If the Bryant Black Sox are going to win their fourth consecutive Senior American Legion State championship, they’re going to have to do it through the losers’ bracket after they opened the tournament at Bryant High School Field with a 13-6 loss to the Cabot Centennial Bank RailCats on Tuesday night.
They’ll play next against Mountain Home in an elimination game on Thursday afternoon at 3.
All of their games from here on will be elimination games, which can create a little more urgency and focus for a team.
The frustrating thing for the Sox was that they were handed a whopping 13 walks and two hit batsman. They wound up stranding 14 baserunners because they could only muster five hits, three of which came in the first two innings when they grabbed a 3-0 lead.
The clutch hits they’ve been getting in recent weeks when they’ve won 12 of their last 14, just didn’t happen on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Cabot benefitted from nine walks by Bryant pitchers, taking advantage with 11 hits including four doubles.
Coby Greiner, the Sox stellar right-hander was cruising through 2 2/3 innings, but he could never that the third out of the third. He fanned the first two in the third then Cabot’s nine-hole hitter, Zack Hardcastle, got enough of an 0-2 breaking pitch to single to left.
Things got rough from there. Lead-off man Houston King, who’s headed to the University of Kentucky on a baseball scholarship this fall, drew a walk then Jackson Olivi lined a 3-1 pitch down the right-field line for an RBI double.
King scored on a balk. An error extended the inning and allowed Olivi to score the tying run.
Logan Bell doubled and, after Jaiden Ryals and Grant Fitch drew walks, forcing in the go-ahead run, Kyler Franks slapped a 3-2 pitch down the line in right, just fair, for a three-run double to give the RailCats a 7-3 lead.
Cabot would add on in each of the next four innings as Sox manager Darren Hurt got work in from four relievers, keeping each under 30 pitches, which will make them available on Thursday if needed.
Olivi wound up with three hits. King was on base all five times he came to the plate. He had two hits and scored four times. Carmack had two hits as well.
In the top of the fourth, consecutive singles by that trio, King, Olivi and Carmack produced another run to make it 8-3.
In the bottom of the fourth, walks were issued to Ryan Riggs, Cade Drennan and Peyton Dillon to load the bases. After a pitching change, J.T. Parker was struck by a pitch to force in Riggs. But the Sox were unable to make it a bigger inning with a hit. Lukas Petross, the third Cabot pitcher, ended the inning with a strikeout.
It was a similar situation to earlier in the game when the Sox were on the verge of blowing up the game.
In the first, Logan Catton drew a two-out walk, Drennan singled and, after Peyton Dillon walked, Greiner helped his own cause with a bouncer up the middle to drive in two.
A wild pitch by Cabot starter Jakob Petross put runners at second and third but the clutch hit did not come. A strikeout ended the threat.
Still, the Sox led 2-0.
In the second, after two were out, Noah Davis singled to center and Riggs walked. A free pass to Catton filled the bags for Drennan, who drew an RBI walk to make it 3-0. With the bases loaded, Petross gave way to Justin Graham who got the third out on a fly to left.
So, Bryant had stranded five in the first two innings. The Sox’ lead might’ve been much bigger.
Greiner had issued a lead-off walk to King to start the game, but he picked him off first. He then retired seven in a row, five on strikes.
With Slade Renfrow following Logan White to the mound in the fifth, Fitch drew a one-out walk and Franks was struck by a pitch. Eli Hutcherson singled to right to make it 9-4. The Sox worked a strong cutoff play even after the ball was mishandled in the outfield. Blaine Sears got the ball into Dillon on the cut. Dillon fired to Drennan, the catcher, in time to nail Franks at the plate.
But the Sox were set down in order in the bottom of the fifth. In the top of the sixth, Cabot scored three more. King and Olivi started the inning with walks. Sears took over on the mound and was greeted by an RBI single up the middle on a 1-2 pitch to Carmack.
Runners moved to second and third on Logan Bell’s bouncer to Davis at second. A walk to Ryals loaded the bases then Fitch picked up an RBI by grounding into a force at second. A double steal accounted for the 12th run of the game for Cabot.
In the home sixth, Dillon lashed a two-out single and, after another pitching change, Greiner worked a walk. Bradley Morse, the fourth Cabot pitcher induced a grounder to short to end that threat.
King doubled on a 3-2 pitch with two out in the top of the seventh. Olivi singled him in to give the RailCats a baker’s dozen.
In Bryant’s last try, Morse’s lack of command resulted in walks to Sears, Davis and Riggs. Sears scored on an errant throw back to the mound by Ryals, the Cabot catcher. Davis scored on a balk. With two out, Drennan was hit by a pitch to put two aboard.
Morse, however, gave way to Olivi, who finished the game with a strikeout.