For more photos of this event by Rick Nation, go here
Dylan Hurt had made plenty of visits to the mound as a catcher both at Bryant and at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith. But he’d never made that walk as a coach.
Until Sunday night.
With the Bryant Black Sox up 4-1 on the hard-hitting Cabot Centennial Bank RailCats in the top of the seventh, Dylan was pleading with his dad, Darren Hurt, the manager of the Sox, to let him go talk to closer Coby Greiner after he had issued walks to the eight- and nine-hole hitters for Cabot.
Greiner was trying to close out a splendid two-hitter that starter Will Hathcote had taken into the sixth and Tyler Bates had sent to the seventh.
The top of the Cabot lineup featured a trio of college-bound hitters led by University of Kentucky signee Houston King.
Darren Hurt relented and let Dylan make a visit.
“I knew exactly what he needed,” Dylan related later, speaking of Greiner. “He looked a little scared out there.”
Elimination games have that affect, even on a seasoned player like Greiner, who set a Bryant High School record for saves in a season and a career before heading to college.
Dylan Hurt continued, “I made all the infielders come in and said, ‘Whoever thinks Greiner’s the best player on this field today, say aye. And every one of them, of course, said aye.
“Of course, I had to use some choice words to get him to really listen to me,” he added. “But I said, ‘Greiner, everybody here knows you’re the best player here. You’re the only one right now that doesn’t know it. This lead-off, he’s going to Kentucky and all that but there’s no doubt in my mind, he’s got nothing on you. So, don’t throw any balls. Don’t try to work around him. You’re going to attack him and you’re going to strike him out.’ That’s pretty much what I said.
“And I said, ‘You’re going to shut this game down and we’re going to come back and win a championship in Sheridan,’” Dylan said. “I kind of had to get him a little fired up, kind of had to make him a little bit mad and let him know that he had it.”
Sure enough, Greiner fanned King, who went hitless for the first time in the tournament. He got Jackson Olivi on a one-hopper back to the mound that resulted in a force at second. The final out came on a little tapper toward first off the bat of Kyler Carmack that Greiner pounced on, throwing to Peyton Dillon at first to end the game.
“Greiner said that we won because of what Dylan told him,” Darren Hurt said.
It avenged the Sox’ 13-6 loss to Cabot to open the tournament. Cabot went on to club Texarkana, 11-1 and nearly overcame a big early deficit against Fort Smith before falling short, 9-7, on Saturday.
Sunday’s loss eliminated the RailCats.
Sunday’s results left four teams standing, with only Fort Smith Sportsman still undefeated after a 17-6 romp over Sheridan in the winners’ bracket final. Russellville eliminated Texarkana 11-1 so Bryant will play Sheridan at 8 p.m., and Russellville will play Fort Smith at 5 in the “extra game” on Monday. Win or lose, Fort Smith will be in the finals on Tuesday. All remaining games will be played at Oliver Williams Field in Sheridan.
Earlier on Sunday, the Black Sox ousted El Dorado, 15-1, to set up the rematch with Cabot, which was, by most observers, considered the best hitting team in the tourney.
The Sox, however, were set with Hathcote, who has shined for the Senior Sox as well as the State champion Junior Sox this summer. He had not pitched in the Senior State yet after throwing over 100 pitches in the Junior State championship game.
Hathcote was, as they say, shoving it on Sunday.
Pitching into the sixth, he shackled the RailCats, walking four and fanning seven before giving way to Tyler Bates, who got the last out of the sixth. Greiner took over in the seventh.
The trick for Hathcote was an easy first inning, a rare occurrence of late for the big right-hander.
“He’s had the first-inning jitters the last two or three outings,” Darren Hurt acknowledged. “He’s really struggled.
“But he had great command right off the bat,” he added, noting that Hathcote only needed nine pitches to retire the side. “Once he got through the first, I knew we had Will at his best. So, it was just going to be a matter of how far we could ride him.”
So, what was the key to the better beginning?
Darren Hurt said he told Hathcote, “’Pitch to contact. Don’t try to strike everybody out.’ He’s been overthrowing and, in my opinion, he’s been trying to really ramp up his velocity. I think sometimes that gets him in trouble. He lives on movement, cutters and curveballs, and that’s what he needs to live with.”
But a two-hitter? Against Cabot’s sluggers?
“I felt like we were going to win the game,” said the Sox manager. “I really did. After the other night, people would probably think I was crazy, but I really thought we were going to win the ballgame. But I didn’t expect to win it that way. I knew our pitching would be solid but, with that lineup, you just expect you’ve got to score six or seven to win the ballgame.”
Bryant got three in the bottom of the first and, as it turned out, that was enough, but they added a big insurance run in the fourth.
Cade Drennan went 2 for 2 with a walk, after going 2 for 3 with a walk in the win over El Dorado, and 3 for 4 in a win over Crossett on Saturday and 1 for 2 with two walks against Cabot the first time. He doubled in the third run of the first inning.
“Drennan is just on fire,” Darren Hurt asserted. “Nobody can get it by him right now. His at bats are so huge. If we can get guys in front of him on base, then the other teams are in trouble right now.”
Noah Davis was hit by the first pitch from Cabot starter Jakob Petross in the bottom of the first. Three pitches later, Ryan Riggs lashed a single to left. With Logan Catton at the plate, Petross whirled for a pickoff throw to try to get Davis at second but no one was covering, and the throw sailed into center. Davis hustled to third and, when the return throw to third by center fielder Grant Fitch sailed over third baseman Blayse Quarnstrom, Riggs hustled to second.
Catton hit a grounder to short that would drive in Davis and when shortstop Eli Hutcherson’s throw to first was errant, Riggs scored as well.
Catton wound up at second. He scored on Drennan double down the left-field line to make it 3-0.
“Early in the game, that’s what we did; we put pressure on them, and they made some mistakes,” said Darren Hurt. “We took advantage of it. But we also should have gotten four or five that inning. It worked out though.”
Cabot’s first hit was a one-out homer by Austin Scritchfield in the top of the second. Hathcote fanned Fitch but then walked Quarnstrom and Kyler Franks to put the potential tying runs on base. But, after a visit from his manager, Hathcote fanned Hutcherson to end the threat.
Petross pitched around a lead-off walk to Conner Martin in the bottom of the second. In the top of the third, Hathcote fanned King. Olivi singled for the second — and last — Cabot knock. Olivi took second on a wild pitch but when he tried to make third on Carmack’s grounder to Martin at short, he was nailed at third. Hathcote struck out clean-up hitter Logan Bell to end the inning.
Drennan’s one-out single in the bottom of the third went for naught.
In the fourth, Greiner, playing center, sprinted deep towards the wall to track down a drive by Fitch. Quarnstrom walked with two out, took second on a wild pitch but was then thrown out trying to steal third by Drennan, the Sox’ catcher.
With one out in the bottom of the fourth, Aaron Morgan singled to center. Martin doubled down the right-field line then Blaine Sears drove in the run with a sacrifice fly.
And the final score was on the board, but the tension was only beginning. Hathcote worked around a two-out walk to King in the top of the fifth.
In the sixth, Morgan made a diving catch of a sinking liner to right to rob Carmack of a hit.
Hathcote, who entered the inning with 97 pitches on the books, nearly got out of the inning before reaching the allowed pitch limit of 105 but an error extended the inning.
Bates took over and, another error had a pair on base. But he struck out Quarnstrom to squelch the uprising.
Petross gave way to lefty Justin Graham in the bottom of the sixth. He hit Morgan with a pitch but fanned the next two to send it to the seventh.
Enter Greiner. Darren Hurt never thought about taking him out after the walks to Franks and Hutcherson.
“He was going,” Hurt said. “When we gave him the ball — he’s kind of the captain; he’s a 19-year-old and this is his last ride, so we were either going to be victorious or . . .
There had been no notion of bringing in Greiner in the sixth. That was Bates’ assignment all the way.
“We already had the plan,” Hurt related. “We wanted to get the out but — then, of course, they had the lefty up, so we were going to let Bates go against the next couple of guys.
“Now, we would’ve gone to Greiner if Bates wasn’t on, but Bates looked really good,” he allowed. “In fact, he looked good enough that we toyed with, you know, ‘Do we send him back out there?’ But we all decided, no, we’re going with our guy. With this lineup, we’re not playing around. We’re sending our best out there and if we win, we win; if we lose, we lose.”
Bryant 15, El Dorado 1
The Sox fell behind the Oilers 1-0 in the first inning and that was still the score going into the bottom of the third.
“You know, I don’t know if I was nervous or mad,” Darren Hurt said. “I was both. Our guys absolutely had Cabot on the brain and here was El Dorado over there trying to kick our tails. And we’re acting like they weren’t even here.
“We were about to do some subbing,” he asserted. “We were going to find some guys that were going to beat El Dorado. Finally, they decided, in the third inning, they’d wake up and start playing.”
The Sox erupted for eight in the third. Seven more in the fourth made it a run-rule victory.
But it was tense early.
El Dorado’s Baylor Brumley tripled with one out in the first then Jake Eubanks singled him in. Logan White, the Bryant starter, walked Braden Doherty but then he picked Eubanks off second. Tyler Johnson singled to center but, moments later, catcher Ryan Riggs threw out Doherty when he tried to steal third.
In the bottom of the inning, Davis singled, stole second and third but, when he stole third, he thought the high throw from the Oilers’ catcher had sailed into the outfield. Johnson, the third baseman, had been able to leap up and flag it down so when Davis started home, he was tagged out trying to get back.
Catton, who was 4 for 4 in the game singled and Drennan walked but both were stranded.
In the second, a one-out error and a walk had White in trouble again, but he fanned Jackson Cook and got Tanner McLelland to tap to Catton at third for a force.
Bryant was unable to take advantage of a walk to Morgan and a single by Sears, who was 3 for 3 in the game.
Slade Renfrow took over on the mound for the Sox in the third. He walked the first two he faced but, after a visit from Darren Hurt, he locked in and struck out the next two. Dillon dug out a throw in the dirt on a grounder to Martin at short by Rhett Richardson to retire the side.
Bryant’s third began with a walk to Riggs on a pitch that went to the backstop. Riggs rounded first and hustled to second, diving in just ahead of the throw from Cook, the Oilers’ catcher.
That sparked the Sox. Catton’s single to left drove Riggs home. And when the ball was misplayed in the outfield, he took second. Drennan’s shot to center for a single was hit too hard for Catton to score but Dillon spanked a single to center to make it 3-2.
Greiner’s squeeze bunt not only plated Jordan Knox, who was running for Drennan, it went for a hit. Renfrow got a squeeze bunt down to get Dillon home. An errant throw allowed Renfrow to reach safely as Greiner sprinted to third.
Yet another bunt, this time by Martin, resulted in a play at the plate but the throw by Brumley, the Oilers’ pitcher, got past Cook as Greiner scored.
One more time, the Sox bunted. Sears’ sacrifice attempt went for a single that loaded the bases.
Riggs’ sacrifice fly made it 6-1 then Catton’s lined single to right center made it an eight-run outburst.
Regarding the small ball — four consecutive bunts, Darren Hurt said, “Once we figured out they struggled with that, of course, we took advantage of it.”
Colby Morrow took over on the mound for Bryant. He would retire six of the last seven batters to close out the game. The lone baserunner came on a two-out walk in the fourth.
Bryant’s fourth included eight hits, starting with a single by Dillon, who was 3 for 4. He would later single in a run. With one out, Morrow was struck by a pitch. Martin, Sears and Davis each singled in a run.
With two out, Catton singled in another. Drennan’s base hit plated Davis and Greiner’s knock chased in Knox to make it 15-1.