Photos courtesy of Sandy Orender
KITSAP COUNTY, Wash. — The Bryant 13-year-old All-Stars put the squeeze on Greenville, N.C., and wound up[more] squeezing the 2012 Babe Ruth World Series championship trophy as a result.
Jeffery Hastings and Logan Allen each came through with perfectly executed squeeze bunts in the bottom of the sixth inning, scoring Garrett Misenheimer and Aaron Orender to turn a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the sixth.
With three outs to go, the Cinderella North Carolina team, which barely made it into the championship bracket with a last-inning win in pool play then knocked off previously unbeaten Tri-Valley, Calif., in the semifinals, was shut down by Bryant right-hander Alex Shurtleff with the help of a hustling play and perfect peg by his first baseman Orender.
The 4-3 win held up for the championship in a thrilling finale as Bryant completed a 19-0 run through District, State, Regional and World Series play this summer.
Shurtleff was named the MVP of the tournament and joined teammates Austin Kelly, Misenheimer and Allen on the all-tournament team.
The World Series champions include Allen, Drew Brown, Cameron Coleman, Jake East, Hastings, Dylan Hurt, Kelly, Hayden Knowles, Misenheimer, Orender, Kyle Sahr, Shurtleff, and Diego Vargas. The championship manager is Jerry East and his assistants are Rick Brown and Randy Kelly.
Greenville had taken a 3-2 lead in the top of the third and held it behind the pitching of right-hander Phillip Sanderson. He had retired eight in a row and 10 of the last 11 batters he’d faced going into the sixth but was touched up by Misenheimer, who hit a chopper over the infield for his second hit of the game.
He advanced to second on a swinging bunt by Kelly then took third when Orender’s grounder to short was booted.
That brought up Hastings who had driven in the decisive run with a two-strike squeeze bunt in a 2-1 semifinal win over Monroe Township, N.J., the night before. This time, on the first pitch, Misenheimer headed for home and Hastings got the bunt down again. Sanderson fielded the ball and tossed to catcher Coleman Sawyer but Misenheimer slid around the tag to score the tying run.
Hustling on the play, Orender raced all the way to third. Allen came up and with Orender on his way home, dropped down another bunt. This time, Greenville had no play at the plate and wound up just nipping Allen at first.
Though Sanderson ended the uprising there, forcing Vargas, running for Hastings, to be stranded at second, the damage was done.
And they say bunting is a dying art in baseball!
Not in Bryant, Arkansas.
Still, the powerful Carolina crew had the heart of their lineup coming to the plate in the top of the seventh. Shurtleff and Sanderson dueled to a 3-2 count before the Greenville star popped it up. Orender came in from first to make the catch for the first out.
Clean-up hitter Drew Steele followed with a grounder that drew a throw in the dirt at first. Orender was unable to scoop it up but when Steele made the turn and sprinted toward second, Orender scampered after the ball, benefitting from a fortuitous ricochet off the dugout, turned and fired to East, covering second from short, in time for the second out of the inning.
That, obviously, took a lot of steam out of the Carolina kids. And, a pitch later, Colin Smith slapped a grounder to Orender who beat him to the bag for the final out.
That set off the Bryant celebration including the traditional dogpile on the infield.
Shurtleff wound up scattering nine hits, walking three and striking out five in the game. After a few struggles early, he pitched shutout ball over the final four frames.
Both teams scored a run in the first inning. For Greenville, singles by Gregory Hardison and Sanderson set up the inning. Though Shurtleff came back to fan Steele for the second out of the frame, walks to Smith and Cam Andrews force in the first run.
But North Carolina stranded three when Shurtleff got Tyler Hubbard to bounce out to Hastings at second to end the inning.
In the home half, East yanked a single to left and, on a hit-and-run, advanced to second on Hurt’s grounder to third. Shurtleff followed with a shot that was too hot for Smith to handle at third. The single drove in the tying tally.
Despite a lead-off single by Jake Pollard, Greenville was unable to score in the second. Bryant took advantage and took the lead in the bottom of the inning. Orender singled up the middle and Hastings slapped one into right field. Allen got down a sacrifice bunt to put runners at second and third with one out.
Sanderson was tough but a two-out error on a grounder to short by East permitted the go-ahead run to score.
Greenville responded in the top of the third. After Shurtleff fanned Sanderson, Steele pulled a single to left. Smith flew out to Allen in center and Shurtleff got within a strike of getting out of the inning. But Andrews drilled a 1-2 pitch to left-center that Coleman nearly tracked down with a diving attempt. It went for a double that drove in Steele with the tying run.
Hubbard followed with a roller to third that drew a throw in the dirt at first allowing him to reach. And by the time Orender pounced on the loose ball, the speedy Andrews had rounded third and headed home. He just beat the throw, giving Greenville its 3-2 lead.
A key play followed. Pollard hit a blooper to shallow right that Hastings, out from second, and Kelly, in from right, sprinted after. The duo collided and the ball rolled free. Hubbard, who had advanced to second on the previous play at the plate, made the turn for home himself. But Allen, hustling over from center, chased down the loose ball and fired to Misenheimer at the plate in time to nab Hubbard for the third out of the inning.
But Sanderson worked around an infield hit by Misenheimer in the bottom of the third then went on his run of eight in a row as the opportunities began to dwindle for Bryant.
In turn, Shurtleff kept it a one-run game by pitching around a two-out single by Hardison in the fourth and, in the sixth, two-out hits by Skyler Best and Sawyer. He got out of the latter jam when he got Hardison to hit a bouncer to Hurt at third. Despite a sore ankle, Hurt fielded the ball and fired to first in time to retire the side, setting up Bryant’s dramatic, game-turning home sixth.
In the end, the most impressive thing about the championship may have been spelled out by columnist Terry Mosher of the Kitsap Sun newspaper (see here) that noted: "East had the pick of 35 players from three age-group teams to put together his team that went undefeated (4-0) in pool play last week. Greenville, N.C., chose its players from 10 teams, and then there is California Tri-Valley, the Cadillac of this World Series as it has been in numerous others, which picks its players from 13 Little League programs."
Yes but it should be obvious by now, Bryant's is hardly your average youth baseball program.