By Madison McEntire
Photos courtesy of Crissy McEntire
The Bryant 12-year-old All-Stars scored in each of the first four innings and coasted to a 7-1 win[more] over Little Rock Junior Deputy in the championship game of the Cal Ripken State Tournament played at Bryant’s Bishop Park on July 9.
Team members are Logan Chambers, Logan Grant, Logan Catton, Jacob Coppock, Cade Dupree, Hunter Mullings, Jacob Shepard, Ryan Lessenberry, Will McEntire, Coby Greiner, Zach Wells, and Sawyer Holt. They are managed by Michael Catton with help from assistant coaches Phillip Dupree, Mark Coppock and Madison McEntire.
Next up for the All-Stars is the Cal Ripken Southwest Regional tournament in Springdale, which begins on Friday, July 19.
Bryant batted first and Chambers bounced a ball back up the middle on the game’s first pitch. From previous encounters with Bryant, Little Rock was expecting a sac bunt and was ready with a trick play to turn a double play. Dupree bunted to third and was thrown out by a half step. Chambers rounded second, and seeing third base unoccupied, kept on going but he was thrown out when the left fielder came racing in to take the return throw at the bag.
Despite the trickery, Bryant still put a run on the board. Grant lined the next pitch just inside the line in left for a double and scored when Coppock singled on a pop to center field that the Little Rock second baseman called for but wound up falling in front of the center fielder. Coppock stole second on a pickoff attempt but was left there when Mullings grounded out to first.
Grant took the hill for Bryant and retired the first batter on a fly to Shepard in right. The following batter grounded a single into right and beat Shepard’s throw to the bag at first by a step. Grant then recorded his first strikeout of the game, with the runner stealing second on the third strike. The Little Rock clean-up hitter also struck out on a ball in the dirt and Lessenberry fired to first to complete the play.
In the second, Bryant doubled the lead to 2-0. Catton led off and dropped a pop into center for a hit. Greiner laid down a sac bunt but was safe when the Little Rock first baseman came off the bag too quickly when taking the throw, putting runners on first and second.
At that point, a lady from the Little Rock side of the stands yelled, “They’re starting their bunting again!” And right she was as Shepard’s sac bunt moved both runner into scoring position and then Lessenberry’s sac bunt scored Catton and moved Greiner to third. Chambers grounded out to first to end the inning.
Little Rock went 1-2-3 in the second on a swinging strikeout on a 3-2 pitch and then the next two batters each hit the first pitch, resulting in a foul pop to Grant near the first base line and a hard comebacker to the mound.
Dupree led off the third for Bryant and was awarded a rule-book double when he smashed a ball that bounced over the fence in dead center field. Grant walked on four straight and Coppock walked on a full-count pitch to load the bases. On another full-count pitch, Mullings tapped to the third baseman who forced Dupree at the plate.
Little Rock changed pitcher and the new hurler got Catton swinging for the second out. With Greiner at the plate, the new Little Rock pitcher was one strike away from getting his team out of the inning unscathed but he hit Greiner to force in a run. Shepard was next and, with a 1-2 count, he lofted a pop in back of third near the line. The Little Rock left fielder charged in, but rather than make a diving attempt to end the inning, he stopped short and played the ball on a bounce, allowing Coppock and Mullings to cross the plate. Lessenberry struck out swinging to end the inning but the two-out rally had swelled Bryant’s lead to 5-0.
Little Rock scored its only run on the bottom of the third. Their eight-hole hitter singled in the hole to the shortstop on a two-strike changeup. The next batter grounded to Chambers, who momentarily fumbled the ball at shortstop. Although he still had time to get the lead runner at second he threw to first. The ball was offline, putting runners on the corners.
Grant recorded the first out on a pop to Chambers behind the second base bag and then Catton fielded a grounder and tagged the runner coming from first for out number two, with the runner on third coming home on the play. A fly to Mullings in left ended the inning with Bryant leading 5-1.
Bryant scored its final two runs in the fourth. Chambers led off with a grounder back through the box and then stole second. Dupree sacrificed him to third and was safe at first on a throwing error by the pitcher, which scored Chamber and moved Dupree to second. Grant lined a shot back up the middle that went off the pitcher glove and was fielded by the second baseman who fired to first for the out. Dupree moved to third on the play.
Coppock then smashed a vicious line drive that struck the field umpire flush in the thigh and knocked him to the ground. The home plate umpire declared the ball dead with Dupree scoring on the play. After the ump shook off the blow, the game resumed with Mullings bouncing out to third as Coppock advanced to second. After Coppock stole third, Catton popped to the pitcher near the first base line to end the inning with Bryant up 7-1.
Coppock took over for Grant to start the bottom of the fourth. He took care of the first two outs himself on a ground ball back to the mound and with a leaping snag of a liner back up the middle. Little Rock’s five-hole hitter lined a soft pop over Dupree’s head at first for a single and then a grounder to left put two on. After a wild pitched moved both runners up, Coppock caught the next batter looking at strike three to end the threat.
In the top of the fifth, Bryant went in order for the only time in the game. Little Rock only needed eight pitches to get Greiner on a grounder to the shortstop and both Shepard and Lessenberry on grounders the third baseman.
Little Rock mounted its last threat in the bottom of the fifth. Coppock walked the first two batters, the first free passes issued by Bryant pitchers in eight innings versus Little Rock. After getting the first out on a swinging strikeout, Bryant caught a break when Little Rock’s leadoff batter appeared to foul a ball of his leg. The home plate umpire ruled that the ball did not strike him and Grant threw him out at first as the runners advanced. The Little Rock manager questioned the call but after the ump conferred, the call stood. Coppock then ended the inning when he caught the next batter looking at a 3-2 fastball.
Bryant threatened in its final at-bat but failed to add to their lead. Chambers grounded to second and Dupree struck out on a ball in the dirt and was retired on a close play at first for two quick outs. Grant was hit by a pitch and stole second on the left-handed pitcher’s pickoff attempt to first. Coppock walked to put two on. McEntire pinch hit for Mullings and took a strike to allow both runners to steal but then, after a foul ball, went down looking at an outside pitch to end the frame.
Coppock got a quick out to start the last inning. His first pitch fastball was high but the Little Rock batter could not check his swing and the ball bounced off the bat right back to the mound. Shepard took care of the next batter when he drifted to his left and snagged a fly ball. After a walk and a balk put a runner at second, Coppock got a grounder right at Grant at third who threw across the diamond to end the game.