Bryant 9’s dig out of 8-2 hole for thrilling victory over Mississippi team

By Madison McEntire

ZACHARY, La. — Led by Nathan McFarland, who had four hits, drove in three runs, and scored four times, the Bryant 9-year-old All-Stars moved one step closer to their goal of the 2010 Cal Ripken Southwest Regional championship, with a stirring, come-from-behind 9-8 victory over the All-Stars from Orange Grove, Miss., on Monday, July 26.

The game was originally scheduled for 7 p.m. but an afternoon thunderstorm moved the game time to 8:30. The win over Orange Grove, a team coached by former Major League player Matt Lawton, keeps Bryant alive in the tournament to face Little Rock Junior Deputy in the semi-finals on Tuesday at 1 p.m., with the winner to face off against the winner of the Springdale-Hamburg game at 3 p.m. for the championship.

The Bryant team members are Logan Chambers, Logan Grant, Nathan McFarland, Ryan Lessenberry, Cade Dupree, Coby Greiner, Logan Catton, Jake Cowell, Will McEntire, Sawyer Holt, Garett Nguyen, Hunter Mullings, and Chandler Taylor. The team is managed by Michael Catton with help from assistant coaches Phillip Dupree and Madison McEntire.[more]

After trailing for most of the game, Bryant found the game tied at 8-8 entering their final at-bat in the bottom of the sixth. After Chambers grounded out to the pitcher, McFarland smoked a triple to left center field, his fourth hit of the game, to put the winning run just 60 feet away. Dupree stepped in the batter’s box and attempted to catch Orange Grove off guard with a bunt but missed the pitch for strike one. He swung late on the next pitch and appeared to have ended the game but his liner down the first base line was foul by less than six inches. Down 0-2 in the count, Dupree lofted a sinking fly ball to center as McFarland tagged at third. The Orange Grove center fielder came charging quickly but was forced to make the catch on one knee, giving him no chance to throw out McFarland who crossed the plate with the decisive run.

Beginning in the very first inning, things looked bleak for Bryant as they came out flat after consecutive lop-sided wins against inferior competition. McFarland started on the mound. The first batter of the game lifted a fly to left that Holt dove for, but could not catch. A pop fly to the shortstop was the first out but then a walk put two on. After the runners moved up on a wild pitch, a walk loaded the bases.

With the infield in for a force at the plate, Bryant got what they wanted when a squibber was hit right to Dupree at first, but he bobbled the ball for an error as a run scored and everyone was safe. McFarland got a ground ball to shortstop for a 6-4 force out as a run scored and then another Orange Grove runner crossed the plate as Greiner committed a throwing error trying to turn a double play. McFarland fanned the number seven hitter on three pitches to end the first, but Bryant trailed 3-0.

Catton started a rally for Bryant in the bottom of the first when he led off with a walk. After Chambers flied out to left, McFarland stepped in. After his late swing resulted in a foul off the end of the bat, the Orange Grove outfielders shifted several feet toward right field, only to have McFarland yank a hard liner into the left field corner for a double that scored Catton.

Dupree skied a ball to the center fielder for the second out but aggressive base running by Bryant tied the game. With the centerfielder’s throw coming into second, McFarland tagged and streaked for third, arriving just as the ball got there from second base. His slide caused the ball to roll away from the third baseman and he jumped up and headed home, sliding into the plate and the catcher as the ball arrived.

Grant popped to the pitcher to end the inning but Bryant had cut the lead to 3-2.

McFarland started the top of the second with a strikeout but then Bryant’s momentum ended abruptly as Orange Grove pushed five runs across and led 8-2. With one out, Dupree drifted too far to his right and dropped a pop fly that belonged to second baseman Greiner. The Orange Grove base runner then caught Bryant asleep and advanced to second before McFarland was on the pitching rubber with the ball. The next batter singled softly to the pitcher and took second as the runner from second was safe at third.

With two runners in scoring position, a line single to center scored them both. Orange Grove’s third place batter rifled a ball over Catton’s head in center that plated a run. He was forced to stop at second with a ground-rule double when the ball became lodged under the fence. Although he later said that McFarland had not pitched poorly but that his defense had let him down, manager Catton was forced to remove McFarland and he called Chambers in from shortstop to pitch. The move did not pay off immediately as Chambers walked the cleanup batter, who then stole second. Consecutive wild pitches allowed the two runners to score two runs as Chambers issued another walk. After allowing a single to center, Chambers regrouped and fanned the next two batters to end the second inning but the damage was done and Orange Grove led 8-2.

The six-run deficit was Bryant’s largest of the season and the team was understandably dejected from their poor play to begin the game. As they headed off the field, Coach Catton called them together outside of the dugout and implored them not to give up, saying, “this game is not over unless you think it is over.”

The bottom of the second started poorly for Bryant, but then they out together an impressive two-out rally to score five runs and get back into the game. After Greiner grounded out and Mullings fanned, Holt reached on a grounder to third. Lessenberry walked to put two on. On a full-count pitch, Catton nubbed a soft roller up the third base line for an infield single to load the bases. Chambers smashed a grounder to short that hopped off the shortstop’s glove, striking him in the face and rolling into center field. Holt and Lessenberry scored on the play with Catton stopping at second base.

McFarland stepped up and blasted his second double of the game, a missile to the left field corner, which scored Catton and Chambers with McFarland taking third on the throw to the plate. Dupree was up next and his line drive single to center scored McFarland. A liner to left off the bat of Grant fell for a single to put two runners on and they moved into scoring position on a wild pitch, but Greiner struck out to end the inning. However, Orange Grove’s lead was cut to 8-7 and they were clearly shaken by the sudden turn of events.

Chambers opened the top of the third with a strikeout but then walked the leadoff batter. Greiner then made a nice sliding stop of a ground ball but the speedy runner beat his throw for an infield single to put runners on first and second. Chambers fanned the next hitter for the second out of the inning. Orange Grove’s cleanup batter then hit a soft liner toward Grant at shortstop, who bobbled and dropped the ball because he was momentarily distracted as the runner crossed in front of him. But he recovered the ball quickly and fired to first to retire the hitter, who had given up on the play and had not run hard to first. Bryant had dodged a bullet and still trailed 8-7.

Bryant went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the third. Mullings struck out and Holt tapped back to the pitcher. Lessenberry was called out by the home plate umpire for being out of the batter’s box when he fouled off a 2-2 pitch.

In the top of the fourth, Bryant finally retired the Orange Grove batters in order. Chambers collected a strikeout, an easy comebacker to the mound and then another strikeout, this one on a nasty change-up, which had the batter swinging well out in front of the pitch.

The All-Stars tied the game in the bottom of the fourth. Orange Grove changed pitchers and the new left-handed hurler started off with a strikeout of Catton before Chambers reached on a line drive single to left field. McFarland, after crushing doubles in his first two at-bats, got under a pitch and lifted a pop fly just behind and to the right of second base. The ball fell among three Orange Grove players and good base running by Chambers allowed him to reach second safely ahead of the throw.

Dupree grounded back to the pitcher who forced Chambers at third for the second out. With Grant at the plate, a wild pitch moved up both runners. Grant then grounded to the third baseman, who bobbled the ball as McFarland scored and Dupree held at second. Another wild pitch moved the runners into scoring position but they were stranded when Greiner grounded back to the mound. Bryant had climbed out of a big hole to tie the game at 8-8 with two innings to play.

Chambers tossed another perfect inning in the fifth, striking out the first hitter and getting the next two on a grounder to Grant at short and a foul pop to Lessenberry to the right of the plate.

Bryant threatened but did not score in the bottom of the first. McEntire, who had entered for Mullings in the top of the inning, led off and reached on an error off a check-swing grounder that the third baseman could not handle. Holt twice tried to sacrifice, but was unsuccessful and then he struck out looking. Lessenberry was next and he did drop down the sac bunt, with McEntire advancing all the way to third base when Orange Grove failed to cover the bag. However, Catton popped up to the shortstop to end the inning and the game went to the final inning tied 8-8.

In the top of the sixth, Chambers was still on the mound for his fifth inning of relief. The first batter grounded out to Dupree at third. With two strikes, the next batter tried to check his swing but dribbled a slow roller toward third for a hit, and then advanced to second when Chambers had the ball, but turned his back to the runner before stepping on the pitching rubber. A wild pitch put the go-ahead run on third, but Chambers registered a strikeout for the second out of the inning. The next batter lofted a fly to right center, but McEntire drifted over and snagged it to send the game into the bottom of the sixth, setting up the heroics of McFarland and Dupree.

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