Black Sox in championship

NORTH LITTLE ROCK – After defeating Rogers Optimist 11-7 in the first round of the Senior American Legion State Tournament, the Bryant Black Sox handled the North Little Rock Colts 14-4 in seven innings in round two on Saturday. On Sunday, the Black Sox had a little trouble scoring against their new rival Texarkana Razorbacks, but came out on the right side of a pitcher’s duel defeating their Zone 4 championship opponents 3-1 to advance to the championship game regardless of what they do against Paragould tonight.

With the score tied at 1-1 going into the bottom of the eighth inning, Bryant’s Tyler Nelson led the inning off with a bloop single to left field against Texarkana lefty starter Timmy Buchanan. Nelson went to second base when Buchanan balked for the first time in the game, but Josh Pultro struck out swinging at an inside curve ball after being up in the count 3-0. Black Sox catcher Hayden Lessenberry, who was 0 for 3 with two strike outs and a pop out before, singled in Nelson from second base for the go-ahead run and 2-1 lead, and went to second on the throw home.

Marcus Wilson was up next and did what he has been doing all tournament long and that’s hit the ball. Wilson, who is 8 for 13 (.615 average) with eight runs, five RBIs, one home run and three doubles in the three games, showed more of his power doubling over the right fielder’s head.
“He just keeps coming up big,” Bryant Coach Darren Hurt said. “He’s got it to where we got to have him at the bottom of our order. Producing runs down there is huge. That’s what he’s doing.”

Lessenberry was at second and waited to see if the fielder caught the ball, but ended up being thrown out at home.

“I hated getting one thrown out at the plate here,” Hurt said. “We made a mistake and tagged on that. We’re not supposed to tag on that, but Ozzie come up and got the big hit to get the run anyway.”

Bryant second baseman Ozzie Hurt, who had also struggled early in the game with two strike outs and a fly out, singled in Wilson from third base for an insurance run and 3-1 lead going into the ninth.

“The third run was huge just for a pitcher’s [mindset],” Hurt said. “A two-run lead instead of a one-run lead, that takes one at bat, one swing out of the pitcher for tying it up.”

Hurt also spoke of the bottom of his order producing when it counted.
“We’ve had guys all year long just find a way get it done,” he said. “Whether it’s the bottom of the order, top of the order, we just pick each other up and they play for each other. They play the game hard which pays off in games like this.”

That’s all Bryant starting pitcher Jordan Taylor needed as he was stellar throughout. He retired the last six batters he faced including ending the game with a fast ball down the middle of the plate for a strike out, his 11th.

Taylor got the win and was a workhorse. He gave up one run on seven hits and two walks in nine innings. He struck out 11 Razorbacks while throwing 129 pitches.

“What a gutty pitching effort,” Hurt said. “The thing is, he didn’t just cruise through [the game]. He had some situations that were really tough and got us out of it.”

Taylor got into trouble in the top of the fourth when he hit a man and walked a batter before a failed sacrifice bunt attempt and two strike outs ended the inning. The Razorbacks had runners in scoring position with less than two outs in the seventh and eighth innings as well, but couldn’t capitalize.

“He found a way to get us out of innings and he just did one heck of a job on the mound tonight,” Hurt said. “I can’t say enough about his [performance]. Great job.”

On the other side of the mound, Buchanan was no slouch for Texarkana. He gave up three runs on 11 hits (four coming in the bottom of eighth inning) and no walks in eight innings. He hit a batter and struck out six while throwing 113 pitches.

“He threw one heck of a game, too,” Hurt said of Buchanan. “Nobody deserved to lose there, neither pitcher. It was a great pitching effort from both of them and we got it done late. I kept telling [the Black Sox] to scratch for a run because whoever gets on top right here is probably going to hold on because the pitchers were just rolling.”

The Black Sox (31-5) started the game much like they had the previous two – scoring early. After leadoff man Hunter Mayall grounded out to start the bottom of the first inning, Tyler Brown tripled to right field when the fielder misplayed the ball and let it get away from him. Taylor, the third-place batter, hit a sacrifice fly to right field to put the Sox on top 1-0.

It would stay that way until the top of the third when Taylor would give up his only run. Texarkana’s Trevor Rucker reached on an infield single to start the inning and stole second and third base. After Taylor struck out Colton McMahan, Joey Langston doubled to the left-center field gap to tie it at 1-apiece.

Mayall, Pultro and Wilson each went 2 for 4 with Wilson scoring the big insurance run in the eighth. After a slow start, Lessenberry and Hurt came through at the end and both went 1 for 4 with an RBI.

With the win, the Black Sox earned a spot in the state championship game regardless of what they do tonight against Paragould, which they play at 7:30 at Vince DeSalvo Stadium in North Little Rock.

“We have to win [tonight],” Hurt said. “The way the bracket works, yes we are in the championship game, but we win tomorrow we’re in the championship game having to be beat twice. I like our chances in that spot.”

Black Sox 14, Colts 4

Bryant scored in every inning except one, including five in the second, in its 14-4 win over the North Little Rock Colts on Saturday. Marcus Wilson went 3 for 4 with three runs and an RBI, Hunter Mayall went 2 for 5 with three RBIs, Hayden Lessenberry went 2 for 2 with three runs and an RBI, Tyler Nelson went 1 for 2 with two runs and two RBIs, Ozzie Hurt went 1 for 3 with a run and two RBIs, Jordan Taylor went 1 for 2 and scored three runs, and Tyler Brown went 1 for 2 with a run and RBI.

Brown started and gave up three runs in three innings pitched and struck out two. Hayden Daniel took over in the fourth inning and got the win. Daniel gave up one run in four innings pitched giving up five hits and two walks while striking out four. The Colts loaded the bases in the top of the seventh with two singles and a walk, but Daniel struck out the next three batters – all looking at a fastball down the middle, a change up and an outside fastball.

“I told him to throw strikes,” Darren Hurt said. “I was sick of us throwing behind in the count. We got that big of a lead, just throw strikes.”