Bryant 9’s are Regional champions

 Photos courtesy of Kevin Burton and Lora Parker

LITTLE ROCK — With wins over Oak Grove, Miss., and the host Little Rock Junior Deputy[more] team, the Bryant All-Stars captured the championship of the 9-year-old Southwest Regional Tournament on Tuesday night.

In the semifinals, Bryant outslugged Oak Grove, 12-8. After waiting for Little Rock Junior Deputy and Oak Grove to play the loser’s bracket final, Bryant held off a late rally to win, 7-5, in a game that finished after midnight.

The Bryant 9-year-old all-stars, with Jeremy Morrow as manager and coaches Ryan Martin and Chad Hatman, includes Evan Barrett, Carson Burnett, Gavin Burton, Luke Dreher, Caleb Greiner, Drew Hatman, Connor Martin, Colby Morrow, Cade Parker, J.T. Parker, Turner Seelinger, Hayden Thompson and Logan White.

Bryant 7, LR Junior Deputy 5

After falling behind initially 1-0, Bryant put together a four-run second to take the lead for good.

Morrow, White and Dreher combined on the mound for Bryant, frustrating the Little Rock batters for five innings until the sixth-inning rally that fell short of overcoming Bryant’s 7-2 lead.

Junior Deputy scored a run in the first, loading the bases with a hit, a walk and a hit batsman. A single drove in the run but then Morrow found his groove and retired the next two batters forcing Little Rock to leave the bases loaded.

The lead didn’t last long. Bryant’s second began with a two-out single by Seelinger. Cade Parker slapped a single to right then J.T. Parker was hit by a pitch to fill the bags. Greiner tied the game with an RBI single and Martin put Bryant ahead with a base hit to center. When White was hit by a pitch and Burton walked it forced in two more runs to make it 4-1.

White took over on the mound in the bottom of the inning and worked around a hit batsman with one out. Neither team scored in the third or fourth even though Bryant loaded the bases again with hits from Cade Parker, J.T. Parker and Martin.

In the bottom of the inning with Dreher on the mound, a two-out walk led to some controversy. The next batter hit a grounder towards second. Greiner charged the ball and was run over by the base-runner. The umpire called the runner out for interference to end the inning and ignite an argument from the Little Rock manager who was eventually ejected from the game.

And Bryant utilized the momentum in the top of the fifth. Thompson walked, Morrow singled to center and walks to Dreher and Seelinger forced in a run. Cade Parker followed with a shot to left-center that drove in two, making it 7-1.

Junior Deputy used a hit batsman and a pair of two-out singles to trim a run off the margin in the bottom of the fifth then worked out of a jam in the top of the sixth after Martin doubled, moved up on a sacrifice by White, and Thompson walked.

The bottom of the sixth began with a single. A bouncer to third resulted in a force at second but the next batter was plunked by a pitch and a pair of singles followed as three runs scored.

With the potential tying run at the plate, Dreher got the final out on a fly to right, ignited a celebration.

Bryant 12, Oak Grove, Miss., 8

In the semifinal game, Bryant grabbed a 4-0 lead in the top of the first but Oak Grove wouldn’t go away until, in the bottom of the sixth, Dreher finishing out the win with a scoreless sixth.

A walk to Martin started the game. He was forced at second on White’s tap back to the mound but Burton singled to left and, with two down, Morrow drove in the first run with a base hit. Dreher’s single to right knocked in a run then Seelinger doubled to make it 4-0.

Oak Grove plated a run in the bottom of the inning but in the White, the Bryant starter, kept them off the board in the second. After an opening single, a one-out bloop to right fell in. But the runner at first had to hold up and Cade Parker alertly fielded the ball and fired to second for a force.

Bryant added to its lead in the top of the third. Burton beat out an infield hit and Thompson walked. The runners moved up when White grounded to short then Dreher singled in a run. Seelinger’s sacrifice fly made it 6-1.

A three-run uprising in the bottom of the inning kept Oak Grove in the game. Bryant took its turn in the top of the fourth. J.T. Parker walked and scored on a double by Martin. White’s base hit got Martin to third and Burton’s shot to right made it 8-4.

Oak Grove got those two runs back in the bottom of the fourth, taking advantage of three walks as Martin, on in relief, began to struggle with his control. Dreher came on to get the final two outs as Bryant clung to a two-run edge.

A four-run top of the fifth made things a little more comfortable. Seelinger’s one-out double to left sparked the uprising. He moved to third on Cade Parker’s grounder to second then J.T. Parker singled him in. Greiner cracked an RBI double down the line in left to make it 10-6.

After Martin walked, White beat out an infield single to drive in the 12th tally.

Again, Oak Grove made a bid to keep up, plating two runs in the bottom of the fifth but with a runner at second and one out, Dreher ended the inning with a pair of strikeouts.

He got a third to open the sixth and, after an infield hit, a force at second and a groundout ended the game.

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