HASTINGS, Neb. — Early leads have been a mixed blessing for many of the teams at the Senior American Legion Mid-South Regional Tournament so far.
They don’t seem to last.
After a game in which they trailed early and rallied to win and a second one in which they led early and wound up losing, the Bryant Black Sox jumped out to a 4-0 lead over the Texarkana, Texas, Bulldogs in an elimination game on Friday. Sure enough, Texarkana rallied and tied the game in the top of the sixth. But Coby Greiner came to the mound with the potential go-ahead runs on first and second and got out of the inning with the game deadlocked.
He then held the Bulldogs through the eighth. And, in the bottom of the inning, Greiner came through with a bases-loaded infield hit for a 5-4 walk-off win as they avoided the early-lead “whammy”.
Bryant survives as Texarkana is eliminated. The Sox advance to the final four of the tournament. They’ll play Fremont, Neb., on Saturday at 4 p.m. Fremont lost to Festus, Mo., 2-0, in the winners’ bracket final. Festus will play Hastings, Neb., at 7.
Greiner struck out the side in the top of the seventh. After the Sox were unable to take advantage of a one-out single by Logan Chambers in the bottom of the inning, Greiner worked around a two-out error in the top of the eighth with another strikeout.
In the bottom of the eighth, Jake Wright led off with a single in the hole at short. Gage Stark squared to sacrifice and wound up beating it out for a hit. Peyton Dillon followed with a sacrifice attempt and nearly beat it out, but the job got done as Wright reached third and Stark advanced to second.
The Bulldogs intentionally passed Noah Davis to load the bases, setting up a force at any base. And they got one for the second out as Lawson Speer grounder to short resulted in a force on Wright at the plate.
Greiner followed and worked the count to 2-1 before coming through with the game winner.
The Sox had 10 hits in the game to take advantage of three Texarkana errors. The Bulldogs’ mound duo of Hunter Allen and Brayden Ross issued just one walk in the game.
All of Texarkana’s runs were unearned. After Logan Grant shut out the Bulldogs through three innings, Peyton Dillon preserved the whitewash until the sixth when a walk, a passed ball and an error ignited the rally.
Dillon fanned clean-up hitter Zane Cox but a bloop single to center by T.J. Krause got the Bulldogs on the board. On a 2-2 pitch, Keaton Russo singled to make it 4-2.
Blaine Sears became Bryant’s third pitcher at that point, and he got Tucker Anderson to pop out to Stark in shallow right. Sears and Aaron Prince battled in an eight-pitch at-bat resulting in a walk on a 3-2 pitch. With the bases loaded, Sears had a 2-2 count on Bryson Rhodes before he came through with a lined single to center to plate two and tie the game.
That’s when Greiner took over on the mound and got lead-off man Chris Lyles to ground out to Davis at second to send it to the bottom of the sixth.
Bryant took the lead initially in the bottom of the first. With one out, Catton beat out an infield hit in the hole at short. With two down, he advanced to second on an errant pick-off throw from Allen. Moments later, Wright yanked a single to left to chase him home.
Grant had pitched around a one-out single in the first then worked around a pair of knocks in the second, both on the infield. He struck out Rhodes to end the threat, as he fanned the side.
In the bottom of the second, a one-out single by Davis got an uprising started. Ryan Riggs’ grounder to short was misplayed and the Sox wound up with runners at the corners.
In shades of things to come, Greiner beat out an infield hit to plate Davis then Chambers singled to center to make it 3-0. And, after Catton beat out a bunt hit to load the bases, Cade Drennan picked up an RBI with a bouncer to shortstop Chris Sutton, whose only play was to throw to third for a force.
Grant eased through the third then Ross relieved for Texarkana in the bottom of the inning and set down the side in order.
Cox greeted Dillon with a single to center to open the fourth, but Krause grounded into a ‘round-the-horn doubleplay started by Catton at third. Russo flew out to right to end the frame.
Ross retired the Sox in order again in the home fourth. In the fifth, Dillon struck Anderson with a pitch but followed up by striking out the side.
Catton was struck by a pitch to open the home fifth. He was running off first on a 3-2 pitch to Drennan and that resulted in a strike-‘em-out, throw-‘em-out doubleplay. Wright followed with a double down the line in left. He was stranded.
That led to Texarkana’s rally in the top of the sixth.