By Rob Patrick
Usually, Craig Harrison, manager of the Bryant Black Sox Senior American Legion team, tries to avoid scheduling a Zone 4 game after his team has been out of town to a tournament like the Twin Lakes Classic in Mountain Home.
That's because there always seems to be a letdown.
But this summer, the Sox, coming off the Classic, came home to play league rival Pine Bluff Simmons and Harrison said he had to make sure his team knew how important it was.
"That tournament and the jamboree we were in in Fayetteville, they're for fun," he said he told them. "This is a league game. This is what's important."
And thanks to a stellar performance by Tyler Sawyer, whatever letdown there may have been was overcome.[more]
Sawyer dueled with Pine Bluff ace Michael Newby during the game. Both were tough but Newby had an assignment that Sawyer didn't have to deal with. Newby had to face Sawyer, the batter. And that proved to be a tough assignment too as Sawyer went 2-for-2 with a walk, scored two of Bryant's runs and drove in the other in a 3-1 victory.
"Tyler was outstanding," Harrison stated. "Whatever I called, he executed it. We were in sync tonight."
Sawyer took a two-hit shutout into the seventh. Pine Bluff managed an unearned run and had the potential tying runs in scoring position with two down. But Sawyer struck out Mason Reynolds to leave them there and complete the victory. He fanned eight without a walk and wound up with a four-hitter. The Sox defended without an error.
The Sox, now 14-2 overall and 4-0 in the Zone, were set to host Jacksonville on Wednesday in a non-league outing. Their first meeting with Little Rock Blue, another Zone 4 foe, is Saturday at Bryant High School Field.
On Tuesday, Landon Hardin led off the game with a single. He was forced at second on a comebacker to the mound then Nick Cox hit a hard grounder to the left of third sacker Hunter Mayall who snagged it and threw to Austin Benning at second to start an inning-ending doubleplay.
The Sox got all Sawyer would need in the bottom of the inning. Justin Blankenship was hit by Newby's very first pitch. Caleb Garrett bounced into a force out then Sawyer got into a 1-2 delivery and drilled it to the fence in center for an RBI triple.
He scored moments later on a passed back to make it 2-0.
With two out, Brady Butler earned a walk then Mayall lashed a liner to left. He was robbed of a hit on a diving catch by Hardin.
Both pitchers retired the side in order in the second. In the top of the third, Sawyer worked around a one-out single by Thomas Strahan. Newby, in turn, retired the first two in the third before facing Sawyer again. On a full count, Sawyer cracked a single to left. Kaleb Jobe followed with a high fly down the left-field line that Hardin appeared to have run down. But he dropped it. Sawyer, on the run with two down, eased into third and when the relay to the infield got away, settling right near the third-base line halfway between third and home, Sawyer took off, passing the ball about the time that Newby recovered it. Newby's throw to the plate wasn't in time and the Sox had a 3-0 lead.
On the mound, Sawyer had commenced on a streak in which he retired 11 in a row.
Newby worked around a walk and a hit batsman in the fourth. In the fifth, Garrett pulled a double down the line in left to put a runner in scoring position for Sawyer with one out. This time, however, Newby walked him and retired the next two on popups to keep it 3-0 going into the sixth.
Jesse Blackstock relieved for Pine Bluff in the sixth and worked around a two-out infield hit by B.J. Ellis who, along with Brennan Bullock, had been hit by a pitch only to have the homeplate umpire call them back to the batter's box, ruling they hadn't made sufficient effort to get out of the way or they'd leaned into the ball.
The seventh inning started with a strike out of Robbie Graves. But the third strike got past Ellis, the Bryant catcher, and Graves reached base.
Cox flew out to right but Matt Harbison pulled a single between first and second for just the third Pine Bluff hit of the game, the first since the third inning.
A wild pitch moved the runners to second and third and when Jeffrey Hayes beat out an infield hit, Graves scored to make it 3-1.
Blackstock grounded out but the runners moved up to second and third for Reynolds who fanned on three pitches to end the game.
BRYANT 3, PINE BLUFF SIMMONS 1
Pine Bluff Simmons ab r h bi Black Sox ab r h bi
Hardin, lf 3 0 1 0 Blankenship, rf 2 0 0 0
Lee, cf 2 0 0 0 Garrett, cf 3 1 1 0
Graves, cf 1 1 0 0 Sawyer, p 2 2 2 1
Cox, c 3 0 0 0 Jobe, ss 3 0 0 0
Harbison, ss 3 0 1 0 Butler, 1b 2 0 0 0
Hayes, 3b 3 0 1 1 Mayall, 3b 2 0 0 0
Blackstock, dh-p 3 0 0 0 Bullock, lf 3 0 0 0
Arnold, 1b 1 0 0 0 Ellis, c 2 0 1 0
Reynolds, 1b 2 0 0 0 Benning, 2b 3 0 0 0
Strahan, 2b 1 0 1 0
Wilson, 2b 1 0 0 0
Reed, rf 2 0 0 0
Newby, p 0 0 0 0
Totals 25 1 4 1 Totals 22 3 4 1
Pine Bluff 000 000 1 — 1
BRYANT 201 000 x — 3
E—Hardin, Harbison. DP—Bryant 1. LOB—Pine Bluff 3, Bryant 6. 2B—Garrett. 3B—Sawyer.
Pitching ip r er h bb so
Pine Bluff Simmons
Newby (L) 5 3 1 3 4 4
Blackstock 1 0 0 1 0 2
Sawyer (W) 7 1 0 4 0 8
HBP—Blankenship, Ellis (by Newby). WP—Sawyer 2. PB—Cox, Ellis 2.