NORTH LITTLE ROCK — In a game that went back and forth, and was tied 6-6 going into the final inning, the Fort Smith Forsgren Sportsman Athletic team scored three runs in the top of the seventh then retired the Bryant Black Sox in order in the home half to stay alive in the 2021 AA American Legion State Tournament on Thursday.
The loss eliminated the Black Sox and ended their season.
Seven errors and six walks undermined Bryant’s effort. Only five of Fort Smith’s runs were earned as Jaxon Ham and Luke Bickerstaff toiled on the bump. Grant Dunbar came in to get the final out.
Two errors contributed to the three-run top of the seventh, which started with a single. But Bickerstaff induced a grounder to Gage Horn at short and the Sox turned a doubleplay.
A hit batsman kept the inning alive. A grounder followed that was misplayed, extending the inning. With runners at second and third, an intentional walk was issued to load the bases and set up a force at each base.
A walk on a 3-1 pitch forced in the tiebreaking run. On another infield grounder a wild throw allowed two more to score making it 9-6.
The Sox spotted Forsgren a 4-0 lead in the top of the second. In the bottom of the second, the Sox had two out when Luke Dreher worked a walk. Bickerstaff grounded to short, but the ball was booted. Braxton Prather singled to center to load the base for Reid Catton, who hit a comebacker to the pitcher who turned to throw to first and threw it away. Dreher and Bickerstaff scored to make it 4-2.
With two aboard, Forsgren used a two-out single to add a run in the top of the third.
The Sox countered in the bottom of the third, loading the bases with consecutive singles by Brady Brower, Carson Kemp and Hunter Holt. Horn delivered a sacrifice fly then Dreher singled in a run. Bickerstaff lined a hit up the middle and Holt scored the tie the game at 5.
Fort Smith didn’t score in the top of the fourth and, in the bottom of the inning, the Sox surged into the lead. Dunbar reached on an error, Brower singled and, after a pitching change, Kemp beat out an infield hit as Dunbar scored.
Holt grounded into a force at third, but Kemp proceeded to swipe the base. A pop up and a strikeout, however, ended the inning.
Forsgren used a one-out error, an errant pickoff throw, to get a runner to third. A hit batsman put them at the corners then they worked a double steal to get the tying run in.
The Sox were set down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the fifth. Fort Smith couldn’t score in the top of the sixth. Bryant went down in order in the home sixth, setting up the decisive rally for the Fort Smith team.