Senior Sox find a way past Continental Express
EDITOR’S NOTE: Because the look back at each day in Bryant athletic history has been so favorably received during the time when there was no sports during the COVID-19 shutdown, BryantDaily.com will continueposting past stories of Bryant athletics either posted on BryantDaily.com (from 2009 to the present) or published in the Bryant Times (from 1998 to 2008).
By Rob Patrick
LITTLE ROCK — The regular-season ending gauntlet for the Bryant Black Sox Senior American Legion team has begun. And, in a game that was a nail-biter through six innings, the Sox extracted an 11-4 win over Little Rock Continental Express at UALR’s Gary Hogan Field at Curran Conway Stadium.
It was the first of seven games in seven days for the Sox, a stretch that includes six Zone 4 contests. Along with Tuesday’s game, they visit Benton McClendon’s tonight then Little Rock Post 1 Blue at Little Rock Central High School on Thursday before hosting Hope for a doubleheader on Friday. After a day off on Saturday, they take a break from league action Sunday against the Conway Cougars before finishing up the league and regular season on Monday, July 11, at home against Pine Bluff Simmons First Bank, the team, which has pinned their lone league loss on them.
Tuesday’s win improved the Sox to 11-5 overall, 6-1 in the Zone. They led just 5-4 going into the seventh inning. And it took inning-ending other-than-standard doubleplays to get out of jams in the fifth and sixth with a lead.
Thanks to a two-out error in the top of the seventh, Bryant was able to score six times (five unearned) to put the game out of reach much to the frustration of the Express players.
In the first meeting between the two teams this season, Bryant led just 2-1 going into the seventh and scored four times to make it look easier than it was.
On Tuesday, missed opportunities early added to the anxiety about the game.
“I think that was the ugliest game of the year,” declared Sox manager Darren Hurt. “That was one that I guess I’d call a pillow fight. We were sitting there, fourth, fifth, sixth (innings) — we’re getting runners on, we’re getting situations where we ought to score runs and then we’re going quietly. I just knew that was going to come back to haunt us. But we got a win.”
Starter Tyler Brown picked up the win with four innings of work on the mound in which he worked in and out of jams, leaving with his team up 5-3. Matt Neal worked the fifth when Continental trimmed the lead to 5-4 then Dylan Cross picked up his fourth save of the season blanking the Express in the sixth and seventh.
“We’re really trying to piece it together right now,” Hurt said of the pitching he hoped to cobble together to cover the difficult stretch. “We laid a plan out for the whole week yesterday and, so far, it hasn’t gone according to plan.”
That was due mainly to the fact that Bryant’s third baseman Lucas Castleberry was spiked in the throwing hand diving back to second on a pick-off play after he’d doubled to lead off the second inning. Castleberry was set to move to shortstop so that Jordan Taylor could relieve Brown.
“Brown was going to start it then J.T. was going to throw two and Cross was going to throw two,” Hurt explained. “So we were really only asking Tyler to throw three. But Lucas’ injury changed everything because then our defense was going to be — we were going to have to move too many pieces around to make it work. So once Lucas had to come out of the game, we scrapped that plan.”
Early on, the Sox kept setting the proverbial table and Brady Butler kept producing runs by putting the ball in play. Though he wound up with just one hit in the game, he drove in four runs. Chris Joiner, Taylor, Landon Pickett, B.J. Ellis and Ozzie Hurt each had two hits for the Sox.
Butler’s hit came in the first. Joiner had opened the game with a single up the middle off Express right-hander Thomas Fiedorek. With Joiner on the move, Brown grounded to third. Taylor’s bouncer to second got Joiner to third and, after Pickett drew an unintentional intentional walk, Butler worked the count to 3-2 before slicing a fly to right.
At Hogan Field, early in the evening, right field is the sun field and it proved beneficial to the Sox at that moment because Little Rock’s Jarrell Shpeard lost track of Butler’s hit which fell in for a two-run double.
After Brown retired the side in order in the bottom of the inning, the Sox got a pair of runners in scoring position with nobody out. Castleberry had doubled to right and, after Brodie Nixon came on to run for him, Ellis singled to left, headily sprinting to second when the throw from left field to hold Nixon at third, missed the cut-off man.
But Fiedorek worked out of the inning. Nixon was thrown out trying to score on a safety squeeze as Hurt got the bunt down. Joiner popped to second and Brown bounced to third.
Consecutive singles by Ben Gipson, Fiedorek and Ian Mayfield produced Continental’s first run in the bottom of the second but, thanks to a nice play in the hole by Taylor to retire Jarrell Shepard, two were stranded.
Taylor then led off the third with a ringing double to left-center. Pickett singled him to third and, alertly, took second when the throw from left missed the cut-off. This time, it burned the Express.
With the infield back, Butler chopped one to second to get Taylor home. Josh Pultro followed with a grounder to short that brought Pickett in, making it 4-1.
John Mark Osburn, Ethan Shepard and Ivan Tate each singled to produce another Continental run. Jacob Green followed with a grounder to Nixon’s left at third. He fielded the ball and nearly tagged Shepard on his way to third. So, when he went on to throw to second to start a doubleplay, it was nearly a triple play.
With Shepard at third, Brown got Gipson to ground out to Nixon to end the inning.
In the top of the fourth, Ellis ripped a pea back at Fiedorek, who hobbled off the mound after the ball hit him flush on the side of the knee. Mayfield grabbed the ricochet and threw to first. The rushed throw was wild and Ellis wound up at second.
But Fiedorek was tended to and eventually limped off the field. Mark Callaway took over and retired the side with Ellis stranded at third.
And the Express kept the heat on with another run in the bottom of the inning. Mayfield and Callaway shot a hit-and-run single to right. Jarrell Shepard delivered the run with a sacrifice fly and, after Osburn singled, Brown got Ethan Shepard to pop to Taylor at short to preserve the 4-3 lead.
Taylor and Pickett, who were in the middle of much of the scoring action for the Sox, led off the top of the fifth with base hits. With runners at the corners, Butler got the job done by putting the ball in play. His grounder to short resulted in a force at second and Taylor scoring.
Pultro singled Butler to third then the Sox tried to pull a double steal to pick up a run but the Little Rock team executed on defense. Gipson, the second baseman, cut off the throw to second from Green, the Express catcher. He fired back to Green in time to retire Butler. It took a perfect throw and that’s what Gipson provided, keeping it 5-3.
Continental made a bid to tie the game or take the lead in the bottom of the inning as Neal relieved. With one out, Green doubled, taking third on a wild pitch. Gipson walked then Garrett Olmstead pulled a single into right. Green scored and Gipson raced to third with the potential tying run.
But, with Pickett holding Olmstead at first, Mayfield slapped a liner just outside of first. Pickett speared it and caught Olmstead wandering off the bag for an rally-killing doubleplay.
Cross relieved in the sixth and was greeted by Callaway with a single. He advanced on a grounder to first by Jarrell Shepard and Osburn was hit by a pitch to put the potential tying and lead runs aboard. Ethan Shepard lofted a fly into shallow left-center that looked like it might fall in for a game-tying base hit only to have Joiner come streaking in from left field to make the catch. With Callaway anxious to score if the ball fell in, he couldn’t get back in time as Joiner threw to Ozzie Hurt covering the bag for another inning-ending twin-killing.
The game-breaking seventh wouldn’t have broken the game open at all had it not been for the speed of Caleb Garrett and a two-out error. Callaway got Brown to ground out to start the inning but then he hit Taylor with a pitch and walked both Pickett (again unintentionally intentional) and Butler to load the bases. Garrett, who had come in to run for Pultro to attempt the ill-fated double-steal in the fifth, fouled off a pair of tough 2-2 deliveries. He then hit a high hopper towards short. Tate charged the ball but by the time he got a throw to first, Garrett had crossed the bag.
Taylor scored and when the ball was kicked around some at first, Pickett tried to sneak home only to be tagged out.
Cross was up next and he was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Ellis. Callaway and the Express appeared to be out of the inning trailing 6-4 when Ellis shot a pop into the night sky. Tate called for it at second only to drop it. With the runners off on contact with two out, both Butler and Garrett scored to make it 8-4.
Hurt singled in Cross, taking second on a late throw to the plate.
Tate came on to relieve Callaway and, on a 2-2 delivery, Joiner delivered the final blow, ripping a single up the middle to drive in two.
In the bottom of the inning, Cross issued a two-out walk to Gipson but then struck out Bo Turney to end the game.
For Wednesday’s game at Benton and probably Thursday’s at Little Rock Blue, the Sox will be without Taylor, Pultro, Cross and Tyler Nelson, who was out trying to heel a bad back. That quartet is scheduled to participate in the Xtrainnings camp in Jonesboro.
BRYANT 11, LITTLE ROCK CONTINENTAL EXPRESS 4
Senior American Legion
Black Sox ab r h bi Express ab r h bi
Joiner, lf 5 1 2 2 Osburn, lf 3 1 2 0
Brown, p-3b 5 0 0 0 E.Shepard, cf-1b-rf 4 0 1 1
Taylor, ss 3 3 2 0 Tate, ss-p 4 0 1 0
Pickett, 1b 2 2 2 0 Green, c 4 1 1 0
Butler, rf 3 1 1 4 Gipson, 2b-ss 2 1 1 0
Jobe, rf 0 0 0 0 Fiedorek, p 1 0 1 0
Pultro, cf 3 0 1 1 Olmstead, cf 2 0 1 1
Garrett, pr-cf 1 1 1 1 Turney, cf 1 0 0 0
Castleberry, 3b 1 0 1 0 Mayfield, 3b 3 1 2 1
Nixon, pr-3b 2 0 0 0 Callaway, 1b-p 3 0 2 0
Neal, p 0 0 0 0 J.Shepard, rf-2b 2 0 0 1
Hurt, 2b 4 1 2 1
Totals 33 11 14 9 Totals 29 4 12 4
BRYANT 202 010 6 — 11
LR Express 011 110 0 — 4
E—Mayfield, E.Shepard, Tate. DP—Bryant 3. LOB—Bryant 6, LR Continental Express 8. 2B—Butler, Castleberry, Green. SB—Osburn. SF—J.Shepard.
Pitching ip r er h bb so
Brown (W) 4 3 3 9 0 1
Neal 1 1 1 2 1 0
Cross (S) 2 0 0 1 1 1
LR Continental Express
Fiedorek (L) 3 4 4 7 1 0
Callaway 3.2 7 2 6 2 0
Tate 0.1 0 0 1 0 1
HBP—Taylor (by Callaway), Osburn (by Cross). WP—Callaway, Neal.