Wells pitches Senior Sox to first win at Classic in Tennessee
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, BryantDaily.com will continueposting past stories of Bryant athletics either posted on BryantDaily.com (from 2009 to the present) or published in the Bryant Times (from 1998 to 2008).
COLUMBIA, Tenn. — Ben Wells pitched eight innings of a scoreless duel and, after the Bryant Black Sox Senior American Legion team scratched out a run in the top of the ninth, gave way to Tyler Sawyer who closed out the win after he’d driven in the game’s lone run. Thus, the Sox salvaged a win over Louisville (Ky.) Oldham in the final game of their three-game pool play at the talent-laden Independence Day Classic on Friday.
Bryant was set to play a final consolation game on Saturday at 1 against a team to be determined before returning home.
Earlier on Friday, the Sox suffered a 10-2 loss marred by three more errors (on top of eight the previous day) to Alabama powerhouse Tuscaloosa, winners of five of the last six Alabama State titles.[more]
“After that first game, we talked about why we are here (at the Classic) and what we are learning,” related manager Craig Harrison. “It’s good to play teams like this — the competition is good for our players.”
Of the victory, Harrison added, “Ben looked like his older brother Justin today. His two-seamer was moving, his breaking pitch was sharp but, most of all, he battled hitters like his older brother did. Several innings late, he fired off the field after getting that final out. We finally got a run across, and Saw came in to close it out.
“I’m really proud of Ben,” he continued. “He carried our team today. We needed a win, and we got it. After the first inning, we played very good defense for the first time in the tournament.”
In the ninth, B.J. Ellis drew a lead-off walk then Justin Blankenship beat out an infield hit. With one out, Sawyer worked the count to 3-2 then blooped one into shallow left that dropped in beyond the reach of the third baseman, the shortstop and the left fielder. Ellis sprinted home with the game’s first run. Blankenship, who was off with the pitch, was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.
Wells started the bottom of the inning but, on his 118th pitch, gave up the fifth hit, a single. Sawyer got the next batter to pop out then struck out the last two to earn the save.
“At 117 pitches, we told Ben (at the end of the eighth inning), the only way he could go back out was if we got a run,” Harrison said. “Otherwise, (Austin) Queck was loose and ready to enter.”
Oldham had come as close as ever to scoring in the bottom of the eighth thanks to a one-out triple. Harrison decided to have Wells walk the next two batters (the second- and third-place hitters in the lineup, to load the bases for the Kentucky team’s left-handed clean-up hitter.
“His previous at bats, he had hit the breaking pitch but struggled with the two-seamer,” Harrison explained. “On a 2-1 pitch, he hit the two-seamer to (Austin) Benning at second.”
Benning made the play and fired home for a force. Wells then got the final out on a called third strike.
Bryant had threatened in the first when Caleb Garrett slapped a one-out single, stole second and, with two down, Hunter Mayall walked. But neither budged as Oldham got out of the inning.
In the home first, a one-out single and an error moved Harrison to say, “It looked like we were going down the same “E” road. But Wells got a 4-6 force then Saw made a good play at short to end the inning.”
From that point on, the duel was under way. Bryant’s Brennan Bullock walked and stole second in the second but was stranded. In the bottom of the inning, a lead-off single and a pair of grounders got a runner to third but he was picked off to end the threat.
Garrett singled again in the third but was stranded and, after Oldham went down in order, Kaleb Jobe walked and got around to third only to be left there.
In the home fourth, another single and a stolen base had another Oldham runner in scoring position but he, too, was picked off.
Blankenship drew a one-out walk in the fifth and stole second, drawing a wild throw that allowed him to go to third but he got no further. Wells pitched around a walk in the bottom of the inning.
Mayall walked and stole second in the Bryant’s sixth but was stranded. Likewise, a lead-off walk came to nothing for Oldham in the bottom of the frame.
The seventh passed with Ellis cracking a single and advancing on a groundout before the frame ended. Wells then worked around a one-out walk.
A double by Jobe and a walk to Bullock came to naught for the Sox in the top of the eight.
Against Tuscaloosa, the Sox fell behind 5-0 through four innings, got on the board with two runs in the home fifth only to have the Alabama team score five times in the top of the sixth. When Bryant was unable to score in the bottom of the sixth, it became a run-rule win for Tuscaloosa, which improved to 28-4.
Lefty Trent Daniel absorbed the loss. In five innings, he allowed five runs but just two earned. He walked five and struck out nine. Jobe worked the sixth with the final run scoring on a wild pick-off throw with two down.
“They could hit,” Harrison mentioned. “Their lead-off hitter is a 2010 (graduate) guy but probably will be a D1 signee. The two-hole played at Shelton State Community Collge this spring. The three and four hole hitters have signed with Meridian Junior Collge, a very good JUCO. The five-hole signed with East Central Junior College; the seven hole played at Shelton this spring, and the nine hole signed with Bevill State Community College.
“After they took the early lead, we had chances to get back in the game but couldn’t get the key hit,” added the manager. “An error in the third hurt but, pretty much, they were in command the entire game. TD threw well, with a very good change-up today, but these guys are good, one of the better teams we have played over the years.”
The Sox threatened to answer in the bottom of the first when, with two out, Sawyer singled and Mayall doubled only to be stranded.
Thanks to a defensive gem by Mayall at third, the Sox kept Tuscaloosa from adding to the lead in the second after a pair of two-out singles. Mayall speared a line shot with a diving effort to end the inning.
A lead-off walked to Bullock and a single by Brady Butler were wasted in the bottom of the second.
A two-out error with runners at first and third kept the inning alive in the top of the third and allowed a run to score. On a pickoff play, the runner at third scored as the runner at first got caught in a rundown and was eventually tagged out to retire the side.
Down 4-0, the Sox were retired in order in the bottom of the third.
Tuscaloosa added a run in the top of the fourth on a hit batsman, an errant throw on a sacrifice bunt and a pair of walks.
In Bryant’s fifth, Queck was hit by a pitch and Hunter Alford came in to run for him. He advanced to second on a groundout by Ellis then to third on a single by Blankenship. A walk to Garrett loaded the bases and, with two down, Mayall came through with a two-run single to make it 5-2.
But, in the sixth, the Alabama team reeled off five straight hits to make it 7-2. Then, after two were retired, another single added two more runs before the ill-advised pickoff play made it 10-2.
The Sox went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning.
After Saturday’s game, Bryant is scheduled to play at Hot Springs on Tuesday, July 7.