By Madison McEntire
BENTON — Behind the torrid hitting of Jacob Coppock and the pitching of Logan Grant and Logan Chambers,[more] the Bryant Hornets won the Third Leg of the Everett GMC Triple Crown at Benton’s Holland Park on Sunday, May 5. For the tournament, Coppock was 8 for 10 at the plate with a pair of homers and a pair of doubles, while driving in eight runs and scoring eight times. In bracket play, Grant and Chambers pitched complete games, each striking out seven batters.
Team members are Logan Chambers, Logan Grant, Logan Catton, Jacob Coppock, Cade Dupree, Hunter Mullings, Jacob Shepard, Ryan Lessenberry, Will McEntire and Coby Greiner. They are managed by Michael Catton with help from assistant coaches Phillip Dupree, Mark Coppock and Madison McEntire.
Championship Game – Bryant 7, Arkansas Heaters 4
Bryant’s matchup against the Heaters, a scrappy 11-year old team playing up in the 12-year-old age division, was a rematch of a pool play from the day before when Bryant broke open a tight game with six runs in the final inning to win 10-3.
Chambers took the hill and needed just seven pitches to get a liner to third and ground outs to second and third. In the bottom of the first, Chambers led off and homered to left-center on a 2-2 pitch to give Bryant a quick 1-0 lead. Dupree followed with a first pitch double to the corner in left, then took third on a wild pitch and scored on Grant’s grounder to second. Coppock was then kept off base for the only time all weekend when the centerfielder made a diving catch of this liner to center. Mullings fouled out to the pitcher on the first base line and the first inning ended with Bryant up 2-0.
Chambers breezed through the second inning, again needing just seven pitches, getting a fly to Catton in center and grounder to first and a pop fly to first. Greiner led off for the Hornets and was out on a swinging bunt that the catcher fielded and threw to first. Lessenberry walked on four pitches, stole second and then moved to third on Catton’s single up the middle. Catton stole second and, when the catcher’s throw went into center field, Lessenberry trotted home to make it 3-0. Shepard walked to put two on but McEntire struck out on a ball that got away from the catcher to move the runners up and Chambers struck out to end the threat.
In the third, Chambers needed no help from his defense as he quickly stuck out the side. Dupree led off and lofted a fly that fell for a single in center but was forced at second on Grant’s ground ball to the shortstop. The left-handed hitting Coppock then doubled on a fly ball to the corner in left to put two runners in scoring position. After Mullings popped to second for the second out, Greiner came through with a big two-out hit, a liner to the right of the second base bag. The throw to the plate was too late for a play but Greiner was caught in a rundown and tagged out to end the inning. Bryant had a 5-0 lead.
Chambers retired the Heaters’ 10-hole hitter to extend his streak to 10 consecutive batters retired but then gave up singles to center and right to put two on. He registered his fourth K of the game for the second out and got out of trouble with a liner to McEntire in right. Bryant went quietly in its half as Lessenberry popped to the pitcher and, after Catton was plunked by a pitch, Shepard flied to center and McEntire lined out center.
The Heaters got on the board in the fifth. Their first batter doubled to left. After a flyout to Shepard in right, the runner moved to third on a grounder back to the pitcher and then scored when Coppock’s throw back across the diamond skipped out of play. The inning was then over because the Heater’s next batter was an automatic out after he had become ill and had left the game.
Leading 5-1, Bryant tacked on two runs insurance runs in the bottom of the fifth which turned out to be very important. After Chambers flied to left and Dupree grounded to second, Grant reached on an error by the second baseman. Coppock then ripped a double to left to score Grant. Mullings reached on a throwing error by the pitcher with Coppock crossing the plate on the play. Greiner walked to put two on before Lessenberry struck out to end the inning.
Down 7-1 with just three out to play, the Heaters made it interesting. Their nine-hole hitter reached on a soft grounder to short that took a bad hop just as Grant was about to field it then the following two hitters each singled to load the bases. Chambers got a swinging strikeout on a full-count pitch for the first out before a single brought home a run and kept the bases loaded. Another swinging strikeout left Bryant just one out from the win and they appeared to have it on a grounder to Greiner at second but another bad hop brought in a run and left the bases loaded. An infield single in the hole between short and third made the score 7-4 and brought the go-ahead run to the plate. With the missing player’s spot in the order on deck, Bryant displayed good sportsmanship by electing to pitch to the batter rather than walk him and take the automatic out to end the game. Chambers caught him looking at on off-speed pitch for this third strikeout of the inning and seventh of the game.
Semi-Final Game – Bryant 3, Green Sox 1
Prior to the championship, Bryant and the Green Sox of Arkadelphia squared off in a well-pitched, tight semifinal game. Grant started for Bryant and worked a quick inning getting grounders to third and short and a line drive out to right field. Bryant went in order in the bottom of the first as Chambers struck out swinging, Catton popped to second and Grant grounded to second.
In the second inning, Grant worked around a leadoff walk with a swinging strikeout and fly to center and a grounder back to the mound. Bryant drew first blood in its at-bat. Coppock reached when the second baseman couldn’t handle his hot smash. He stole second and then used his speed to score from there on Dupree’s sac bunt when he upended the catcher with a slide into home. Mullings then grounded back to the box and Shepard popped to short.
Grant allowed a leadoff single to center to start the third but then on his third pickoff attempt caught the runner leaning the wrong way and he was retired when Coppock ran him to second and flipped the ball to Chambers for the tag. Grant then got a strikeout and, following a single to left, with a foul pop to end the inning. Bryant went easily in the home half of the third as McEntire popped to short, Lessenberry flied to right and Greiner grounded to second.
The Green Sox’ leadoff batter opened the fourth by striking out swinging on a ball in the dirt and was retired on Lessenberry’s throw to first. After giving up a single to left, Grant got a fly to the fence that Catton hauled in and then another swinging strikeout to send the game to the bottom of the fourth with Bryant clinging to a 1-0 lead. Chambers flied out to left for the first out and then Catton struck out. Grant drilled a ball that clanged off the metal sign at the top of the 20-foot tall centerfield fence that read “200 ft.,” but was held to just a long single. With Coppock at the plate, the Green Sox picked him off to end the inning.
The first Green Sox batter in the top of the fifth jumped on an 2-0 pitch and hammered it over the fence in center to tie the game at 1-1. After a grounder to Chambers at short and a strikeout, Grant allowed a single but then recorded a swinging strikeout to end the frame. Bryant quickly recaptured the lead. Coppock smoked a single to right, stole second and then it was “de ja vu all over again” as Yogi Berra once said. Dupree dropped down a sac bunt and Coppock again scored from second base, this time running through manager Catton’s stop sign at third. Mullings grounded to third for the second out.
The Green Sox starting pitcher issued his first two walks of the game to Shepard and McEntire to put two on with two outs. He was replaced on the mound and Lessenberry greeted the new hurler by hooking two foul balls toward the third base dugout before he grounded the hole at second to plate Shepard with an insurance run to make it 3-1. McEntire took third and Lessenberry advance to second on the throw to the plate but they were left there when Greiner grounded out to the short stop.
Grant retired the first two batters in the bottom of the sixth on a fly to right and a ground ball to short before giving up a ground ball that got through the hole into left field for a single. He then registered his seventh strikeout of the game to move Bryant into the finals.
Earlier, in the first pool play game of the tournament, Bryant and Maumelle tangled in an entertaining game that ended in a 12-12 tie. Bryant jumped to a quick 3-0 lead when Coppcok crushed his first career homer with a monster blast that also cleared the backstop of the field beyond the centerfield fence 200 feet away.
After Maumelle tied it the score at 3-3, Bryant plated five more in the second, getting singles by Lessenberry, Greiner and Grant and a walk to Catton. Coppock capped the rally with his second three-run homer in just two innings of play.
After Coppock retired the Bulldogs 1-2-3 in the third, Bryant seems to put the game out of reach when they added four more runs to increase the lead to 12-3, getting an RBI-single from Greiner, a two-run homer by Chambers and an RBI-single by Coppock, his sixth RBI of the game.
Maumelle got right back in the game with four runs against McEntire in the third, the final two coming on a two-out, two-run homer on an 0-2 pitch.
After Bryant went in order in the fourth, Maumelle had time for just one more at-bat. With Greiner on the mound, the Bulldogs started their rally with one out by getting consecutive singles before Greiner fanned the two-hole batter for the second out. A walk loaded the bases and then Coppock could not handle a grounder at first that would have ended the game. A balk brought in a run and then Greiner’s next pitch was hit for a game-tying three-run homer. Following a single, Grant came in and got a swinging strikeout to end the game with the score tied at 12-12.