Heartbreaking last-inning losses deny Bryant 13s of title bid

BENTONVILLE — With their first State championship in hand, the Bryant 13-year-old All-Star team began play in the Southwest Regional Tournament on Friday, Aug. 7. And the winning they did at State continued with a 10-1 romp over Plainview, Texas then, on Sunday, a 9-4 win over Springdale that vaulted them into the winners bracket final, just two wins away from a Regional title and a trip to the World Series.

But a gut-wrenching loss to McComb, Miss., 7-6, on Monday, sent them to the losers bracket final. With a win, they’d get another shot at McComb in the championship round. But Eagle Pass, Texas, denied them. A heartbreaking 4-3 loss ended their bid to advance.[more]

Bryant finished as the third-place team in the Regionals. Both losses came via runs scored in the bottom of the seventh inning.

They were that close.

Bryant’s 13-year-olds, coached by Jason Thompson assisted by Mark Akers and Jimi Easterling, include Wesley Akers, Justin Emmerling, Trevor Ezell, Zach Graddy, Ashton Green, Spencer Kilgore, Jonathan Lyman, Austin Miller, Joe Murdock, Tanner Rich, Ian Shuttleworth, Korey Thompson and Chase Tucker.

Eagle Pass, Texas 4, Bryant 3

An error with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the seventh allowed the winning run to score for Eagle Pass, capping off an intense battle that was tied 3-3 by Bryant in a thrilling top of the seventh which ended with the potential go-ahead run at third.

Murdock was hit by a pitch with one out in the top of the seventh. Ezell drew a walk then Green bounced into a force play at second that enabled Murdock to take third. Akers walked then a wild pitch allowed Murdock to score. With runners at second and third, however, a strikeout ended the inning.

In the home seventh, a hit batsman, a balk, a single to center and a one-out walk loaded the bases to set the stage for the winning run to score.

Eagle Pass took a 3-0 lead with a run in the first and two in the third but when Murdock, who went the distance on the mound, got the final out of the third, he settled in and retired nine of the next 10 he faced allowing for the Bryant rally.

Two runs scored in the top of the fourth. Green walked, advanced to second on a balk and scored on a single by Akers. Graddy reached on an error then Akers stole third. Lyman came through with a sacrifice fly to make it 3-2.

Shuttleworth was hit by a pitch but a tap back to the mound ended the inning with Graddy still at third.

Bryant mustered a pair base-runners in the fifth when Murdock’s fly to center was misplayed and Green drew a two-out walk but both were stranded.

In the sixth, Graddy walked but was forced at second when he had to hold up on Lyman’s bloop to center that wound up falling in. Shuttleworth grounded into a force at second but, after Tucker was hit by a pitch, he stole third. Tucker broke for second and drew a throw only to have the Eagle Pass second baseman cut off the throw and fire it home to retire Shuttleworth to end the inning.

McComb 7, Bryant 6

Bryant had taken a 6-5 lead by squeezing in a run in the top of the seventh only to have McComb score twice — with the tying run coming on its own squeeze play — to pull out the victory.

McComb tied it 5-5 in the bottom of the fourth and it stayed that way until the seventh. In the top half, Miller led off by slapping a single to right. Thompson bunted him to second then he stole third to set the stage for Ezell’s squeeze bunt, which scored him. Ezell reached first safely on the play but was stranded as Green and Akers flew out.

In the bottom of the inning, a double and a single put runners at first and third. Lyman, on in relief of Green, struck out the next batter but the trail runner stole second. The squeeze bunt followed, tying the game. That was followed by a walk to load the bases and a single to end it.

Bryant had led early in this one. In the first, Ezell singled to center, Green walked and Akers singled in a run. Green scored moments later when Graddy grounded into a force. Walks to Rich and Shuttleworth loaded the bases but the McComb pitcher wriggled off the hook to keep it 2-0.

In the second, however, Thompson walked, Ezell reached on an error and Green singled to make it 3-0. A one-out walk to Graddy loaded the bases but when Rich bounced to first, the result was a force at the plate for the second out. A strikeout ended the inning.

McComb tied it with a three-run home second. With the go-ahead run at third, however, Green induced a grounder to Thompson at second to end the inning.

And it wasn’t tied for long. In the top of the third, Lyman and Tucker singled. Thompson got a sacrifice bunt down and, with two down, Green came through with a two-run double.

McComb whittled a run off the advantage in the bottom of the third then tied it in the fourth.

Bryant threatened in the fourth when Shuttleworth walked with two down and Lyman reached on an error. They pulled off a double steal but got no further.

Ezell reached on a one-out error in the fifth and stole second but was stranded. In the sixth, Shuttleworth singled with two down and stole second only to be left on.

McComb threatened to take the lead in the fifth when a runner got to third on a walk, a stolen base and a passed ball but after a hit batsman, Lyman came on to get the final out. He then pitched around a hit and a two-out error in the sixth to keep the game deadlocked.

Bryant 9, Springdale 4

Akers went the distance on the mound, walking three and striking out nine and scattering seven hits. He held Springdale without a hit until a one-out single in the fourth.

By then, Bryant had built a 4-0 lead. Two scored in the first on infield hits by Ezell and Green, an error that allowed Akers to reach and a groundout off Rich’s bat.

In the top of the fourth, Shuttleworth earned a walk, stole second and took third on an errant throw. Lyman singled him home. Tucker reached on an error and after Thompson sacrificed the runners to second and third, Ezell’s grounder to short was botched allowing Lyman to score.

Green got a bunt down but Tucker was caught in a rundown between third and home and tagged out. Akers walked to load the bases but all three were stranded.

After Springdale managed a run in the bottom of the fourth, Bryant scored two more in the fifth. Shuttleworth blasted a triple to left and scored on a single by Lyman. After Lyman stole second and advanced to third on a balk, Thompson’s single brought him home to make it 6-1.

Akers retired the side in order in the bottom of the fifth and Bryant tacked on two more in the sixth. Ezell, Green and Akers drew walks to load the bases. After Graddy bounced into a force at home, Rich reached on an error as Green scored. Kilgore, running for Akers, came home when Shuttleworth rolled into a force at second.

Springdale trimmed the lead to 8-3 with a pair of runs in the sixth with the help of a two-out error. But Bryant added another run in the top of the seventh. Tucker walked, Thompson sacrificed and Ezell doubled in the run.

Springdale put together a trio of hits in the bottom of the seventh to produce its last run but Akers ended it with a strikeout, leaving runners at the corners.

Bryant 10, Plainview, Texas 1

Lyman allowed just one run on five hits, walked one and fanned two in going the distance in the opener. After a pair of errors in the bottom of the first, the Bryant defense turned a doubleplay and avoided defensive miscues the rest of the way. Together, Lyman and the defense retired the last eight Plainview batters and 13 of the last 15.

Bryant grabbed a 3-0 lead in the first. Ezell singled to center, Green reached on an error by the second baseman and Akers doubled in both, advancing to third on a bouncer to second by Graddy and scoring on a squeeze bunt by Miller.

Plainview scored its lone run in the second on a double, a balk and a one-out single.

Bryant got that run back in the third when Miller’s RBI single drove in Graddy who had doubled.

In the fourth, Lyman beat out a bunt single to start a three-run uprising. Tucker legged out an infield hit and Thompson bunted for a single to load the bases. Lyman scored on a passed ball then Ezell squeezed in Tucker with a nice bunt. Thompson followed with the third run on Green’s grounder to second.

Bryant added on another run in the fifth when, with two down, Lyman and Tucker singled. A passed ball allowed the run to score.

A one-out single to right by Green in the sixth was followed by an RBI double by Akers. Graddy singled to left, getting Akers to third. He scored from there when Kilgore grounded into a force at second.

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