CONWAY — The Bryant Black Sox Junior American Legion team is one win away from a State championship.
And because they clubbed the Fort Smith Junior Legion team 8-1 in an extra game on Monday (eliminating Fort Smith), they’ll have two chances (if needed) to get that win against the Texarkana Junior team, which knocked out Sheridan Taylor & Lunsford on Monday.
The Sox are the lone unbeaten team in the tournament so, in order to steal away the title for themselves, Texarkana will have to beat them twice. The first game — and the only game, Sox fans hope — starts at 2 p.m., on Tuesday at Hendrix College.
Ryan Lessenberry, Peyton Dillon and Christian Harp each had three hits in Monday’s victory. Cade Drennan pitched five shutout innings with relief from Logan Catton and Christian Motes over the final two frames.
Drennan allowed four hits, walked one and struck out two as the Bryant defense played error-free behind him. Catton surrendered the lone run but got out of the sixth with no further damage.
Saving pitches for the versatile Catton, Motes came in after the first out in the bottom of the seventh. The first batter Motes faced popped out to Catton at second. The final out came on a fly to Jake Wright in left.
When Drennan left the game, Bryant held a 5-0 lead. The scoring began in the top of the third. Catton instigated the uprising with a lead-off single. Coby Greiner sacrificed him to second then Wright yanked a single to left for the first RBI.
And, on a late throw to the plate, Wright hoofed it to second. He scored from there, moments later, on Harp’s bloop single to left, making it 2-0.
Drennan had pitched around a lead-off single in the first and retired seven in a row until a pair of singles in the bottom of the third. With runners at first and second with two down, Drennan brought the threat to an end by snagging a liner back to the box.
The Sox added on in the top of the fourth. With one out, Lessenberry got the uprising started with a lined single to center. Zion Collins came in as a courtesy runner for him and advanced to second on a knock to right by Konnor Clontz.
Catton hit into a force at second but beat the relay to first to avoid the inning-ending doubleplay. That proved crucial when Greiner followed with a liner to second that had to be chased down. Collins scored easily but then so did Catton as Greiner hustled into second.
Down 4-0, Fort Smith went quietly in the bottom of the fourth. Bryant’s run in the top of the fifth was a result of Harp’s double and Dillon’s RBI single.
Fort Smith threatened in the bottom of the inning. A single, a walk and a sacrifice had runners at second and third with one out. But Drennan got out of it by inducing a grounder to Dillon at first, who checked the runner at third and stepped on the bag for the second out. A groundout to Clontz at short ended the would-be rally.
The Sox were retired in order in the sixth then Fort Smith opened the home half with a triple off Catton. A pop up to Lessenberry behind the plate and a strikeout nearly had the right-hander and his teammates out of the inning unscathed but a single on an 0-2 pitch produced the run.
Another pair of singles had the bases loaded but Fort Smith wound up leaving them there as Catton caught a short pop on the infield to send it to the seventh.
The Sox added some insurance. Singles by Harp, Dillon and Drennan loaded the bases with one out. Brayden Lester drew a walk to force in a run. Lessenberry added the crowning blow, a two-run single.