August 2 in Bryant athletic history: 2015

Sport Shop Sox capture Bryant’s first AA Legion State crown

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, will continueposting past stories of Bryant athletics either posted on (from 2009 to the present) or published in the Bryant Times (from 1998 to 2008).

SHERIDAN — It was a heck of a weekend for Joey Cates, a heck of a fortnight for the Sport Shop Black Sox and it’s been a heck of a year for Hunter Mayall.

After going 3-0 during the first weekend of the American Legion AA State Tournament, July 24-26, the Sox capped off the second weekend by bouncing back from a 12-3 loss on Saturday to capture the State championship with a 13-2 victory in the winner-take-all final over the Hot Springs Lakeside Rams on Sunday afternoon.

It is the first AA State title for a Bryant team. It’s the second State crown for Black Sox teams this summer following up on the Senior Sox State title last Tuesday. And the Bryant Everett Buick GMC Black Sox’ run to the championship game of the Junior State Tournament, narrowly missed making it a sweep in each of the age divisions.

“These guys are resilient,” said Mayall, the Sox manager. “They don’t give up. They keep fighting all the time and it showed today. I’m proud of every single one of them. After getting beat by nine runs last night and pretty convincingly, we came out and beat them pretty convincingly.

“This team means a lot to me,” he acknowledged. “We had some rough times because a lot of times we were out there playing with nine or 10 guys. It’s tough when you’re in that situation. The guys sometimes got down on themselves. They thought that we weren’t as good as we really are. I knew this team was good. They showed that many times.

“This is all for them,” asserted Mayall, who was assisted at the State tourney by Cody Gogus and Lucas Castleberry. “They’ve done a great, great job just working hard and that’s all I could ask for.”

As for Cates, he was pitching on Friday against Lakeside in the winners’ bracket final and took a line drive off the back of the head. At the time, it seemed highly unlikely that he would play anymore in the tournament as he was helped off the field and subsequently taken to the hospital. But somehow he avoided a concussion or any serious injury and was cleared to play on Saturday.

On Sunday, Cates was back on the mound against the Rams and went the distance for the win, allowing just two runs, one earned, on seven hits with three walks and three strikeouts over six innings. Lakeside scored twice in the first then Cates and the Bryant defense shut them out the rest of the way.

“The guys came back on Friday to win and I was proud of them for that,” Cates said. “I was nervous the first couple of innings (on Sunday) but I realized that, ‘What’s the chances of it happening again?’”

Fittingly enough, the last out of the game with the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth was a one-hop comebacker to Cates. He flipped the ball to his catcher Jordan Gentry for the force at the plate and the two began the championship celebration.

“Cates has been a leader on this team for the past two years,” Mayall noted. “He proved that this weekend. He proved it all tournament. It was tough thing. He got smoked on Friday then he wanted to pitch last night but I wouldn’t let him go in. But he came out today and did exactly what he expected to do. He threw a great game, an absolutely amazing job.”

The Sox pounded out 13 hits in the game including three hits each for Gentry, Daniel Darbonne and Matthew Sandidge. Cameron Coleman went 2 for 3 with a pair of doubles and two RBIs. Sandidge drove in a run every time he came to bat — four for the game.

“Coleman is just a monster at the plate,” Mayall said. “He’s fun to watch. He hits with power. He’s a great kid. He’s very good.

“Sandidge is a scrapper at the plate,” he continued. “He reminds me a little bit of myself. With two strikes, he does a great job of putting the ball in play, hitting the ball the other way.

“I emphasize that a lot,” Mayall acknowledged. “That’s my approach at the plate. I think that’s a good way to hit especially if you’re down in the count. All these guys are young, facing older pitchers. They’re sometimes overmatched in a way but if you go the other way, no one can really over-match you in reality.”

Of course, Mayall was one of the best pure hitters to ever play in Bryant. In his final season for the Sox in 2012, he hit .517 (78 of 151) with 19 doubles and five triples while striking out just four times all season. This spring, as a junior at Henderson State University, he finished the season on a 20-game hit streak, batted .366 while helping to lead the Reddies to the NCAA Division II College World Series.

In the finale, the Sox did their manager proud at the plate, scoring in five of the six innings. In the tournament as a whole, Sandidge hit .600 in that last three games (6 of 10) and Coleman hit .529 (9 of 17) in six games. In addition, Gentry hit .474 (9 of 19) and Christian Harp hit .421 (8 of 19).

In the first inning on Sunday, Coleman walked and stole second. With two down, Harp drew a walk and, on a 3-2 count, Sandidge grounded an RBI single up the middle to plate a run.

Lakeside, which had scored 35 runs in two games on Saturday, struck for two in the bottom of the first to take the lead. Reece Nickles stroked a one-out single and stole second. He scored when Jon Youngblood’s roller to third resulted in a low throw to first that got away.

Brandon Hall singled then Zac Melugin’s sacrifice fly plated Youngblood. But Cates fanned Jon Barmore and Hall was stranded at second.

The Sox countered with a four-run uprising, ignited by a walk to Darbonne and a single by C.J. Wallace. Jeffrey Hastings got a sacrifice bunt down to put both in scoring position for Coleman, who fouled off a pair of 3-2 pitches before belting a double to deep left-center to put the Sox back in the lead.

Gentry followed with his first hit, a single up the middle then Cates walked to load the bags. Harp walked to force in a run then Sandidge hit a grounder to deep short. Nickles, the Rams shortstop, got to the ball but the only play he had was to try to get a force at third. It took a good play and he got the out but Gentry scored to make it 5-2.

Andrew Spakes singled and Blake Spilker was hit by a pitch to start Lakeside’s second but Wallace made a nice sliding catch of a sinking liner to center to save a run then Tanner Rice bounced to Hastings at short for a force. With two down, Rice stole second to put runners at second and third but Cates got Nickles on a comebacker to end the threat.

Darbonne started the third with a triple but Spakes retired the next three Sox to strand him, giving the Rams a lift. But Cates retired the first two in the bottom of the inning. Melugin blooped a single to right then the count went to 3-1 on Barmore. Gentry could only knock down the third ball but, with Melugin breaking from first, he pounced on the loose ball and fired to second in time for the out to end the inning, leaving Barmore, who had homered on Saturday night, standing at the plate.

And the Sox went back to work with the bats in the fourth. Gentry ripped a double down the left-field line and, with one out, Harp singled to right, bringing up Sandidge with runners at the corners. On a 1-2 pitch, he swatted a single to left, scoring Gentry.

A walk to Preston Kyzer led to Darbonne’s RBI single up the middle that made it 7-2.

Cates worked around a walk and a single in the bottom of the fourth with more help from his catcher. Gentry ended the inning by throwing out Caleb Lloyd as he tried to steal second, stranding a runner at third.

Walks to Coleman and Gentry opened the fifth inning. Coleman had stolen second and third before Gentry’s walk then, when Gentry swiped second, the throw got away and Coleman sprinted home.

With two down and Gentry still at second, Sandidge did it again. This time, he didn’t wait until there were two strikes. He ripped a 2-1 pitch for an RBI single, making it 9-2.

Nickles singled and took second on an errant throw in the bottom of the fifth but was stranded.

In the sixth, the Sox made it a run-rule lead. Darbonne cracked his third hit and took second on Wallace’s groundout. Hastings walked and, after Darbonne advanced to third on an errant pickoff throw, Hastings stole second and both of them scored when Coleman blasted his second double, this time down the right-field line.

Gentry followed with a triple to make it 12-2 as he fell just a homer short of the cycle. Cates capped off the scoring with a sacrifice fly.

Gamely, Lakeside didn’t go quietly in the bottom of the inning. Melugin and Carson West drew walks on either side of a strikeout. Spilker singled on a 3-2 pitch and the bases were loaded.

But Cates finished strong, fanning Lloyd then getting the final out on Rice’s comebacker.

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