With a 4-0 lead and no sign of offense from its opponent, the Bryant White Sox pulled starting pitcher William Grant with hopes of saving his pitch count for later in the Mid-South Regional tournament.
The strategy nearly eliminated Bryant.
The Texarkana Bulldogs rallied in the sixth inning to tie the game at 4-apiece. But Bryant loaded the bases in the eighth, and Coby Greiner roped a base hit to score the winning run and keep the Black Sox alive, winning 5-4.
“We came out early and we jumped on them 4-0, and we started doing some things strategically to set ourselves up for Saturday and Sunday. It almost came back to bite us, but our guys found a way to get it done. It feels great to get a win,” said Bryant head coach Darren Hurt.
“We were really loose today. We’ve been kind of tight, really putting pressure on ourselves. (Friday) we came out, kind of messed around and acted like ourselves and played way more loose,” Greiner said.
Bryant led off the eighth with back-to-back base hits, and, after a sacrifice bunt, an intentional walk loaded the bases. Texarkana got a fielder’s choice to pull within one out of escaping the jam, but Greiner smashed a 2-1 pitch right at Bulldogs shortstop Chris Sutton; the ball was hit so hard Sutton didn’t have time to adjust to the short hop and it bounced into the outfield for the game-winning hit.
“I was not seeing the slider very well, so I was kind of just going to lay off that until I got two strikes. He gave me a fastball down the middle and I just tried to put it in play,” Greiner said.
Perhaps just as important as Greiner’s hit was his work on the mound. After Texarkana scored four runs in the sixth to tie the game, Greiner toed the rubber with two on and two out.
He got a weak ground ball to get out of the inning, and in the seventh he struck out the side. He faced four batters in the eighth only because of a Bryant error, but the Bulldogs were 0-for-8 against Greiner in his 2 1/3 innings of work.
“I felt really good (Friday). It felt like my movement was there,” Greiner said. “When I kind of get in the zone I feel like I can’t get out of it.”
“It was a huge day for (Greiner). Not only shutting them out and keeping it 4-4, but also walking it off,” the Bryant coach said. “He had a big day.”
Bryant’s offense got started early, when Logan Catton reached base on an error in the bottom of the first. After an errant pickoff attempt moved him to second, he scored on a two-out single by Jacob Wright.
In the second, Greiner drove in Noah David, and Logan Chambers recorded an RBI to make it 3-0. Tristan Dremman drove in the Black Sox’ fourth run of the game with a fielder’s choice.
But the scoring stopped there for Bryant, until the final inning. In innings three through seven, the Black Sox had just four base runners, two of which was erased via a double play and caught stealing.
“Our bats were just going dead for four, five, six innings consecutively. We just haven’t done that all year,” Hurt said. “We’ve got to be able to scratch more.”
As Bryant failed to pad its lead, Texarkana’s pitching kept the Bulldogs in the game, and the offense finally broke through in the fifth.
Four of the first five Bulldogs reached base safely, with TJ Krause and Keaton Russo each driving in runs on singles. With two outs and the bases loaded, Bryson Rhodes tied the game on a two-run single.
“The momentum shifted in that inning, and we probably should have gone to our closer (Greiner) a little sooner and we probably would have been out of here in seven innings. But I thought the guys we put in there threw good pitches. You just have to give Texarkana credit,” Hurt said. “Thank goodness for Coby Greiner going out there and throwing like he did and keeping them there so we can scratch across a run.”
Greiner’s performance saved the risky decision to remove Grant, who after a day’s rest could return on Sunday, should the Black Sox advance that far. If you ask Greiner, he says Bryant should be ready to play on the final day.
“We know the teams are solid here, but we think if we play our baseball we can make it to Shelby, (N.C.),” he said.
As for Texarkana, its tournament has ended but head coach Kevin Sutton said it’s still been a successful season.
“We played hard. I’m proud of the boys. They fought back in this game after being down by four and tied it up; it just wasn’t meant to be,” he said. “We had a good season. We learned a lot from this trip; it’s the first time we’ve been to regionals in a long time, first time under me as head coach so I learned a lot of things and know where we need to improve and get better.
“It was a good year. We had a quite a few boys get scholarships to play baseball, and that’s our goal. I think we accomplished that. We’ll get back and do it again next year.”
Texarkana..........000 004 00 — 4 7 2
Bryant...............130 000 01 — 5 6 2
W — Coby Greiner. L — Brayden Ross.
2B — B, Jacob Wright.