter Marshall wriggled off the hook. Tucker and Breeding walked around a single by Thompson.
Harrison added two runs to the lead in the top of the fourth on a pair of walks and a pair of two-out singles from Murray and Hunter Humphrey.
Bryant got those two back to cut it to 5-4 in the home fourth. Ezell once again instigated the uprising with a lead-off walk. He took second on a wild pitch then stole third. Hastings reached base and, advanced on a passed ball as Ezell held at third. That set the table for Akers who ripped a double to the left-field corner to chase them both home. Dale reached on an error but the Sox, who stranded 15 runners in the game, left two as Harrison held onto the one-run edge.
A four-run fifth extended that advantage. A one-out walk to James Trammell and a single from Todd Davis set up the inning. Devin Dupree, the third Bryant pitcher, had a chance to get out of the inning by inducing a chopper up the middle that might’ve turned into a doubleplay but the ball was booted and Trammell scored.
Brock Humphrey doubled in a run and, later, scored on a passed ball.
Despite walks to C.J. Phillips and Ezell, the Sox were unable to score in the home fifth but Dupree eased through the sixth around a one-out single by Marshall, and the Sox rallied to regain the lead, 10-9, against Trammell.
Akers drew the first walk then Gogus singled. With one out, Tucker bounced into a force at second but he stole a base and Trammell proceeded to issue passes to Thompson, Phillips and Dupree to force in two runs. Ezell followed with his third hit, a two-run double to right-center, greeting the fourth Harrison pitcher, Hunter Humphrey.
And when Hasting’s chopped to third drew a wild throw to first, Ezell sprinted home with the go-ahead run.
Dupree hit Jones to start the second but Brock Humphrey lined to Gogus at first who doubled off Jones. Dupree struck out Stokes to finish up one of the easiest innings of the game.
Thompson walked, took second on a wild pitch, third on an infield hit by Breeding and scored when Dupree bounced into a force at second, just beating the relay at first to avoid the inning-ending doubleplay.
Harrison threatened the 11-9 lead in the top of the eighth. Murray was struck by a pitch but was forced at second on a one-hopper back to Dupree off the bat of Hunter Humphrey. With two down, Baker Wilson lashed a double to left. Humphrey scored on an errant pickoff throw at third then Jackson Murry was hit by a pitch.
Gogus relieved and got out of the inning with a grounder to Ezell at short as Harrison stranded the potential tying and lead runs.
The Sox re-extended the advantage in the bottom of the eighth against Stokes. Hastings beat out an infield hit and Akers, hobbled by leg cramps, got a two-strike sacrifice bunt down. Gogus bounced a single through the left side and, Phillips, in to run for him, stole second. Dale plated a run by lashing a single to center and, after Tucker walked, a free pass to Thompson force in a run.
Breeding followed with a chopper to short. Harrison got a force at second as Dale scored then the Big Macs got caught napping by the Ham-burgler. Tucker, who had been on second, never slowed down as he rounded third. Before Harrison realized what was happening and threw to the plate, Tucker slid in safely to make it a two-RBI fielder’s choice for Breeding and a 15-10 lead for the Sox.
Gogus retired the first two in the ninth thanks in large part to a sprawling catch in right by Austin Caldwell of a sinking liner clubbed by Jones. After a strikeout, Stokes singled, Logan Murray was hit by a pitch and Eric Crawford walked to load the bases. But Bryce Weidrick flew out to Phillips in left to end the marathon.
Bryant 15, Harrison 10