LITTLE ROCK — For seven innings, the Little Rock Vipers duo of Jacob Wagner and Matthew Gephardt shut out the Bryant Black Sox on three hits while the Sox’ duo of Logan Grant and Coby Greiner blanked the Vipers on four hits.
In the top of the eighth at Gary Hogan Field in Curran-Conway Stadium, Gephardt retired the first two batters and was a strike away from ending the inning twice. The first time, Jake Wright lashed a 3-2 delivery through the hole on the right side for a single. The second time, Gage Stark drilled a 1-2 pitch over the head of Vipers’ centerfielder Ivory Daniels for an RBI triple.
Moments later, with an 0-2 count on Coby Greiner, Gephardt balked, which allowed Stark to cross the plate, making it 2-0.
In the home half, Greiner closed out the victory with a 1-2-3 inning as he retired the last eight batters he faced.
The Sox improved to 17-8 this season going into this weekend’s trip to Springfield, Mo., for a tournament to tune up for the Senior American Legion State Tournament, which will start in Conway on Friday, July 19.
Over four innings, Grant held Little Rock to three hits without a walk. He fanned five. Greiner allowed one hit and struck a batter over the last four frames.
Wright and Greiner each had two hits for the Sox. The only other knock was Stark’s decisive triple.
Wagner tossed five innings, allowing three of the hits with two walks and six strikeouts. Before the eighth, Gephardt had thrown two hitless innings.
Still, Bryant had runners in scoring position in six of the seven innings. In the first, Logan Chambers reached second on an errant throw to first from second baseman Andrew McDonald. With one out, Cade Drennan walked but Wagner and the Vipers worked out of the jam.
In the second, Greiner singled and stole second but got no further and Wagner struck out the side.
After pitching around a one-out single to C.J. Price in the first, Grant allowed a double to Andrew Howard in the second. Howard made a move to try for third and hesitated until the relay throw back into second got past second baseman Slade Renfrow. Howard took off for third but Chambers, the Bryant shortstop was backing up the play, recovered the ball and fired to third. Howard was caught in a rundown and was eventually tagged out by Grant.
The Sox’ right-hander then set down six in a row before surrendering another double in the fourth with two away. Nick Jones had the hit, just inside the first-base bag. But Grant struck out Cole Somers to keep it scoreless.
Meanwhile, Chambers walked to start the Bryant third. He went to second on a wild pitch but got no further as, once again, Wagner struck out the side.
In the fourth, Greiner beat out an infield hit on a chopper to deep short. He stole second again then advanced to third on Brayden Lester’s bouncer to short. Ryan Lessenberry made a bid for an RBI hit but his blooper to right was flagged down by Asher Hastings to end the threat.
In Bryant’s fifth, Chambers reached second on another throwing error but was left there.
Greiner relieved in the bottom of the fifth and gave up a single to left by Grant Jones. But Hastings flew out to Stark in center for the third out.
Wright led off the sixth with a single and, having reached 90 pitches, Wagner gave way to Gephardt. Wright tried to steal second and appeared to get in safely but was called out.
In the bottom of the inning, Daniels was hit by Greiner’s second pitch of the frame. Price flew out to center then Daniels tried to steal second only to be gunned down by Drennan, the Sox’ catcher.
Gephardt issued a one-out walk to Grant in the top of the seventh. He stole second then tagged and went to third on Renfrow’s fly to right. Chambers, who had been on base three previous at bats, grounded out to first.
So, it was still a scoreless deadlock going into the bottom of the seventh. Nick Jones led off with a screaming liner right to third baseman Logan Catton. Somers grounded out to third then Howard popped out to Lester outside first base.
That set up the decisive eighth.