BENTON — Clinging to a 3-2 lead in the top of the seventh, the Bryant All-Stars turned a[more] dramatic, game-ending doubleplay to get out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam and advance to the championship round of the 2012 14-and-under South Arkansas State Tournament at Bernard Holland Park.
Bryant, behind the pitching of Zach Jackson and Luke Brantley along with a major defensive effort, Bryant worked out of jams in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh innings for the 3-2 victory in a white-knuckler against the rival Little Rock Junior Deputy All-Stars.
The win came on the heels of a Saturday thumping of McGehee, 23-0. With those victories, Bryant remains the lone unbeaten team. The Stars will play Monday at 7:15 p.m., against the survivor of the losers bracket final between Junior Deputy and White Hall, which will be played at 5. Bryant will have to be beaten twice — on Monday, then again on Tuesday — to be denied the State title.
Regional tournament play begins July 27 at Mountain Home.
The Bryant 14's are managed by Mark Kehrees with assistance from Seth Doxey and Blain Jackson. Team members include Connor Alliston, Bailey Bowers, Brantley, Chase Brooks, Daniel Darbonne, Jackson, Nick Kehrees, Zach Knapp, Mike Martindale, Caleb McElyea, Liam Miller and Connor Tatum.
Bryant 3, LR Junior Deputy 2
Jackson was perfect through the first three innings, facing the minimum while Bryant built a 3-0 lead, pushing a single run home in each inning. In the first, Brantley drew a one-out walk, stole second and took third on a single to left by Miller. Jackson drew a walk then Martindale singled in a run. Miller tried to follow Brantley home but was thrown out at the plate.
In the second, a two-out, two-strike single by McElyea sparked the inning. Singles by Tatum and Brantley brought him around. Miller walked but Junior Deputy’s Dylan Thompson was able to escape further damage.
Martindale beat out a bunt single to start the third, taking second on an errant throw by the Little Rock catcher. Knapp drove him in with a shot to center for a double.
Junior Deputy broke through with the aid of a pair of Bryant errors in the top of the fourth. Nathan Abraham reached on the first miscue to start the inning, becoming the first base-runner for his team. A walk to Joe Myers and a single by Austin Chumley loaded the bases.
Jackson picked off Abraham but Thompson reached on an error and a passed ball allowed Myers to score and the others to move up. Joe Hampton walked then a sacrifice fly by Ben Bryles made it 3-2 before Jackson got the final out on a pop to Kehrees at second.
Thompson kept it a one-run game by pitching around a one-out single by Jackson in the bottom of the fourth. Little Rock threatened in the top of the fifth when, with one out, a walk to Monroe McKay preceded Abraham getting hit by a pitch.
Brantley relieved for Bryant and promptly plunked Abraham to put runners at first and second — the potential tying and lead runs. Myers, however, bounced into a force
at third. Chumley reached to load the bases with two down but Thompson grounded into a force at second to end the inning.
The home fifth began with a single to left-center by Bowers. Brooks came on to run for him and raced to third on a single by Kehrees. With a stolen base by Kerhees, Bryant had runners at second and third but Thompson retired the next three to leave the there. He would pitch around a one-out single in the bottom of the sixth.
Junior Deputy, meanwhile, kept the pressure on. In the sixth, a single by Hampton and an error that allowed Bryles to reach was followed by a sacrifice bunt from Cooper Griffin. Again, Little Rock had the potential tying and lead runs in the scoring position but, again, Brantley wriggled off the hook with a strikeout and a pop up.
The seventh-inning stem-winder began with a single by Abraham. Myers added a pase hit and, with one out, Thompson’s single to center loaded the bases for Hampton who smacked a liner that Tatum speared at short, quickly tossing to Kehrees at second for the dramatic game-ending doubleplay.
Bryant 23, McGehee 0
Bowers and Miller combined on a one-hit shutout and Bryant blew open a 3-0 game with 11 runs in the second inning.
Over the first three innings, Bowers struck out five, walked one and hit one. McGehee’s lone hit came with one out in the fourth. After Miller had struck out the first batter he faced, William Waldrop singled up the middle. He would steal second and take third on a wild pitch, but he could get no further as Miller fanned another batter and induced a pop to short to end the inning. He would strike out two more and complete the shutout despite hitting a batter with two down.
Bryant’s offensive explosion was aided by 18 walks, a hit batsman and two errors. The Stars scored three times without a hit in the bottom of the first. Tatum, Brantley and Jackson drew walks and Bowers’ two-out drive to center was misplayed, clearing the bases.
McElyea and Knapp started the second inning debacle with singles. After walks to Tatum, Brantley and Martindale, Miller cracked a double. One-out walks to Bowers and Kehrees kept the inning going and, with two down, Knapp singled to center. Four straight walks followed as the lead ballooned to 14-0.
Bryant’s third commenced with a walk to Alliston. Darbonne belted a double to right-center and, after McElyea was plunked, Knapp ripped a single to right. Before the inning was over, Tatum and Jackson had belted RBI doubles as the score reached 20-0.
Knapp doubled to open the fourth. Tatum singled him in and, after Brooks and Miller drew walks, Jackson bouncer to third was booted and the lead reached the final mark.