Bryant’s back-end bullpen bully in come­back

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SCOREBOARD - TIM COOPER

CON­WAY — Bryant’s bullpen helped the Black Sox clear a ma­jor hur­dle Mon­day af­ter­noon in the Amer­i­can Le­gion AAA State Tour­na­ment.

Will McEn­tire, Bos­ton Heil and Beaux Bonvil­lain com­bined to throw 31/3 in­nings of hit­less re­lief as the Sox ral­lied for a 8-5 vic­tory over Cabot Cen­ten­nial Bank in the win­ners bracket semi­fi­nals at Hen­drix Col­lege.

Bryant scored five runs in the eighth in­ning to charge back from a 5-3 deficit and earn a berth in Fri­day’s win­ners bracket fi­nals against Texarkana.

Mon­day’s con­test was the con­clu­sion of a game that started Sun­day af­ter­noon but was called af­ter 2½ in­nings when a heavy thun­der­storm rolled through Faulkner County. Nei­ther of Sun­day’s start­ing pitch­ers — Bryant’s Alex Shurtl­eff nor Cabot’s Brett Brock­ing­ton — were el­i­gi­ble to re­turn to the mound Mon­day, forc­ing both man­agers to go deeper in their pitching staffs than they had in­tended.

If Le­gion pitch­ers throw 31 or more pitches in one game, they are not al­lowed to re­turn to the mound un­til two days later.

“With what hap­pened yes­ter­day and with Shurtl­eff be­ing burnt, they knew ev­ery­body would have to step up,” Bryant Man­ager Dar­ren Hurt said. “We were go­ing to need a lit­tle bit out of ev­ery­body in

our bullpen.”

Brock­ing­ton had de­feated Bryant ear­lier in the sum­mer, and Cabot Man­ager Casey Vaughan was count­ing on his staff’s ace to pitch the ma­jor­ity of the semi­fi­nal game.

“It’s un­for­tu­nate that we had to burn him be­cause he was our best arm,” Vaughan said. “We lost him af­ter 48 pitches, and we couldn’t get him back to­day. But there’s no ex­cuses. Our men­tal­ity is ‘next guy up,’ and we had to roll with it.”

Cabot tabbed Kole­ston Eastham to con­tinue Brock­ing­ton’s start, and the ju­niorto-be at Cabot High School re­sponded by throw­ing four score­less in­nings. Bryant, how­ever, used five walks and three sin­gles to score five runs in the eighth in­ning. All five of the runs came with two outs.

“Eastham prob­a­bly hasn’t thrown that many pitches in two years,” Vaughan said. “He stepped up for us big, and we were four outs away. We rode him un­til he couldn’t go any longer.”

Bryant went down in order in the first two in­nings Sun­day, but an RBI sac­ri­fice bunt by Coby Greiner and dou­bles by Lo­gan Allen and Seth Tucker gave the Sox a 3-1 lead be­fore the rains forced the sus­pen­sion.

“Trust me, we wanted to keep play­ing [Sun­day],” Hurt said. “We liked our spot yes­ter­day be­cause we had fi­nally got to them, and we had things go­ing our way.”

Cabot scored four runs on six hits against Tucker, who started Mon­day’s ac­tion. Cabot held a 4-3 ad­van­tage af­ter the fourth in­ning and started the fifth in­ning with three con­sec­u­tive hits — in­clud­ing an RBI sin­gle by Michael Crumbly — but Tucker closed the in­ning with three con­sec­u­tive strike­outs.

“We didn’t come out real sharp to­day,” Hurt said. “But we grinded it out and got it done.”

Bryant’s Scott Sch­midt sin­gled in a run in the eighth to cut Cabot’s lead to 5-4, and pinch hit­ter Bran­don Hoover — who was mak­ing his first plate ap­pear­ance in the tour­na­ment — fol­lowed with a game-ty­ing sin­gle. A balk, a sin­gle by Jake East and a bases-loaded walk to Tucker capped the scor­ing.

Bryant’s re­liev­ers shut down Cabot dur­ing the fi­nal four in­nings. McEn­tire threw only two pitches, get­ting Dil­lon Thomas to ground into a dou­ble play to end the sixth in­ning. Heil pitched a per­fect sev­enth in­ning and picked up the vic­tory. Bonvil­lain, who picked up the save, gave up two walks and hit a bat­ter in his two in­nings of work.

Cabot com­piled eight hits. Lo­gan Ed­mond­son had three sin­gles and drove in a run. Blake McCutchen went 2 for 4 with a dou­ble and two runs scored. Crumbly drove in two runs with a sin­gle and a ground out.

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