Despite comeback, Bryant 10’s fall in winner’s bracket final

MAGNOLIA — The Bryant Athletic Association All-Stars battled back from a 3-1 deficit with a run in the fifth and another in the sixth only to have the Benton All-Stars score in the home sixth for a walk-off win in the winner’s bracket final of the Cal Ripken 10-and-under State Tournament today.

Bryant will await the survivor of an elimination game between Sylvan Hills and Crossett at noon on Tuesday for a chance at a rematch with Benton in the title round. They’ll need to defeat Benton twice to take the championship.

It would be sweet revenge for a heart-wrenching loss today.

The team, coached by C.J. Brown, includes J.T. Allen, Gavin Benson, Eli Berry, Carter Brown, Avery Heidelberg, Preston Howlett, Landon Jackson, E.J. Keith, Braxton Speer, Aiden Stout, Hudson Thomason and Marcus Wimberly.

Bryant scored first in the game, picking up a run in the top of the second inning. Keith’s one-out single got the inning going. Benson reached on an error. When Heidelberg grounded out, the runnners moved up to second and third. Brown drew a walk to load the bases then Stout waited out a free pass to force in the run.

But Benton countered with three runs in the bottom of the second, all unearned against Speer, the starting pitcher. A single and a walk set the inning up. A sacrifice bunt followed but when the ball was thrown away trying to get the out at first, two runs scored and Benton wound up with a runner at third. He scored on a groundout to make it 3-1.

It became a pitchers’ duel at that point as neither team could muster much offense. Bryant scratched out a run in the top of the fifth. After two were down, Allen singled and scored on a double by Thomason.

Benton was unable to take advantage of a lead-off walk in the bottom of the fifth as Berry, who relieved in the third, retired the next three batters.

Speer led off the top of the sixth with a single. Berry sacrificed him to second and a passed ball allowed Speer to reach third. Keith made a bid for a hit but was robbed by the Benton shortstop. But two pitches later, a passed ball allowed Speer to score as Benson was drawing a walk. An error on a pickoff throw allowed Benson to reach second but he was stranded there.

In the bottom of the sixth, a single and a walk set the stage for the game-winner. A sacrifice put runners at second and third with one out. The next batter was hit by a pitch to load the bases. A bloop single to center drove home the winning run.

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