HOT SPRINGS — Bailey Bowers, the tough-luck pitcher who was charged with the Everett Black[more] Sox’ lone loss of the season on Sunday, came back after catching the entire game to that point, to pitch out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the bottom of the seventh as the Bryant team captured the Zone 4 Junior District Tournament championship at Lakeside High School Tuesday night.
Bryant will be the top seed from the Zone at the Junior State Tournament in Cabot starting this Friday. Texarkana will be the second seed and the Little Rock Cobras will be seeded third.
The Sox battled back through the losers bracket after that loss to the Cobras, eliminating Sheridan, Lakeside and those same Cobras to get to Tuesday’s title round against the Texarkana Razorbacks, the lone remaining unbeaten team in the tourney. Bryant had to win twice.
With lefty Evan Lee coming back to pitch after throwing two innings the previous day, the Sox forced the winner-take-all final by posting a 12-2 win over the Hogs in five innings. Then the two teams engaged in a classic immediately afterwards. Bryant built a 5-1 lead before Texarkana rallied, scoring two in the sixth then mounting a major threat in the bottom of the seventh. But, in both innings, the Razorbacks left the bases loaded.
Bryant has been nothing but a headache for the Texarkana team this season. The Sox are 5-0 against the Razorbacks including their biggest comeback of the season for a 9-8 win on July 8. That was in the first game of a doubleheader in Bryant. In the second game, Bowers no-hit the Hogs in a five-inning win.
Bryant 5, Texarkana 4
Trailing 5-3, Texarkana started the seventh inning of Tuesday’s final with a single by Steven Boyce. Bryant starter Harrison Dale, who had limited Texarkana to one run on five hits over the first five frames but had surrendered two in the sixth, gave way to Dalton Holt. But he struggled with the strike zone, issuing walks to Ryan Orr and Jordan Izzo to load the bases and put the potential tying and winning runs on base.
That’s when Sox manager Tyler Brown handed the ball to Bowers.
On a 2-2 pitch, Zach Harrington singled to right to drive in the run that made it 5-4 but then Bowers got Zach Phillips to pop to shallow right. Still, that brought up the top of the Texarkana batting order.
Bowers, however, bowed up and struck out the next two batters to end the game and save the championship victory for the Black Sox who improved to 28-1 on the season.
Holt and Blake Patterson each had two hits in the final. Holt was on base four times and scored two of the team’s five runs. In the first, he beat out an infield hit. Lee drew a walk then Patterson drilled a double to left-center to drive in Holt. And when the ball was bobbled in the outfield, Lee hustled in as well.
Texarkana starter Steven Caple settled down after that and shut the Sox out through four. The Razorbacks got on the board in the third. Nick Myers singled with one out then Brandon White was hit by a pitch. Trevor Danley slugged one into the gap in left center to bring Myers around but when White tried to score too the relay from shortstop Connor Tatum to Bowers was in time to nail him.
Boyce followed with a single to put runners at the corners but Dale got Orr to fly to Lee in left to end the threat.
Dale worked a 1-2-3 fourth and the Sox gained a little breathing room with a three-run fifth. Tatum got the uprising started with a single to right. Bowers got a sacrifice bunt down and a passed ball allowed Tatum to take third. Brandan Warner followed with a grounder on the infield. With Tatum breaking for the plate, the Razorbacks threw home but not in time as Tatum made it 3-1.
Warner was safe at first and he stole second, advancing to third on a single by Drew Tipton. Holt was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Lee. His groundball hit Tipton for an out but the bases remained loaded. Walks to Patterson and Devin Dupree forced in runs to push the margin to 5-1.
After pitching around a hit and a walk in the bottom of the fifth, Dale began to tire in the sixth. With one out, he hit Izzo then Harrington drilled an RBI triple. Phillips delivered the second run with a sacrifice fly.
Further, Texarkana threatened to tie it or take the lead. After singles by Hunter McGilberry and Myers, White was hit by a pitch to load the bases. But Dale came back to strike out Danley to keep it 5-3.
The Sox were unable to cushion the margin any further, though Holt walked and Patterson singled in the top of the seventh
Bryant 12, Texarkana 2
Lee had started and thrown 35 pitches on Monday against Lakeside but was pulled when the Sox started to blow the game open in hopes he could return on Tuesday. The lefty gutted out four innings as the Sox piled up another big lead. He then gave way to Tipton, who finished it with a scoreless fifth.
Lee surrendered just four hits but two of those helped produce Texarkana’s two runs in the second. Danley opened the inning with a single and Boyce walked. Lee made a bid to end it there with a strikeout and a pop to right but Blake Bearden drew a walk on a 3-2 delivery and, a pitch later, Izzo cracked a two-run double to left-center.
The 2-0 lead didn’t last long as the Sox broke through with four in the third. Warner walked to lead off the inning. He was running as Tipton grounded to third, making it to second. He stole third then consecutive walks were issued to Holt, Lee and Patterson to force in a run.
Hunter Oglesby tied it with a sacrifice fly to center then Trey Breeding lined a single to right to pick up an RBI. Dale cracked an RBI single as well to cap the outburst.
Lee worked around a single and a walk in the bottom of the third and the Sox extended the lead in the fourth. Tatum pulled a single to right, Warner walked and Tipton beat out a bunt for a hit to fill the sacks. Holt yanked a single to left to drive in Tatum and Lee shot a single to right to chase in Warner and Tipton. After Patterson walked again, Oglesby bounced into a force at second but, because he beat the relay to first avoiding the inning-ending doubleplay, Holt was able to score to make it 8-2.
The Sox put the finishing touches on their scoring in the top of the fifth. Again Warner got it started with a walk. Tipton too drew a free pass to set the table for Holt who dropped a looping liner to left-center for an RBI single, taking second on the late relay to the plate. And when Lee lined a single to center it drove both Tipton and Holt home, making it 11-2.
Patterson singled Lee to third and Oglesby singled him home before Texarkana had retired a single batter in the inning.
Tipton surrendered a pair of singles in the bottom of the inning but got Herrington to fly to Holt in right to end the game.