By Rob Patrick
In post-season play, Senior American Legion baseball goes from the seven-inning games of the regular season to nine-inning games — a couple more innings.
So what’s another couple of innings?
Well, on Friday night in the first round of the Zone 4 Tournament, it was the difference between victory and defeat for the Bryant Black Sox.
If the game had ended after seven innings, the Sox would’ve come away with a 5-4 victory over the Texarkana Razorbacks. But, in the eighth inning, Texarkana rallied for four runs then added another in the night to extract a 9-5 victory.[more]
In a five-team tournament in which two got to State, the No. 2 game is huge. Win that game and you’re a win away from qualifying for State. Lose it and you’re looking at the prospect of playing three games in two days, needing to win all three to make State.
Bryant and Texarkana played that No. 2 game.
Now Texarkana awaits the winner of Saturday’s 1 p.m. game between top-seeded Pine Bluff Simmons Bank and Benton McClendon’s. The winner meets the Razorbacks in the winners bracket final at 7 on Saturday for a berth in the tournament championship game and a ticket to State in North Little Rock.
Benton McClendon’s downed Little Rock Continental Express on Friday, 10-7, to advance to take on Pine Bluff.
Bryant is set to play Continental in an elimination game at 4 p.m. on Saturday. The survivor will need to win twice on Sunday to qualify for State.
Against Texarkana, Bryant faced a pitcher, Jon Phillips, who had shut them out the previous Sunday. And early on, Phillips was even tougher than he’d been then as he retired the first nine batters he faced.
Texarkana, meanwhile, scratched out a run in the first inning of Bryant starter Caleb Milam who got a strike away from getting out of the first unscathed. He had retired the first two batters then Josh Stringfellow beat out an infield hit. Milam and Shawn Hall, the Texarkana, cleanup hitter, battled to a 1-2 count. Hall fouled off a pitch then shot a double into the gap in right-center. With Stringfellow running on contact, he scored all the way from first.
Milam settled in then and held Texarkana to that one run through five innings.
So when Bryant broke through in the fourth, it tied the game. Hunter Mayall broke Phillips’ string with a bloop single to left to open the fourth. After Mayall advanced on a wild pitch, Chris Joiner beat out an infield hit to deep short to put runners at the corners. Jordan Taylor then came through with a sacrifice fly to tie it.
And, after Milam worked a 1-2-3 top of the fifth, the Sox scratched out another run to take the lead. Brennan Bullock laced one down the right-field line for an inning-opening double. He took third on an errant pickoff throw from Phillips and, an out later, scored on a safety squeeze in which Lucas Castleberry placed the bunt so well, he beat it out for a hit.
Texarkana bounced back by breaking Milam’s shutout string in the top of the sixth. With one out, Hall ripped a double to deep center. An intentional walk was issued to Janson Carr who had hit the ball hard his first two times at the plate. With the runners on the move, Kenny Spencer bounced a single into right field for an RBI. And on an errant throw back to the infield, Carr scrambled home to put Texarkana back in the lead, 3-2.
Bryant answered in the bottom of the inning to regain the advantage. Tyler Brown blooped a single to right and advanced to second on a passed ball. Phillips retired the next two before Taylor parachuted in an RBI single down the left-field line.
A wild pitch got Taylor to second as Brady Butler drew a walk. A passed ball put runners at second and third then another wild pitch allowed Taylor to score to give Bryant a 4-3 lead. With Butler at third, Bullock beat out an infield hit for an RBI to make it 5-3.
Texarkana trimmed the lead to 5-4 in the top of the seventh. Merritt Giles drew a walk and Daniel Thompson tapped one to the left side of the infield. Brown made a nice play on the ball from third base but his throw sailed allowing the runners to move to second and third. Phillips then delivered a sacrifice fly on which Thompson tagged as well and went to third with just one out.
But Milam, who turned in a gutsy performance, struck out Stringfellow and Hall to end the inning with the Sox still up by a run.
During the first of those strikeouts, the first pitch was in tight but the batter took a half swing at it. The ball ricocheted away and was ruled a foul ball. Texarkana’s coaches Dane and Joey Peavy — son and father, respectively — protested, asked for an appeal, then protested some more when it didn’t go their way.
Dane Peavy, coaching at third, made the initial protest and asked for the appeal. He argued afterward but then there was an exchange between the home-plate umpire and Joey Peavy, in the first-base coaching box. Dane Peavy took exception with what the umpire had to say to his dad and went off. He was quickly ejected from the game.
Any thought that he might’ve fired up his team with the histrionics seemed to go by the wayside when Milam finished the inning with the two strikeout.
But the Razorbacks got it back in the bottom of the seventh. With one out, Dylan Cross fisted a bloop single to right. Brown sacrificed him to second then Mayall was intentionally walked. Joiner was hit by a pitch and suddenly the bases were loaded.
Reid Peavy, who had relieved Phillips and got the final out of the sixth, induced an infield pop to escape.
Still, the Sox had a 5-4 edge going into the eight.
That, however, with when the Razorbacks put together the game-changing four-run rally. Carr singled to right. Spencer followed with a long drive to right-center for a double. Daniel Spears followed with a tap in front of home plate. Cross, the Bryant catcher, fielded the ball, looked Carr back at third then held onto it after he started to throw to first. Spears was already there and the bases were loaded with nobody out.
Reid Peavy then came through with a shot to right-center for a two-run double that put Texarkana back on top.
Landon Pickett relieved for Bryant and got the first two outs and had a 3-2 count on Phillips, a strike away from getting out of the inning trailing by just one. But Phillips laced a liner to center for a two-run single, making it 8-5.
A walk to Stringfellow followed and Taylor was called to the mound to try to get the final out of the inning. And he did, getting Hall to groundout to Ozzie Hurt at second.
The Sox went down in order in the bottom of the inning. In the ninth, Matt Neal relieved for Bryant. A one-out error, a wild pitch and bad-hop single by Spears produced another run for Texarkana.
Bryant tried to mount a rally in the bottom of the inning. With one out, Cross was hit by a pitch but was forced out at second on Brown’s grounder to third. Mayall blistered a single to left but Joiner’s bouncer to third resulted in a force to end the game.
TEXARKANA RAZORBACKS 9, BRYANT BLACK SOX 5
Senior American Legion Zone 4 Tournament
Razorbacks ab r h bi Black Sox ab r h bi
Thompson, c 4 0 0 0 Mayall, 1b 4 1 2 0
Phillips, p-ss 4 0 1 3 Joiner, cf-2b-rf 4 0 1 0
Stringfellow, rf 4 1 1 0 Taylor, ss-p 3 1 1 2
Hall, 1b 5 1 2 1 Butler, rf 2 0 0 0
Carr, 3b 4 2 2 0 Jobe, pr-rf 1 1 0 0
Spencer, lf-cf 5 2 2 1 Bullock, lf 4 1 2 1
Spears, ss-lf 4 1 2 1 Pickett, dh-p-3b 4 0 0 0
Sullivan, cf 2 1 0 0 Neal, p 0 0 0 0
Peavy, p 2 0 1 2 Castleberry, 2b 3 0 1 1
Giles, 2b 4 1 0 0 Hurt, 2b 1 0 0 0
Cross, c 3 0 1 0
Brown, 3b-ss 3 1 1 0
Milam, p 0 0 0 0
Totals 38 9 11 8 Totals 32 5 9 4
Texarkana 100 002 141 — 9
BRYANT 000 113 000 — 5
E—Castleberry, Phillips, Butler, Brown, Hurt. DP—Texarkana 1, Bryant 1. LOB—Texarkana 9, Bryant 6. 2B—Hall 2, Bullock, Peavy. SB—Thompson, Carr, Spencer, Spears. S—Brown. SF—Taylor, Phillips.
Pitching ip r er h bb so
Phillips 5.2 5 4 7 1 6
Peavy (W) 3.1 0 0 2 1 2
Milam (L) 7 8 6 9 2 3
Pickett 0.2 0 0 1 1 0
Taylor 0.1 0 0 0 0 0
Neal 1 1 0 1 0 1
Milam faced four batters in the eighth.
HBP—Sullivan, Thompson, Spears (by Milam), Joiner, Cross (by Peavy). WP—Milam, Phillips 2. PB—Thompson 2.