By Rob Patrick
The Bryant Black Sox appear to be back on track. After winning 12 games in a row to start the Senior American Legion season, the Sox absorbed their first loss in gut-wrenching fashion in the semifinals of the Battle of Omaha tournament on Saturday. Then, on Wednesday, they took another shot to the midsection at Sheridan when a 9-5 lead turned into a 13-9 loss in one long, nightmare of a sixth inning.
The latter contest was also their first Zone 4 setback. They bounced back and won the second game of the league twinbill at Sheridan and, on Thursday night, they ran their Zone mark to 6-1 with a 9-4 win over Little Rock Post 1 Blue.
“I think we’re over the Omaha hangover,” stated Sox manager Darren Hurt. “The way Omaha ended was heartbreaking and you could see it in the first game at Sheridan. Even though we somehow had the lead late, nothing felt good about that game at any point.
“It’s the same old story,” he mentioned. “It seems like every year we come back from one of those tournaments and we just cannot get a win. But it was huge to come back and get that second game at Sheridan and then come out here and face a kid (Little Rock’s Brandon Schmidt) that was on. When he’s throwing like that — and he’s got a lot of pitches — to beat him today was huge for us.”
Schmidt and Bryant’s Tyler Brown dueled through six innings. With his team trailing 4-2, after five, Schmidt gave way to Walter Bass and the Sox put together their big inning, scoring five times.
The Blues rallied for a pair of runs off Bryant reliever Tryce Schalchlin in the top of the seventh but the lead was never really in danger. The game ended in spectacular fashion as Schmidt cracked a single to drive in the two runs only to have Josh Pultro track down the ball toward the right-field line, and fire in to second baseman Ozzie Hurt, out in cutoff position. Hurt’s relay was a dart to Jordan Taylor at third nailing Tray Bell who was trying to get there from first.
Hunter Mayall and Taylor each had two hits for Bryant. Landon Pickett provided the big blow of the game-breaking sixth, driving in three runs with a triple then scoring as well on an errant throw.
Hurt praised Brown’s moundwork. The right-hander scattered seven hits, walked no one, hit a batter and struck out seven in six innings.
“He threw really well,” said the manager. “I think that’s his second start of the year and both of them have been spot-on. We’ve got to have him.
“Shack (Schalchlin) kind of struggled a little bit tonight but we’re trying to get him in the closing role,” Hurt added. “We’ve got to get somebody because those two games, we lost leads late. We’ve got to have guys that can come in out of the bullpen. That’s what we’re hoping for. And if Tyler Brown can be a starter then (Schalchlin) can do that.”
Bryant scored single runs in the first, second, third and fifth. Mayall started the home first with a single but was forced at second when Blues second baseman Larry Johnson robbed Tyler Nelson of a hit with a nice back-handed grab on the move to his right. He flipped to shortstop Jonathan Thompson for the out.
Moments later, however, Taylor scorched a 1-2 pitch to the base of the fence in right for an RBI double.
Brown hit Schmidt and surrendered a single by Derek Grimmett to start the second but neither moved any closer to home. Brown fanned the next two batters then ended the inning by inducing a comebacker off the bat of Cole Weber.
The Sox’ second-inning run was unearned. With one out, Hayden Lessenberry drew a walk and advanced on a wild pitch. With two down, Mayall beat out an infield hit. With runners at the corners, Mayall took off for second and not only swiped the base but drew a wild throw that enabled Lessenberry to score.
The 2-0 lead disappeared in the top of the third, however. After Lessenberry, the Sox’ catcher, retired Johnson with an splendid play on a foul ball in front of the Little Rock dugout, Thompson beat out an infield hit. Joey Abraham bounced into an apparent force play but a wild throw allowed both runners to reach safely. A wild pitch put them at second and third. Bell then ripped a shot off the arm of Taylor at third for an RBI single. Abraham came around over to third but Bell, trying to stretch to second, was thrown out.
Schmidt, who drove in three of his team’s four runs, tied the game with a single up the middle.
Bryant regained the upper hand in the bottom of the inning when, with two down, Pultro reached on an error, took second on a wild pitch and scored on a clutch two-strike single by Ozzie Hurt. Marcus Wilson made a bid for a hit but was robbed by Johnson at second who picked off the sinking liner.
With a 3-2 lead, Brown commenced to bare down and get tougher. He fanned the first two in the fourth. Weber beat out an infield hit but Theo Mitchell grounded into a force to end the fourth. Brown retired the side in order with two strikeouts in the fifth then worked around a two-out single by Bass in the sixth. Hayden Daniel helped out by tracking down a pair of flies towards the gaps.
The Sox tacked on an insurance run in the home fifth on a double by Nelson and an RBI single by Taylor. With Taylor at third and no one out after a wild pitch, Schmidt proceeded to strike out two and, with the help of another nice play by Johnson, escaped further damage.
But the bottom of the sixth brought Bass to the hill anyway. Wilson greeted him with a single up the middle on his first delivery. He then hit Lessenberry with a 2-1 pitch and plunked Daniel with a 2-0 delivery to load the bases for Mayall. His sacrifice fly made it 5-2.
With two out, Taylor kept the inning going with a walk and, with the bags juiced, Pickett launched a drive to the opposite field that went to the fence. All three runners scored as Pickett rolled into third. The errant relay there ensued and the Sox had a 9-2 advantage.
On a one-out single by Mitchell, a hit batsman and a two-out infield hit by Bell, the Blues loaded the bases for Schmidt in the top of the seventh.
Now 14-2 overall, the Black Sox host Hot Springs Lakeside tonight at 8:30 following a 6 p.m. game between the Everett Black Sox AA and the Rams.
BRYANT BLACK SOX 9, LITTLE ROCK POST 1 BLUE 4
Senior American Legion
Blues ab r h bi Black Sox ab r h bi
Mitchell, cf 4 1 1 0 Mayall, dh 3 0 2 1
Thompson, ss 3 2 2 0 Nelson, ss 4 2 1 0
Abraham, lf 4 1 0 0 Taylor, 3b 3 1 2 2
Bell, c 4 0 2 1 Pickett, 1b 3 1 1 3
Schmidt, p-1b 3 0 2 3 Pultro, rf 4 1 1 0
Grimmett, 3b 3 0 1 0 Hurt, 2b 4 0 1 1
Bass, 1b-p 3 0 1 0 Wilson, lf 3 1 1 0
Johnson, 2b 3 0 0 0 Lessenberry, c 1 2 0 0
Weber, rf 3 0 1 0 Daniel, cf 2 1 0 0
Brown, p 0 0 0 0
Schalchlin, p 0 0 0 0
Totals 30 4 10 4 Totals 27 9 9 7
Little Rock 002 000 2 — 4
Bryant 111 015 x — 9
E—Bell, Taylor, Johnson 2. LOB—Little Rock 7, Bryant 6. 2B—Taylor, Nelson. 3B—Pickett. SB—Pickett, Mayall, Lessenberry, Daniel. SF—Mayall.
Pitching ip r er h bb so
Schmidt (L) 5 4 2 6 2 5
Bass 1 5 5 3 1 1
Brown (W) 6 2 1 7 0 7
Schalchlin 1 2 2 3 0 2
HBP—Schmidt (by Brown), Lessenberry, Daniel (by Bass), Thompson (by Schalchlin). WP—Schmidt 4. Brown.
Senior Sox 9, LR Blue 4