By Rob Patrick
LITTLE ROCK — Chances are both Daniel boys will be pitching in Omaha, Neb., next[more] week.
Big brother Trent, a junior lefty who sparkled in clutch situations for the Arkansas Razorbacks in their Super Regional at Baylor, will be twirling in the College World Series in Omaha. Meanwhile, kid brother Hayden, whom Trent nicknamed Petey when they were little, has stepped into the pitching possibilities for the Bryant Black Sox Senior American Legion team, which will be competing at the 19-and-under Battle of Omaha tourney.
On Tuesday night, the younger Daniel made his first mound appearance in a game in two years, starting the second contest of a Zone 4 Legion twinbill against the Little Rock Express at UALR’s Hogan Field. Another outfielder, Josh Pultro, finished that game with a 1-2-3 seventh. It was the first time in four years that Pultro pitched in a game.
The Sox swept the doubleheader by identical 6-1 scores to improve to 5-0 overall and 4-0 in Zone games. The use of Daniel and Pultro along with third baseman Tyler Brown, who started the opener and went the distance in his second appearance as a pitcher since throwing a few innings last year, is part of an effort by Sox manager Darren Hurt to deepen his pitching staff.
“We threw some 30-pitch bullpens (Monday) just to see what we had,” Hurt said. “Just like Josh there at the end — he’s been begging me to look at him and I’ve kind of been blowing him off. But he walked into the bullpen last night and probably threw harder than anybody we’ve got. I said, ‘Well, we might be able to work with this.’ We were hoping to be able to give him a shot, just like we did, in the last inning tonight to see if he could actually do it in a game situation. We didn’t get to see him in the stretch yet but he did a really good job in the wind-up.
"I thought Petey did a good job too," he added.
It’s not just for Omaha, Hurt indicated.
“Down the line, when we know it’s going to be nine-inning games,” he noted, referring to Zone District play June 20-24 in Texarkana with designs on a return to the Senior State Tournament where the Sox finished as runners-up a year ago.
“We’re trying to get to seven or eight arms instead of just four that we ride all the time,” he continued. “We’re just trying to expand it a little bit.”
While Brown held Little Rock to just two hits in the first game and the combination of Daniel, Tryce Schalchlin and Pultro gave up just six in the nightcap, the Sox were scratching out runs against a trio of soft-tossing right-handers, Joseph Harris and Corben Knell in the opener then Douglas Munson and Knell in the second game.
“The pitching was definitely a different velocity than what we’ve been seeing,” Hurt said. “We did not make any adjustments early. We talked and talked and talked and we were preaching go the other way, go the other way. We just couldn’t get it done. Their kids threw good games. They kept us off balance and we didn’t really square them up very much.”
In the first game, Hunter Mayall was 3-for-3 with a walk while Marcus Wilson finished with two hits. Only Tyler Nelson added a hit to their total but the Sox took advantage of five walks and two hit batsmen.
In game two, the Sox increased the total to nine hits with Mayall going 2 for 4 with a walk. Pultro and Zach Graddy each had two hits as well. Landon Pickett delivered a key blow, a two-out, two-run double to highlight a four-run second.
“The guys scratched around and did what they had to do and scored enough,” Hurt mentioned. “We’ve got Fort Smith (Kerwins) Thursday. We’re going to have to do a little bit better job but I’m sure we’ll see different pitching too.”
The Sox take on Kerwins, a traditional power which also made it to State last summer, in a doubleheader played at the University of Central Arkansas stadium on Thursday, starting at 5 p.m.
On Tuesday, Brown walked three and struck out six. The lone Express run was unearned. He set down the first six batters he faced then gave up a single to his counterpart, Joseph Harris. After a walk to Seth Campbell, Conley Culpepper tried to get a bunt down but missed. However, when Hurt saw that Harris was on the run as Campbell squared, he put on a pickoff play. Brown whirled and fired to Ozzie Hurt who had snuck in behind the baserunner as Nelson, at short, took off as if to cover third. A quick rundown resulted in the first out of the inning.
Culpepper wound up flying to Pultro in right then Brown got Taylor Dunn to bounce out to Mayall at first.
The Sox had taken a 2-0 lead in the second when, with two out, Wilson beat out an infield hit. Aggressive on the bases all night, Bryant had six steals in the opener and three more in the second contest. Wilson stole second and, after Mayall walked, they worked a double theft. Wilson sprinted home on a passed ball then Mayall followed on Nelson’s sharp single to center. Nelson swiped second too but was tagged out when he slid past the bag on the completely artificial surface infield.
Bryant upped the advantage to 4-0 with two more in the top of the fourth. Daniel was hit by a pitch, stole second, took third on a wild pitch and scored on Wilson’s two-out single. Harris balked to allow Wilson to get to second and he scored from there on Mayall’s second hit, a single to center.
Brown worked around a lead-off walk and his own balk in the fourth, striking out two. He also fanned the first batter of the fifth on a pitch in the dirt (or dirt-colored turf). The batter, Calvin Wilbon, reached on the play when the ball ricocheted away form catcher Hayden Lessenberry. He scrambled after the ball but Mayall couldn’t handle his rushed throw.
With one out, Campbell sacrificed Wilbon to second and, on a 2-2 count, Culpepper looped a single to left to drive in the lone Express run of the game. The Sox got Culpepper in a pickle between first and second and tagged him out to end the inning after Wilbon had scored.
Brown then retired six of the last seven batters he faced to close out the win.
Bryant tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the seventh when Mayall beat out an infield hit on a bouncer to first. He sprinted to first ahead of Harris, who was trying to get over to cover. Walks to Nelson and Pickett loaded the bases then Lessenberry waited out a walk to force in a run.
Knell relieved and surrendered a sacrifice fly to Pultro that set the final score.
In the second game, Daniel got off to a little bit of a shaky start but worked out of a second-inning jam and a lesser one in the fourth on his way to picking up the win.
Bryant took the lead in the top of the first when Nelson walked, stole second, advanced to third on Taylor’s bouncer to the right side then came home on a passed ball before Pickett was hit by a pitch.
In the home half, Daniel retired the first two then surrendered a bloop single to Ian Mayfield. A wild pitch got Mayfield to second and he scored from there on a solid single to left by Jacob Green, tying the score.
Pultro singled to start the Bryant second. Wilson followed with a one-hopped back to the mound. Munson fielded the ball and fired to second to try to get a force but Culpepper, covering from short, couldn’t come up with the throw and all hands were safe.
Ozzie Hurt bunted to move them to second and third then Graddy was hit by a pitch to load the bags for Mayall, who laced a two-run single to left-center. With two down, Taylor drew a walk to fill the sacks for Pickett, who pulled a shot inside the third-base back for a two-run double that made it 5-1.
Knell and Campbell singled in the bottom of the inning and, with one out, Culpepper popped up a bunt. Pickett charged hard from first and couldn’t get there in time to pick it out of the air. A short hop camp up on him and the bases were loaded for Dunn.
On the second pitch to the lead-off man, the squeeze was on. But Dunn missed on the bunt attempt and Harris was caught trying to get back to third. Daniel got Dunn to tap back to the mound to escape with the 5-1 lead intact.
Pultro led off the bottom of the inning with a single. He stole second and moved to third on a grounder to the right side by Wilson. With two down and two strikes, Graddy lined a single up the middle to drive in the run.
The Sox made a bid to get more when Mayall and Nelson followed with base hits but, on the latter, Graddy was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.
Daniel retired the side in order on just nine pitches, picking up a strikeout, in the bottom of the third. In the fourth, Wilbon singled and Knell walked but the Sox right-hander worked out of the inning. He got Munson to bounce into a force at third. Campbell then lined a bunt back to Daniel and Culpepper popped to Hurt at second.
Schalchlin relieved in the fifth and set down three in a row. In the sixth, he gave up a lead-off single to Green and a two-out walk to Munson. A strikeout of Campbell ended the inning.
The Sox’ only other chance to score was in the top of the fifth when, with two down, Graddy singled and walks were issued to Mayall and Nelson by Knell. But all three were stranded. The Express hurler pitched around a single by Brown in the sixth, retiring the last five batters he faced.
In the bottom of the seventh, Pultro came in and threw nothing but strikes, 11 in a row. He got some tremendous defensive backing, however, on a pair of plays that brought protests from the Little Rock team and fans. On the first, Culpepper hit a roller down the first base line that appeared to be easy for Pickett. But the ball hit the bag and popped into the air. The first sacker adjusted and grabbed the ball then it was a race to the bag. On a bang-bang play, Culpepper was ruled out.
Three pitches later, Tanner Wagner hit a hot grounder that looked like it might get through the left side of the diamond only to have Brown range over from third to make a diving stop. He popped up and fired to first and, on another close play, the Sox got the call.
Pultro then ended it with a strikeout of Jacob White, snapping on a nice curveball on his third 0-2 delivery to end it.
“He threw the breaking pitch in the bullpen last night and I said, ‘We’re going to have to scrap that,’ Hurt mentioned. “We showed him another grip and I had (Nate) Rutherford and some of them work with him on spinning it and he went down in the bullpen tonight and was working on it and came back and said, ‘I’ve got the curveball working.’ So we let him throw it a few times. The last pitch, he threw a really nice one. He throws it hard enough that he could end up helping us in the late innings.”
Hurt said that along with the addition of Daniel, Brown and Pultro to the core group of Rutherford, Taylor, Nelson and Schalchlin, Ozzie Hurt, who pitched some last year, will get a look. Quinton Motto is working on a return after an injury which limited him to just one outing during the high school season. The manager also mentioned that Mayall might get a look as a submarine-style pitcher.
“He doesn’t throw hard but he throws strikes so he might help,” Hurt said.
BRYANT BLACK SOX 6, LITTLE ROCK EXPRESS 1
Senior American Legion
Black Sox ab r h bi Express ab r h bi
Mayall, 1b 3 2 3 1 Dunn, lf 3 0 0 0
Nelson, ss 3 1 1 1 Wagner, 1b 1 0 0 0
Taylor, 3b 2 0 0 0 Mayfield, 3b 3 0 0 0
Pickett, dh 3 0 0 0 Green, c 3 0 0 0
Lessenberry, c 2 0 0 1 White, rf 3 0 0 0
Pultro, rf 3 0 0 1 Wilbon, cf 3 1 0 0
Daniel, cf 3 1 0 0 Harris, p 2 0 1 0
Hurt, 2b 3 0 0 0 Knell, p 1 0 0 0
Wilson, lf 3 2 2 1 Campbell, 2b 0 0 0 0
Brown, p 0 0 0 0 Culpepper, ss 2 0 1 1
Totals 25 6 6 5 Totals 21 1 2 1
BRYANT 020 200 2 — 6
Little Rock 000 010 0 — 1
E—Campbell, Green, Mayall. LOB—Bryant 7, Little Rock 3. SB—Mayall 2, Wilson 2, Nelson, Daniel, Harris. S—Campbell, Taylor. SF—Pultro.
Pitching ip r er h bb so
Brown (W) 7 1 0 2 3 6
Harris (L) 6.1 6 6 6 5 2
Knell 0.2 0 0 0 0 0
Balk—Harris, Brown. HBP—Lessenberry, Daniel (by Harris). WP—Harris. PB—Green.
BRYANT BLACK SOX 6, LITTLE ROCK EXPRESS 1
Senior American Legion
Black Sox ab r h bi Express ab r h bi
Mayall, dh-rf 4 1 2 2 Dunn, lf 2 0 0 0
Nelson, cf 2 1 1 0 Wagner, lf 2 0 0 0
Taylor, ss 3 0 0 0 White, rf 4 0 0 0
Pickett, 1b 2 0 1 2 Mayfield, 3b 3 1 1 0
Brown, 3b 4 0 1 0 Green, 1b-c 3 0 2 1
Pultro, rf-p 4 2 2 0 Wilbon, cf 3 0 1 0
Wilson, lf 4 1 0 0 Knell, c-p 2 0 1 0
Hurt, 2b 3 0 0 0 Harris, dh 1 0 0 0
Graddy, c 3 1 2 1 Munson, p-1b 1 0 0 0
Daniel, p 0 0 0 0 Campbell, 2b 3 0 1 0
Schalchlin, p 0 0 0 0 Culpepper, ss 2 0 0 0
Totals 29 6 9 5 Totals 26 1 6 1
BRYANT 141 000 0 — 6
Little Rock 100 000 0 — 1
E—Culpepper, Pickett. LOB—Bryant 10, Little Rock 7. 2B—Pickett. SB—Nelson, Pultro, Pickett. S—Hurt, Culpepper.
Pitching ip r er h bb so
Daniel (W) 4 1 1 5 1 1
Schalchlin 2 0 0 1 1 1
Pultro 1 0 0 0 0 1
Munson (L) 4 6 2 7 3 2
Knell 3 0 0 2 2 0
HBP—Pickett, Graddy (by Munson). WP—Daniel. PB—Knell.