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By Madison McEntire
NORTH LITTLE ROCK — The 12-year-old Bryant Hornets shook off two lackluster pool play losses[more] on Saturday, each by a 9-1 score, and rallied in bracket play on Sunday, May 19, to win two tight one-run games and then coast to a big win in the championship game of the Mayor’s Cup NIT played at Burns Park. Logan Grant, Logan Chambers and Coby Greiner each threw a complete game and Jacob Coppock continued his hot streak by going 9 for 9 with three walks over the weekend.
Team members are Chambers, Grant, Logan Catton, Coppock, Cade Dupree, Hunter Mullings, Jacob Shepard, Ryan Lessenberry, Will McEntire and Greiner. They are managed by Michael Catton with help from assistant coaches Phillip Dupree, Mark Coppock and Madison McEntire.
Championship Game – Bryant 9, Diamond Kings 0
With each team playing their third game of the day, pitching depth was the difference as the Hornets took on the 11-year-old major team from Jonesboro.
After scoring nine runs in their first four games, Bryant struck quickly for three runs in the top of the first. Chambers led off with a grounder to left for a hit and went to third on a pop by Dupree that fell in front of the right fielder. After Grant struck out, Coppock single to right to make it 1-0 and move Dupree to third. After Coppock stole second, Mullings lifted a sacrifice fly to center to plate Dupree with Coppock advancing to third.
When the Diamond Kings pitcher began his throw to third, as instructed by his coach, to appeal to third that Dupree had left early, Manager Catton sent the speedy Coppock racing to the plate, catching the Diamond Kings by surprise and stealing a run to make the score 3-0. Catton then grounded to third to end the inning.
Greiner started on the hill for the Hornets and gave up a single and a walk to start the inning but good defense helped him out of the inning. Lessenberry made a nice play on a foul pop near the screen behind the plate and then Chambers made a diving stop behind the second base bag and flipped to Catton for a force at second. With runners at the corners, Lessenberry threw out the trail runner trying to steal second to send the game to the second inning.
Bryant blew the game open with six runs in the second, all of them coming with two outs. Greiner led off with a single to right. After he moved up on a wild pitch, Shepard sacrificed him to third. Lessenberry popped to second for the second out. McEntire then laced a double into the corner in left and scored when Chambers doubled over the centerfielder’s head. Dupree lined a single to right-center to bring in Chambers and went to second on Grant’s single to center.
Coppock singled to center to score Dupree and on the throw to the plate Grant took third and Coppock went to second. Mullings then ended the scoring when he grounded a double inside the third base bag. After Catton walked, Greiner grounded to short to end the inning with Bryant up 9-0. In the bottom of the second, Greiner worked around an error by McEntire in right to keep the Diamond Kings off the board.
Bryant loaded the bases in the top of the third. After Shepard grounded out, Lessenberry was hit by a hit. McEntire popped to second for the second out but then Chambers walked and Dupree reached safely when the Diamond Kings failed to cover second base on a grounder to short. Grant grounded out to third to end the threat.
In the bottom half, Greiner set the side down in order, getting a grounder to short, a comebacker to the mound and a pop that he fielded near the plate.
In the fourth, Bryant threatened again but came up empty. Coppock singled on a soft liner just over the shortstop’s glove. After Mullings flied out to left, Catton was hit by a pitch. Greiner then lined hard to the third baseman who dove and appeared to catch the ball, freezing the runners. But the ball had trickled from his glove but he recovered to turn a double play by forcing Coppock at third and Catton at second.
Greiner then worked around a single and a walk in the bottom of the fourth inning to retire the Diamond Kings and give Bryant a 9-0 run-rule win.
Semifinals – Bryant 2, Maumelle 1
Bryant went easily in the top of the first as Chambers grounded back to the mound, Dupree struck out swinging and Grant fouled out near the third base dugout. Maumelle got its lone run early but failed to score more. Chambers walked the leadoff batter and uncorked a wild pitch that moved him to second, and allowed a single that put runners on the corners. Bryant ran a pickoff play on the runner at third and then unsuccessfully threw to second as the runner on first attempted to steal. The runner from third beat the return throw to the plate to make the score 1-0.
Lessenberry gunned out the runner trying to swipe third to clear the bases but back-to-back singles and a bunt loaded them with one out. Chambers then recorded one of his two strikeouts and got a grounder back to the box to end the inning.
Bryant quickly tied it 1-1 in the second. Coppock led off with a walk and stole second as Mullings and Greiner struck out. Catton then hit the first pitch for a grounder that got into left field for a single to tie the game. He took second on the throw to the plate but Shepard fanned for the third out.
In the bottom of the second, Chambers got a grounder to short for an out and then allowed a single to center. The next batter grounded to Dupree at third who threw to Greiner at second for a force out, but the runner from first failed to slide, causing his throw to be off the mark for a double play. Manager Catton asked for time and, after he stated his case, the umpires conferred and ruled the runner out to end the inning.
In the top of the third, Lessenberry was called out for interference when he bumped the catcher as he left the box on a squibber up the first base line. McEntire struck out before Chambers grounded a single to left and took second on an error by the left fielder. After advancing to third on a wild pitch, he attempted to score on another wild pitch but was out at the plate when the ball ricocheted back to the catch who flipped to the pitcher for the tag.
Chambers allowed a single to the first batter in the bottom of the third but then retired the side on a 5-4 force out, a pop up back to the mound and a ground ball to second.
Bryant broke the tie in the fourth. After Dupree struck out, Grant singled to left and Coppock’s pop fell in left to put two on. After a wild pitch moved the runners up, Mullings dropped down a sac bunt to score Grant. Greiner then popped to first to end the inning.
In its half, Maumelle’s six-hole hitter reached on an error by Dupree and he was sacrificed to second but a strikeout and grounder to short sent the game to the fifth inning with Bryant up 2-1.
Catton led off the fifth with a walk but was still at first after Shepard and Lessenberry struck out. McEntire then lined hard right at the third baseman to end the frame.
In the final at-bat, Chambers got two quick outs on grounders to Dupree at third. Swinging on a 3-1 count, Maumelle’s three-hole hitter scorched a waist-high line drive to first where Coppock made a nice back-handed snag to end the game.
Bracket Game — Bryant 5, Conway 4
The first game of bracket play was a rematch with the Conway team that beat Bryant 9-1 the previous day. This time, Bryant jumped out with a quick 2-0 lead. After Chambers struck out, Dupree doubled to left-center, moved to third on a passed ball and scored on a deep double to left by Grant. Coppock slapped a grounder into left to put runners on the corners. After Coppock stole second, Mullings hit a ground ball to the shortstop who fired to third to get Coppock trying to advance as Grant scored. Greiner singled to left to put two on before Catton fanned to end the inning.
In their half of the first, Conway immediately tied the game against Grant, Bryant’s starting pitcher. A leadoff single followed by a double to right-center plated the first runner with the batter taking third on the throw home. Following a strikeout, a ground ball to short tied the game before Grant ended the inning with a strikeout.
Bryant went 1-2-3 in the second as Shepard and Lessenberry grounded out to short and second and McEntire struck out. Grant snagged a pop up for the first out in the bottom of the second and following an infield single to short, whiffed the next two to end the second.
The Hornets regained the lead in the third. After Chambers grounded out to second, Dupree singled on a ground ball to left field and Grant walked. Coppock drilled a single to left and when the ball got by the left fielder for a two-base error, two runners scored. Coppock reached third but after Mullings struck out, he was caught off third and tagged out on a 2-5-2 rundown.
Conway quickly tied the game again. The 10-hole hitter doubled in the gap to left, moved to third on a ground out to second and scored on a deep fly ball double that went off Catton’s glove. An infield single to short put runners on the corners.
Bryant called a pickoff play to third and Dupree took the throw and fired to Greiner at second to get the trail runner for the second out. However, Conway tied the game at 4-4 when Chambers couldn’t handle a ground ball to short. Grant recorded his fifth strikeout of the game to end the third.
Bryant threatened in the top of the fourth but left the bases loaded. After Greiner popped to second, Catton singled on a pop fly to left and Shepard grounded a ball inside the third base bag for a single. After Lessenberry flied to center for the second out, McEntire was hit to load the bases. Leadoff batter Chambers stepped in and drilled a shot right at the third baseman who caught it on the short hop and stumbled over to touch the third base bag with his bare hand to force Shepard at third.
Conway threatened again in the bottom of the fourth. The first batter singled inside the line at first and went all the way to third on a bunt single when Grant’s throw was wide of the bag at first. When the runner attempted to steal, Lessenberry fired toward second where his throw was snagged by Chambers who fired back to the plate. Although the runner slid well ahead the throw, Lessenberry blocked the plate and applied the tag for the first out. Grant then whiffed the next two batters to send the game to the fifth still tied 4-4.
Bryant scratched out a run in its last at-bat with a little luck and a defensive lapse from Conway. After Dupree struck out, Grant lined a single to right. With Coppock at the plate, Grant was to attempt to steal second on the first movement by Conway’s left-handed pitcher but he left too soon was caught in a rundown. After three or four throws Conway attempted a tag but missed Grant who reached second safely. Conway’s third baseman had become involved in the rundown and had left the bag unguarded so Grant was waved on by Manger Catton and he sprinted safely to third followed by four of the Conway fielders, one of which had the ball. Coppock then hit a soft ground ball to short and used his speed to beat it out for a hit as Grant scored to break the tie. Coppock stole second and third but was left stranded when Mullings and Greiner struck out.
In the bottom of the fifth, Grant started 3-0 on the first batter, his only three-ball count of the game, but battled back to strike out that hitter and the following one as well. He then induced a ground ball to Chambers at shortstop to end the game. In his five innings of work, Grant struck out nine batters without issuing a single walk.