By Madison McEntire
Baseball writer Roger Angell once observed that, “Baseball is simple, but never easy.” The Bryant[more] 12 year-old 50/70 All- Star team proved this to be true in the 20-team USSSA State Tournament played at Burns Park on from June 21-23. They relied on their deep pitching staff and got just enough timely hitting to eke out three straight one-run wins, two of them coming in their final at-bat, before Jacob Coppock’s tie-breaking grand slam propelled them to a 8-2 win in the championship game.
Coppock was named tournament MVP for throwing a no-hitter in the first bracket game and ending the quarter-final game with a two-run single before his grand slam in the final game.
Team members are Logan Chambers, Logan Grant, Logan Catton, Jacob Coppock, Cade Dupree, Hunter Mullings, Jacob Shepard, Ryan Lessenberry, Will McEntire, Coby Greiner, Zack Wells, and Sawyer Holt. They are managed by Michael Catton with help from assistant coaches Phillip Dupree, Mark Coppock and Madison McEntire.
Bryant 8, Arkansas Elite Baseball Academy (AEBA) 2 – Championship Game
Left-hander Wells started for Bryant and fell behind the leadoff batter 3-0 but used his curveball to battle back with three straight called strikes to record the first out. After getting the next batter to ground a full-count pitch to second, he hit the three-hole hitter but then immediately picked him off first to end the inning. Bryant went down in order in their half of the first.
The Bryant defense helped Wells out in the second as second baseman Greiner and shortstop Chambers snagged line drives from the first two batters and then a grounder to Grant at third ended the inning. Bryant mounted a big threat in the bottom of the second but came up empty. Mullings reached with one out on a bad throw by the shortstop. McEntire bounced a single through the right side of the infield to put two on and then Greiner walked on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases with just one out. With the third baseman playing up, Catton grounded a two-hopper right at him which turned into an inning-ending 5-2-3 double play.
AEBA scratched out the game’s first run in the top of the third. Wells got the first batter to fly out to Shepard in right but then allowed a ground ball single to left. The nine-hole hitter doubled to the fence in right-center to make it 1-0. Wells fanned the next batter on three straight swings for the second out and then got a fly ball to Catton, who slipped and caught the ball on his knees in center to end the inning.
After a weekend of tight games, Bryant blew the final game open sending 12 men to the plate in the bottom of the third. Shepard led off with a walk and went to second when a pickoff attempt got by the first baseman. With one out, Chambers singled back up the middle on a ball that went off the pitcher’s bare hand, putting runners on the corners. Dupree lined a single back up the middle to score Shepard to tie the game and move Chambers to second.
After Grant walked on four pitches to load the bases, the pitcher tried to get ahead of Coppock with a first-pitch fastball right down the middle but Coppock was ready for it and hammered it over the top of the fence in right for a grand slam that traveled about 250 feet to make the score 5-1. The dugout cleared to greet him at the plate and then AEBA brought in a new pitcher.
With one out, McEntire started a new rally with hard single to the right of the second base bag. He moved up on a wild pitch and then scored when Greiner singled on a grounder up the middle and the throw to the plate was cut off. Catton singled on a fly that went off the glove of the diving center fielder and Shepard walked again to load the bases again.
In the top of the fourth, Wells got a grounder to Dupree at first for the initial out before giving up a double down the line in left. Another grounder to Dupree moved the runner to third and but a fly to Mullings in left ended the inning.
Bryant plated two more in the fourth. Dupree reached on an error by the first baseman with one down. With two away, Coppock chopped a ball off the plate that bounded high in the air to the shortstop who had no chance to throw him out at first. Mullings stepped in and, after Coppock stole second, singled to left to bring in both runners making it 8-1.
Having reached the maximum of 24 outs for the tournament, Wells was relieved on the mound by Grant, who had one more inning available to pitch, and Holt took over in right for Shepard. Grant hit the first batter then allowed a single to right to put two on. Chambers made a nice play at short going to his right and fired to third for a force out but then Grant hit the next batter to load the bases. AEBA’s leadoff hitter dumped a soft fly into right to bring in one run but Grant got a swinging strike on a high full-count pitch to end the threat.
In the bottom of the frame, Catton ripped a line drive to left for a single but was forced at second on Shepard’s grounder to the shortstop. Lessenberry then hit for Holt and grounded into a 5-4 force out to end the inning.
McEntire took over on hill for the final inning for Bryant. After fanning a batter on a 3-2 pitch, he ran the count full on the next hitter who cracked a knee-high liner to Dupree at first. Another full-count pitch resulted in a pop to Greiner in short right field to end the game and give Bryant the title.
Bryant 4, Cabot Edge 3 – Semifinal Game
Chambers was the starter for Bryant and retired the leadoff batter on a fly to center. The next batter walked and swiped both second and third while the three-hole hitter struck out. Cabot’s cleanup batter lined a single to left to make it 1-0 but was then caught stealing to end the top of the first.
Chambers led off for Bryant and hammered a 3-2 pitch to the left of the third baseman who threw his glove out, knocked the ball down and recovered in time to get the out at first. Grant walked with two away but was caught stealing on a pitchout for the third out.
In the top of the second, Chambers set the Edge down in order on a grounder to short, a foul pop to Dupree at first and a grounder to second. In the bottom half of the inning, Coppock opened the inning with a walk and then Cabot changed pitchers. Mullings drilled the first pitch right at the shortstop who knocked it down and forced Coppock out at second. McEntire stepped in next and also hit the first pitch, pulling the ball just inside the first base bag, where the first baseman scooped it up and retired him as Mullings moved to second. Greiner grounded to second to end the inning.
Cabot upped their lead to 3-0 in the third. The first batter doubled down the line in right and scored when the following batter ripped a line drive that went off the glove of a leaping Grant at shortstop and rolled all the way to the fence. Chambers retired the 10-hole batter on a pop to first and the last batter in the lineup to ground to third, with the runner advancing to third. Bryant attempted a pickoff but the throw hit the runner as he dove back and bounded away, allowing him to get up and scamper home. The batter then lined to Mullings in left for the final out.
In the bottom of the third, Catton and Lessenberry were hit by pitches. With Shepard running for Lessenberry, the Bryant catcher, Holt grounded to third for the first out with the runners advancing on the play. Chambers rolled out to second to bring in Catton and move Shepard to third. Dupree stepped in and lined the first pitch to the right fielder, who had just entered the game in mid-inning. He made a diving catch, plucking the ball off the top of the grass, preventing Shepard from scoring and Dupree from recording an extra-base hit. Bryant had trimmed the lead to 3-1.
Chambers retired the first batter in the fourth on a ground ball to shortstop for the first out but gave a single to right, with the batter going to second when the ball got by Holt. A foul pop to Dupree and a grounder to Grant ended the inning.
Bryant tied the game in the fourth. Grant opened the frame with a double off the fence in left. Coppock grounded a single back up the middle and cruised into second when the throw to the plate held Grant at third. Mullings popped out to the second baseman who made a diving catch on the edge of the grass in short right field and Grant was able to tag and score on the play. McEntire then lined a single back through the box to score Coppock from second and tie the game 3-3.
With time for just one more at-bat for each club, Chambers retired the first two Edge batters on a soft line drive to first and a swinging strikeout on a 3-2 pitch. Cabot’s eight-hole hitter walked on four pitches and went to third on a single down the line in right. The next batter grounded a ball to the left of the bag at first where Grant bobbled it but recovered in time to nip the runner at first.
Leaving the field, Lessenberry, tiring from his second consecutive game behind the plate on a hot day, told Manager Catton he needed a break. However, he was scheduled to bat first in the bottom of the fifth and lined the first pitch to left to put the potential winning run on base. Wells was sent in to run for him. After failing twice to get the bunt down, Holt battled back and walked on a 3-2 pitch. Chambers grounded out to the third baseman with the runners moving up.
Remembering that Cabot had pitched out on the first pitch earlier in the game, Manager Catton, put the suicide squeeze on after Dupree took a pitch for strike one. The pitch was head-high but Dupree got the bat up and tomahawked the ball to the ground to the left of the mound as Wells streaked home with the game-winning run.
Bryant 6, Argenta Blue Sox 5 – Quarter-final Game
Grant took the hill for Bryant and set the Blue Sox down in order on a fly to right, a grounder back to the mound and another one to second.
Bryant struck quickly in its half. Chambers singled up the middle to lead off and went all the way to third on an errant pickoff throw. Dupree’s ground ball to short brought him home.
The Blue Sox threatened in the second when the first two batters singled to put runners at the corners. On a 1-2 pitch the trail runner broke for second. Lessenberry’s throw was a bit to the right of second but Chambers made the grab and swiped the leg of the runner as he slid by. After Grant fanned the batter for the second out, he hit a batter to put two on. After a stolen base put both in scoring position, a grounder to Dupree at first ended the inning.
Bryant forced the Blue Sox pitcher to throw 30 pitches in the bottom of the second but failed to score. Mullings led off with single to center but was forced at second on McEntire’s sac bunt attempt. Catton walked on a 3-2 pitch and the Greiner struck out. Lessenberry was hit on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases but the Argenta pitcher worked out of trouble by getting Holt to line out to shortstop on yet another full-count pitch.
The Blue Sox took the lead with two in the third and a defensive gem kept it from being a lot worse. The nine-hole hitter walked, went to second on a wild pitch and to third when the leadoff batter dropped down a bunt single. After the runner on first swiped second, a walk loaded the bases. A ground-ball single to left made the score 2-1, but the momentum quickly shifted back in Bryant’s favor when the next batter ripped the first pitch on a line to left of the bag at second where Chambers snared it, stepped on second to double off the runner and fired to first to double off the runner there as well for a triple play.
As happens so often, the player who makes great defensive play leads off the inning and Chambers did just that bunting for a single down the third base line on the first pitch. Dupree’s sacrifice bunt moved him to second but he remained there with two down. Coppock, however, singled to the first baseman on a ball behind the bag as Chambers moved to third and, after Coppock stole second, Mullings delivered a big two-out hit as he bounced a hard shot to left off the mound that went off the pitcher glove. Chambers scored and Coppock took third. With McEntire at the plate, Mullings broke for second on steal attempt and the Blue Sox’ pitcher committed a balk to score Coppock and give Bryant a 3-2 lead.
In the fourth, Grant set the Blue Sox down quickly as he struck out the first batter on a ball in the dirt with Lessenberry firing to first. A strikeout and a ground ball to third ended the inning.
In Bryant’s half of the inning Greiner reached on a one-out error by the shortstop. Lessenberry was out on a sac bunt to the third baseman who hustled back to the bag to take a return throw from first to tag out Greiner who attempted to take the extra base on the play.
In the fifth, which would be the final inning due to time, the lead would change hands twice. Grant quickly retired the first two batters on a ground ball to short and a strikeout. The Blue Sox leadoff hitter slapped the first pitch into right to put the potential tying run on. With a 3-2 count on the batter, Grant fired the next pitch at his knees but did not get the close call from the umpire and the potential go-ahead run trotted to first.
After a wild pitch moved the runners to second and third, the batter ripped a shot into the gap in left-center to give Argenta the lead. He came around to score when Lessenberry took the throw at the plate and attempted to nail him at second. The throw sailed into right-center and the batter circled the bases to make the score 5-3.
Bryant had three outs left to tie or win the game but didn’t use any of them. Holt led off and fisted a ball that dropped behind the third baseman for a single. Shepard came in to run for him and Chambers, after fouling off a pair of two-strike pitches, doubled over the centerfielder’s head to put the tying runs in scoring position. Dupree walked on four pitches to load the bases.
With the Blue Sox infield playing in, Grant singled on short fly to left to make it 5-4. With the infield still in and the sacks still full, Coppock chopped a hard shot through the right side. When the right fielder momentarily fumbled the ball, both Chambers and Dupree crossed the plate to give Bryant a 6-5 comeback win.
Bryant 3, Arkansas Xtreme 2 – Opening Bracket Game
Coppock was Bryant’s pitcher and retired the first 11 batters on his way to a no-hitter. He started in first with a strikeout, grounder to third and fly ball to left.
Bryant’s offense struck quickly in the first. Dupree laced a double to the wall in right-center and Grant doubled him home with a long fly to left, taking third on the tardy throw to the plate. He would score on a wild pitch. Coppock doubled to the fence in left center but was out trying to stretch it into a triple.
In the second, the Xtreme went easily as Coppock sandwiched a line drive out to third between swinging strikeouts. McEntire reached on an error by the second baseman but then Catton grounded into a 5-4-3 double play. After Greiner walked, Shepard fanned to end the inning.
Coppock breezed through the third, getting consecutive come-backers to the mound and a called strikeout on which Lessenberry had to throw to first after he dropped the pitch. Bryant went just as quickly in its half of the inning as Lessenbery grounded to third, Chambers grounded to second and Dupree struck out swinging after fouling off three pitches with two strikes.
The Xtreme finally put a runner on in the fourth. After Coppock got a called strikeout on a 3-2 pitch and induced a grounder to second, he walked the three-hole hitter on a full-count pitch. But the cleanup batter whiffed on three called strikes to end the inning.
Bryant tacked on a big insurance run in bottom of the inning. Coppock got an infield single on a ball to the third baseman behind the bag. With Mullings at the plate, Coppock stole second and third. He scored when the catcher’s throw got by the third baseman. Mullings walked but was stranded.
In the top of the fifth, the Xtreme plated its two runs. Coppock walked the leadoff batter on four pitches but then got a strikeout and a grounder to third for two quick outs. A wild pitch moved the runner from second to third and another walk put runners on the corners. A balk brought home the first run and then a couple of wild pitches scored the second to make it 3-2, before Coppock recorded his eighth and final strikeout of the game.
Greiner grounded out to first and then after Shepard fanned for the second out, the clock expired and Bryant was a 3-2 winner.
Pool Play Games
Bryant went 2-0 in its pool play games to secure the fourth seed, which allowed them to be the home team in each of the bracket games when the top three seeds were each defeated in the tourney.
In the first pool play game, Bryant defeated Cabot Edge 4-3 as Wells pitched four solid innings, allowing just two runs when Cabot collected four consecutive hits with two outs in the first. After the first three Bryant batters struck out swinging in the first, they scratched a run in the second when Coppock reached on an error, swiped second, took third on a wild pitch and was bunted home by Mullings.
In the third. Shepard was hit by a pitch, Lessenberry dropped down a sac bunt and Bryant ended up with two runners in scoring position when the Cabot pitcher made a throwing error. McEntire singled back up the middle on a liner to bring in Shepard.
After Wells set down Cabot in order in fourth, Bryant upped the lead to 4-2. With one out, Coppock walked, stole both second and third and was again bunted home by Mullings.
After Wells hit the first batter in the top of the fifth on an 0-2 pitch, Grant replaced him on the mound. A sac bunt moved the runner up and he scored on two wild pitches before Grant fanned two batters to end the inning.
In the top of the sixth, Grant set Cabot down in order on a fly to center, a ground ball to shortstop and a swinging strikeout to secure Bryant’s 4-3 victory.
In the second pool play game, Bryant took advantage of several miscues, walks and hit batters by the Arkansas Bearcats to post a 14-3 win. They scored in each inning with three runs coming in the first, two in the second, three more in the third and then the final six in the fourth. The hitting star of the game was Mullings who knocked in two runs with a single to left and a bunt single to the pitcher.