By Madison McEntire
MAUMELLE — Former major league pitcher Earl Wilson once remarked, “For the parents of a[more] Little Leaguer, a baseball game is simply a nervous breakdown divided into innings.” If that is true, then the Bryant 11-year-old Blue League team gave their parents and other fans plenty to be nervous about during their four games in the Shred-It Invitational USSSA baseball tournament in Maumelle on April 21-22. Each game was decided in the home team’s final at-bat, with one decided in extra innings. Bryant took three of the four games and the championship trophy.
Team member are Logan Catton, Logan Chambers, Logan Grant, Cade Dupree, Coby Greiner, Will McEntire, Ryan Lessenberry, Hunter Mullings, Ty Jackson, Jacob Shepard, Jacob Coppock, and Brock Bariola. They are managed by Michael Catton with help from assistant coaches Phillip Dupree, Mark Coppock, and Madison McEntire.
Bryant opened pool play with a 4-3 win over the Snipers. They trailed 3-0 heading to the bottom of the second but plated three runs to tie the game, with the big blow being a two-out, two-run triple to right field by Greiner. In their last at-bat, Bryant scratched out a run when walks to Chambers, Grant, and McEntire loaded the bases with one out. With the infield in, Coppock slapped a grounder to the shortstop, who made a diving stop and managed to get a force out at third. But Chambers scored to give Bryant a 4-3 win.
In the second pool play game, Bryant took a 3-0 lead in the first inning against the Rawlings Prospects, getting RBIs from McEntire and Coppock. With the game tied 3-3, Lessenberry drove in a run in the fifth and Catton made the lead 5-3 with a single in the top of the sixth. But in the bottom of the inning, the Prospects snatched a 6-5 victory with three runs, the final two coming on a hard two-out single to center field.
Championship Game – Bryant 10, Diamond Baseball 9
McEntire started on the mound and retired the first two before putting a runner on with a walk. The next batter singled to right but Coppock fielded the ball and fired a bullet to Grant at the third base bag to nail the lead runner trying to advance an extra base. In the bottom of the first, Bryant put two on when Dupree and Chambers singled with one out but failed to score when Grant flied to right and McEntire grounded to second.
In the top of the second, Diamond Baseball collected a two-out single but failed to score. Bryant took a 1-0 lead in the bottom half. Coppock led off with a walk. After Shepard popped up to short, Coppock stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error by the catcher. Greiner then brought him home with a single to the second baseman.
Diamond Baseball took an 8-1 lead in the third. The first batter grounded a ball in the hole between short and third. Chambers’ long throw was scooped by Dupree at first and appeared to beat the runner but the umpire ruled him safe. A walk and a dropped fly ball loaded the bases with no outs. McEntire got the next batter on a soft liner to Dupree at first who wheeled and caught the runner at second off base for a double play. One out away from getting out of the jam, McEntire issued a walk to reload the bases and then Diamond Baseball exploded for four hits and a walk in the next five batters. Greiner relieved McEntire and allowed a hit before finally ending the inning with a grounder to third.
Bryant did not quit as they immediately plated five runs to cut the lead to 8-6. Catton opened the inning with a single to left on the first pitch that barely eluded the diving left fielder. Dupree followed with a hard shot just over the third baseman’s glove that went for a double. Chambers hit a sac fly to score Catton and move Dupree to third. Grant then doubled to left to make it 8-3. McEntire stepped in and fouled the first pitch over near the fence by the third base dugout. The catcher attempted a sliding catch only to have the ball pop from his glove and come to rest trapped against his shin guard and the fence. Given a second swing, McEntire blooped a soft single just over the third baseman’s head, with Grant holding at second. Coppock then doubled down the left field line to score Grant and move McEntire to third. A throwing error on Shepard’s grounder plated McEntire and advanced Coppock to third. The final run scored then Shepard stole second and the throw to second bounced away far enough to allow Coppock to score from third.
After allowing a single and a walk to open the top of the fourth, Greiner worked his way out of a jam when he fielded a hard bunt and retired the lead runner at third and then got a doubleplay ball to Chambers at shortstop.
Bryant threatened in the bottom of the fourth but came up empty. With one out, they loaded the bases when Catton doubled to right, Dupree was hit by a pitch and Chambers walked. Grant made the second out when he popped to second and the infield fly rule was called. McEntire stepped in next and hit a hard smash down the first base line that would have cleared the bases but the ball first baseman made a nice snag on the first hop and ran to the bag to end the inning.
Diamond Baseball increased their lead to 9-6 in the fifth. With one out they had a batter reach second on a throwing error by Chambers and he scored on a single to left before Greiner got a strikeout and grounder to short to end the inning.
With time running out, Bryant had one more at-bat. Coppock led off with a walk, stole second and went to third on Shepard’s pop single that was just over the second baseman’s head. Greiner dropped a single into right to score Coppock, with Shepard moving to second base. After the runners moved up on a wild pitch, Bariola and Lessenberry each fanned. Down to the last out, Catton stepped in and quickly fell behind 0-2. After working the count to 2-2, he flipped a liner just inches over the second baseman’s glove into center field for a single. Shepard scored and Greiner was waved in from second and slid around the tag at the plate to tie the game. Dupree popped out to second to end the inning but the game was tied 9-9.
In the sixth, Greiner worked around a one-out walk with a pop to first and a fly to left to keep the score tied. In the bottom of the inning, Chambers led off and grounded a single to center. Grant hit into a fielder’s choice for the first out. McEntire took the first pitch, allowing Grant to get into scoring position by stealing second, and two pitches later hit a hard grounder to the shortstop who fumbled the ball, recovered and threw to first. McEntire beat the throw to first and Grant who was running hard all the way from second, streaked for the plate and slid under and around the throw from first to give Bryant a 10-9 win.
Bryant 4, Maumelle 3
As the No. 2 seed in bracket play, Bryant received a bye and faced the Maumelle team, which defeated the Snipers. They took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Dupree walked, stole second and scored on Grant’s grounder up the middle. Maumelle took a 3-1 lead in the top of the third when they collected three singles and a walk against Bryant starter Chambers.
Bryant tied the score in the bottom of the fourth. Dupree reached on an infield single to the pitcher and advanced to second on Chambers’ grounder to the pitcher. Grant singled him to third but then McEntire popped to short for the second out. Coppock came through with a clutch hit, a long triple over the right fielder’s head to tie the game.
Grant relieved Chambers to start the fourth and the game remained tied and went into extra innings. In the top of the seventh, Maumelle threatened but did not score, leaving runners on first and second. In the bottom of the frame, Coppock reached base when he was plunked with a pitch. With Shepard at the plate, Coppock was safe stealing second when his slide knocked the ball out of the shortstop’s glove. Shepard then dropped down a sac bunt and was safe at first on a throwing error, which allowed Coppock to continue around third and score the winning run.