JACKSONVILLE — The Bryant 8-year-old All-Stars will be headed to the Southwest Regional[more] Tournament for 8-and-under teams, which commences Friday, July 19, at Bay St. Louis, Miss., but, unfortunately, it won’t be as State champions.
Bryant was the last unbeaten team in the State Tournament and was awaiting the survivor of Tuesday’s losers bracket semifinals between Little Rock Junior Deputy, Lonoke and Star City. As it turned out Star City, a team that Bryant had drubbed 13-3 on Monday, emerged needing to beat Bryant twice on Wednesday to deny them the State title.
And that’s what wound up happening.
Star City eked out a 5-3 win to force a winner-take-all final (the “if” game) and, riding the momentum of the win, scored six times in the first on the way to an 11-4 victory to capture the State title.
The Bryant 8-year-old team, headed up by manager Joey Small, is Luke Bickerstaff, Dawson Brown, Drake Brown, Tucker Dunn, Braxton Fischer, Matthew Griffe, Mason Lucas, Tanner Newell, Logan Owen, Alex Skelley, Chase Small, Dylan Stroud and Daniel Taylor.
In the opener, Star City scored two in the first and two more in the third to take a 4-0 lead. Bryant whittled a run off the margin in the bottom of the third but Star City got that back in the top of the fifth to make it 5-1. Bryant rallied in the fifth to score two and had the potential tying run in scoring position only to have Star City wriggle off the hook. In the sixth, Bryant was retired 1-2-3 to send it to the second game.
Bryant’s third-inning run was knocked in by Fischer, who doubled with two out, driving in Drake Brown, who had beaten out a bunt hit with one down. Skelley’s hit got him to third for Fischer.
In the fifth, Griffe led off with a triple and scored on a single by Newell. Stroud doubled but was out trying to score on Taylor’s base hit. Dawson Brown bunted but Stroud was forced at third. Drake Brown then came through with an RBI single to make it 5-3 and send Dawson Brown to third. On the throw, Drake Brown reached second but both were stranded.
Stroud and Drake Brown led Bryant with two hits each.
In the final, Bryant grabbed a 1-0 lead in the opening frame. Bickerstaff doubled with one out and advanced to third on Small’s single. Griffe then delivered a sacrifice fly.
But Star City’s six-run uprising in the bottom of the inning had the Bryant Stars swimming upstream the rest of the game. Taylor managed a one-out single in the second. In the third, Skelley beat out an infield hit with one down. Fischer grounded into a force at second but Owen smacked an RBI triple to make it 6-2.
Small got his second hit in the fourth but to no avail. After Star City added two runs in the top of the fifth, Bryant responded with two in response in the top of the fifth. Newell doubled, Stroud singled and stole second then Taylor’s hit drove in a run. With two down, Dunn drove in Stroud to make it 8-4 with runners at second and third but Star City got out of the jam at that point and clinched the win with three runs in the home half, putting it out of reach with a six-run limit per inning.
Small and Turner led Bryant with two hits each in the game.