Junior Sox clinch bid to championship round behind McEntire, defense

CONWAY — Right-hander Will McEntire fired a two-hit shutout at the Sheridan Taylor & Lunsford Yellowjackets as the Bryant Black Sox clinched a spot in the 2017 Junior American Legion State tournament championship round with a 2-0 win on Sunday.

Instead of advancing to the championship as victors in the winners’ bracket finals and advancing as the lone remaining unbeaten team, the Sox will have to play on Monday against Fort Smith at 2 p.m., according to the archaic College World Series bracket that the College World Series ditched several years ago. (It’s the same bracket that served to undermine the Bryant Senior team at the Mid South Regionals last summer.

In the other semifinal on Sunday, Sheridan will battle Texarkana for another shot at the Sox.

McEntire walked two and struck out five while being backed by errorless defense. They retired the first 10 Sheridan batters in the game before Nathan Kirkpatrick lined a single to left with one down in the bottom of the fourth.

But, the tone was set right out of the gate, when the first Sheridan batter, Montana Korte, belted a drive into the gap in right-center. Coby Greiner, shading Korte to left agains the hard-throwing McEntire, sprinted to the ball and made an eye-popping catch as he dove and picked it just off the ground, robbing Korte of at least a triple.

After Kirkpatrick interrupted the stretch, another six in a row were retired before an error with one out in the bottom of the sixth broke the string. With two down, a walk to Logan Mitchell put two aboard. But Hayden Hicks flew out to Brayden Lester in left to end the threat.

The Jackets made another bid in the seventh with a one-out walk and a two-out single. But McEntire struck out the next batter to end the game.

Bryant took a 1-0 lead in the opening inning. Logan Catton walked to open the game. He advanced to second on an errant pickoff throw then scored when, with two down, Christian Harp reached on an error.

It stayed a one-run game until the top of the fourth. With one away, Cade Drennan lined a single to center. Though he was forced at second on a grounder to second by Lester, Ryan Lessenberry singled to set things up for Konnor Clontz, who lined a single to left to drive in Lester, who just got in under the tag at the plate.

The Sox’ best opportunity after that was in the top of the seventh when, with two away, Coby Greiner singled and Jake Wright walked. Both were stranded however.

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