GULFPORT, Miss. — For all intents, the championship of the Cal Ripken Southwest Regional tournament for teams of 9-year-old players was decided before the final. On Monday, Aug. 3, the Orange Grove, Miss., Summer Heat took on the Arkansas state champions from Bryant in the semifinals at Clarence Johnson Jr. Memorial Sports Complex.[more]
Bryant came into the game unbeaten in the post-season including 5-0 at the Regional. Orange Grove was 5-1, having lost a game in pool play before advancing to the single-elimination championship tournament.
In a tight, tense pitcher’s duel between Bryant’s Dylan Johnson and Scott Schmidt and Orange Grove’s Brendon Hardy, the Heat survived with a 4-0 win ending a 13-game post-season winning streak for Bryant’s Stars. And, the next night, Orange Grove rolled to a 14-1 win over St. Charles, La., to officially capture the title.
To get to the final, Bryant had ousted Jonesboro, 16-11, and Oak Grove, Miss., 14-2, in bracket play. In pool play, Bryant whipped Bentonville, 16-0; Twin River, 12-2; and Long Beach, Miss., 13-3.
Bryant’s 9-year-olds, coached by Bill Kyzer, included Myers Buck, Luke Curtis, Caleb Dorsey, Brooks Ellis, Hunter Hilson, Johnson, Preston Kyzer, Hayden Mills, Blake Pennington, Matthew Sandidge, Schmidt, Larry Thompson and Cooper Wright.
Orange Grove 4, Bryant 0
Bryant, which scored in double-digits in every other game of the tournament, managed just two hits against Hardy who struck out 10 and walked three.
After Johnson worked a 1-2-3 first, Sandidge earned a lead-off walk in the bottom of the inning. But he was forced on a grounder to short by Schmidt and Hardy got Wright and Johnson to ground out to end the inning.
Orange Grove got on the board in the second. After a hit batsman, a sacrifice and a walk, there were runners at the corners. The runner at first took off on a steal of second but was thrown out by Kyzer. The lead runner, however, came home on the play as Bryant swapped a run for an out.
The Stars made a bid to answer in the bottom of the inning when Kyzer led off with a single to center and Pennington drew a walk. But Hardy struck out the side after that and proceeded to retire nine in a row before Thompson singled to left to start the fifth.
Thompson moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Buck but was stranded.
In the sixth, Dorsey drew a two-out walk before Hardy ended it with his 10th strikeout.
Orange Grove added a run on a single, a passed ball and a double in the fourth then plated two insurance runs in the top of the sixth to set the final score.
Bryant 16, Jonesboro 11
After falling behind 9-2 after Jonesboro’s seven-run second, Bryant rallied for the victory, capping off their comeback with a seven-run outburst of its own in the fifth.
Both teams scored twice in the first. For Bryant, Sandidge drew a walk and Schmidt cracked a double down the left-field line. One run scored on a groundout by Wright and another came home on Johnson’s sacrifice fly.
After Jonesboro’s big inning, Johnson settled down on the mound and gave his team a chance to come back. And, in the third, Bryant began that process, scoring three times. Schmidt got things started with an infield hit. A triple by Wright chased him home. Johnson followed with an RBI single to make it 9-4.
Kyzer kept the inning going by reaching on an error and, after Ellis grounded into a force at third, Hilson’s two-out single plated Kyzer.
Jonesboro answered with two in the top of the fourth to make it 11-5 but Bryant continued its surge with four in the bottom of the frame. Sandidge drew a walk to open the inning. Schmidt singled to left then they pulled a double steal. Wright’s base hit scored Sandidge then Schmidt followed on a passed ball. Wright singled and stole second. He scored on a base hit by Johnson.
Kyzer was hit by a pitch and, with one out, Thompson bounced into a force at third but when Hilson reached on an error, Kyzer scored to make it 11-9.
The decisive home fifth began just as the fourth had, with a walk to Sandidge. Schmidt singled and Wright was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Dorsey walked to force in a run and so did Kyzer.
After a pitching change, Curtis bounced into a force at home but Thompson followed with a two-run single that put Bryant in the lead.
Curtis was thrown out at the plate on a grounder by Hilson who hustled to second when Jonesboro chose to hold Thompson at third. But Buck singled in Thompson moments later. Hilson came in on a passed ball and, after Sandidge walked again, Schmidt doubled to set the final score.
Jonesboro loaded the bases in the top of the seventh but Schmidt struck out the last two to close it out.
Bryant 14, Oak Grove, Miss., 2
Bryant snapped 1-1 tie with a four-run second and rolled to victory in four innings.
After Sandidge singled and scored in the bottom of the first to tie the game, Bryant’s second began with a double to left-center by Ellis. Hilson reached on an error and when Curtis did as well, Ellis scored. A passed ball and another error allowed Hilson and Curtis to score.
With one out, Mills singled and Sandidge struck consecutive hits to left to make it 5-1.
Buck, on in relief of Curtis, worked around an error and a two-out single in the top of the third and Bryant added on in the bottom of the inning.
Ellis drew a lead-off walk and, after Hilson singled, both moved up on a passed ball and scored when Buck’s grounder to third drew a wild throw to first. Buck stole second, took third on a wild pitch and, after Sandidge drew a two-out walk, scored on a single by Schmidt to make it 8-1.
Oak Grove whittled a run off the margin in the top of the fourth before Bryant put it away in the bottom of the inning, scoring six times.
Ellis reached on an error and Hilson singled to instigate the uprising. Curtis sacrificed and Kyzer reached on a throwing error as both runs scored. Mills was hit by a pitch and Pennington walked to load the bags for Schmidt who walked to force in a run. With two down, Thompson capped the inning off with a bases-clearing double.
Bryant 16, Bentonville 0
In a three-inning game, Bryant maxed out its scoring in the second and third inning after taking a 4-0 lead in the first. Johnson and Schmidt combined on a no-hitter. Johnson struck out three, hit a batter and walked one in two frames. Schmidt fanned one and worked around a pair of walks to close it out in the third.
Bryant got on the board with back-to-back doubles by Sandidge and Schmidt to start the bottom of the first. After Schmidt moved to third on a passed ball and Wright walked, Johnson delivered a run with a sacrifice fly and Kyzer doubled to make it 3-0. An RBI single by Thompson brought Kyzer home.
In the second, Buck led off with a single to left and Sandidge beat out a bunt hit. Schmidt walked to load the bases and Wright greeted a new pitcher with a triple to drive in all three.
Johnson followed with a walk and a stolen base. Ellis singled him home then stole second and scored after Thompson beat out an infield hit, Hilson was hit by a pitch and Buck singled.
The six-run third featured an RBI single by Schmidt, a two-run double by Ellis, a bunt single by Mills that plated a run, an RBI walk for Buck and a concluding RBI double by Pennington.
Bryant 12, Twin River 2
Bryant scored in each of the four innings and held Twin River to single runs in the first and second to capture its second pool play win.
After falling behind 1-0 in the top of the first, Bryant scored three in the bottom of the inning on just one hit. Sandidge reached on an error, Schmidt was hit by a pitch and Wright walked to load the bases for Johnson who was hit by a pitch to force in a run. Kyzer then singled to bring in two more.
Twin River cut the lead to 3-2 in the top of the second with the aid of a two-out error. But Bryant trumped that again in the bottom half, scoring four times.
Buck led off, reaching second on a throwing error. With one out, Schmidt doubled him home. Another error allowed Wright to get to first and, after Johnson walked, Kyzer ripped another single to drive in two. Dorsey beat out a bunt for a hit and Johnson scored to make it 7-2.
Three more scored in the third, Curtis, Dorsey and Thompson each had RBI walks. Sandidge and Kyzer contributed singles.
Bryant added two more with the help of a three-base error on a bunt by Schmidt to close out the run-rule win.
Bryant 13, Long Beach, Miss., 3
The Bryant Stars opened play in the tournament with a pair of max-innings to build a 12-0 lead in short order.
Long Beach was shutout until the fourth when it managed three runs, not enough to avoid the run-rule loss.
The auspicious start included consecutive hits by the first five Bryant batters. Sandidge and Schmidt singled before Wright belted a double to left-center to drive in the first run. Singles by Johnson and Kyzer drove in runs, another scored on a groundout by Curtis. Thompson singled in a run and, after Hilson walked, Buck doubled to make it 6-0.
In the second, one-out wlks to Schmidt and Wright set the table for Johnson who singled one in. An out later, Curtis drove another in with a base hit.
Thompson, Hilson, Buck and Sandidge were each hit by pitches in rapid succession and when Schmidt singled it was 12-0.
The final run scored in the fourth when Curtis reached on an error, advanced on a wild pitch, took third on a single by Thompson and scored when Hilson bounced into a force at second.