By Rob Patrick
MAUMELLE — Between a hotly contested league doubleheader at Texarkana on Saturday and a trip to Tennessee to face the toughest competition they've seen this season, the Bryant Black Sox Senior American Legion team headed up the road to take on the Maumelle AA squad on Monday night.
Sound like a prime opportunity for a letdown?
That's what Bryant manager Craig Harrison felt happened despite the fact that his team managed a 5-3 win to improve to 20-2 on the season.
"It's not effort," he asserted, "it's focus. We haven't had a night like this since the first week of the season. You look back over the years and every year there's been a game during the middle of the season where we just think we can walk out here and we're going to win. They look at the other guys taking infield or whatever and they say, 'Well, we're going to win.'
"That's why I get a little more intense maybe than when we're playing a really good team," he added. "Just because, you just know that one pitch and our 20-2 record is no good anymore.
"But we battled and we made enough plays to win. We're past this. Now let's go and try to win a tournament in Tennessee."[more]
The tourney, called the Independence Day Classic, is at Columbia. Bryant will open pool play at 11 a.m. on Thursday against a team from nearby Murfreesboro, Tenn. On Friday, they take on teams from Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Louisville, Ky.
At Maumelle, the Sox snapped a 3-3 tie in the top of the fourth when Brennan Bullock was hit by a pitch, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Austin Queck and scored on a two-out single to right by Justin Blankenship.
Queck, who started the game on the mound, came back from allowing three runs in the third to retire the side in order in the fourth. Blankenship took over in the fifth and worked into the seventh before giving way to Kaleb Jobe who finished the game out for a save.
The Sox added an insurance run in the sixth when, with two out, B.J. Ellis singled and Blankenship ripped a triple to right.
The two teams mirrored each other in the third when both scored their first three runs. For Bryant, Queck walked and Ellis was hit by a pitch. After Blankenship flew out to left, Caleb Garrett bounced into a force at second, keeping the inning alive by beating the relay to first. A pitch later, Tyler Sawyer sliced on down the left-field line for a double that, because their were two outs and he was off with the crack of the bat, scored Garrett all the way from first.
Sawyer advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Hunter Mayall to make it 3-0.
Queck had issued a lead-off walk in the opening inning but, after Evan Buck advanced to second on a wild pitch, the Bryant hurler picked him off. In the second, the right-hander worked around a two-out walk.
The Maumelle third started with the No. 8 batter at the plate, just as had been the case for Bryant in the top of the inning. A walk was issued to Travis Weigle and, after Queck got Tyler Shaw to pop up the Brady Butler at first, Buck singled up the middle and Lake Leisenring was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Queck came back to strike out Daniel Hopkins and got two strikes in on Brittain Ibbotson before he looped a two-run single to right-center. Zach Harbarka, on the very next pitch, singled to drive in Leisenring with the tying run.
Queck gave way to Blankenship to start the fifth. He fanned Buck but Leisenring slapped a single to right. Hopkins, however, hit a one-hopper back to Blankenship who turned and fed Sawyer at short for the force at second. Sawyer relayed to first and Butler dug out a low throw to complete a doubleplay.
In the sixth, Ibbotson singled but Blankenship set down the next three with little trouble.
A walk to start the seventh, however, moved Harrison to bring in Jobe who induced a flyout to left off Shaw's bat. Buck waited out a walk to put runners at first and second with the potential winning run at the plate. But Jobe got Leisenring to ground to Austin Benning at second who started a 4-6-3 doubleplay to end the game.
BRYANT 5, MAUMELLE 3
Black Sox ab r h bi Maumelle ab r h bi
Blankenship, rf-p 4 0 2 2 Buck, lf 2 1 1 0
Garrett, cf 3 1 0 0 Leisenring, c 3 1 1 0
Sawyer, ss 4 1 2 2 Hopkins, 3b 3 0 0 0
Mayall, 3b 4 0 2 1 Ibbotson, cf-p 3 0 2 2
Jobe, 2b-p 3 0 1 0 Harbarka, ss 3 0 1 1
Butler, 1b 4 0 0 0 Lane, rf 3 0 0 0
Bullock, lf 2 1 0 0 Fitzpatrick, p-cf 3 0 0 0
Queck, p-rf 1 1 0 0 Weigle, 2b 1 1 0 0
Benning, 2b 0 0 0 0 Ward, pr 0 0 0 0
Ellis, c 2 1 1 0 Shaw, 1b 3 0 0 0
Totals 27 5 8 5 Totals 24 3 5 3
BRYANT 003 101 0 — 5
Maumelle 003 000 0 — 3
E—Ellis. DP—Bryant 2. LOB—Bryant 7, Maumelle 5. 2B—Sawyer. 3B—Blankenship. S—Queck.
Pitching ip r er h bb so
Queck (W) 4 3 3 3 3 2
Blankenship 2 0 0 2 1 2
Jobe (S) 1 0 0 0 1 0
Fitzpatrick (L) 5.2 5 5 7 2 2
Ibbotson 1.1 0 0 1 0 1
Blankenship faced one batter in the seventh inning.
HBP—Ellis, Bullock, Garrett (by Fitzpatrick), Leisenring (by Queck). WP—Fitzpatrick 3.