Junior Sox edged in time-limited contest at UALR

LITTLE ROCK — Time ran out on the Bryant Black Sox Junior American Legion team as they absorbed a 5-4 loss to the St. Louis Browns 16U team to wrap up pool play in the Mid America Tournament held at UALR’s Hogan Field on Saturday.

The Sox had their chances to take the lead but they stranded six and the Browns turned three doubleplays.

In the top of the sixth, which turned out to be their last at-bat before the time limit arrived, the Sox loaded the bases with one out. Zion Collins reached on an error then Brayden Lester and Konnor Clontz each walked. Due up were Peyton Dillon and Will McEntire who were each 2-for-2 in the game to that point. Both hit flyballs to center. But Dillon’s was too shallow for a sacrifice fly and McEntire’s ended the inning as time ran out.

It was a seesaw battle. The Sox scored in the top of the first when Clontz walked — the first of nine free passes given up by two St. Louis pitchers. Dillon and McEntire each singled to load the bases and Cade Dupree came through with a sacrifice fly.

The bottom of the first was a kind of wacky. A base hit to left and a bunt single had runners at first and second. The next batter hit a sinking liner to right that Dupree fielded on one hop. Confused about whether the ball was caught or not, the runner at second had started for third but retraced his steps and the runner at first held. Dupree fired into second for an apparent force. And with the lead runner returning, the Sox ran him down for a tag out.

Doubleplay, right? But the umpires ruled that only the runner at first was out on the force. The lead runner, though he was tagged out, was allowed to return to second.

Bryant head coach Tyler Brown asked for an explanation but got no satisfaction and the game continued with one out and runners at first and second.

More controversy arrived when the Browns tried a double steal and Bryant catcher Ryan Lessenberry’s throw was errant, allowing a run to score and the trail runner to reach third. But the homeplate umpire ruled that the batter interfered and was out. At first, the runners were allowed to stay at second and third despite the fact that rules are they have to return to their original positions. After a conference between the two umpires, the trail runner was sent back to first but the lead runner stayed at third. Coach Brown appealed again and, after more deliberation, the runner at third was sent back to second, which resulted in protest from the Browns’ coach.

Collins, the starter on the mound for the Sox, stayed warm by playing catch with Dillon at third. When play finally resumed, he got the final out on a pop to Catton behind second base.

The Sox made it 2-0 in the top of the second. Lessenberry drew a free pass and Collins sacrificed him to second. Lester belted an RBI double to right center to drive home courtesy runner Christian Motes.

Catton drew a walk to put two aboard but the Browns turned a doubleplay to escape further damage.

And they tied it in the bottom of the inning with a walk, a single, a sacrifice and a triple. But Collins forced them to strand the runner at third as he got a strikeout and a pop to Catton, who ranged well into center to haul it in.

In the third, Dillon drew a lead-off walk and took second on a wild pitch as McEntire was issued a free pass. Dupree then hit a grounder to second. But, what might’ve been yet another doubleplay, turned into a run as the second baseman misplayed the ball. Dillon raced home to make it 3-2.

St. Louis made a pitching coach as their demonstrative head coach scolded the second baseman, who was taken out of the game in the switch. A strikeout and a doubleplay ended the inning.

Collins worked around a single in the bottom of the third, thanks in large part to Dillon. The runner had stolen second and taken third on a wild pitch. With two down, a slow roller was hit towards third. Dillon charged, fielded the ball and fired to first in time to retire the speedy batter and saving the run.

In the fourth, Collins made a bid for extra bases with a deep drive to center only to have the centerfielder sprint back to haul it in. Lester walked but that’s all the Sox could muster.

The first two batters in the bottom of the fourth drew walks so Catton was called on to relieve. The Browns sacrificed. Catton fielded the ball and threw to Collins who was on the run to cover first. On a bang-bang play, the runner was safe but his foot caught Collins’ ankle. Collins went down and a run scored and the other runners went to third and second, respectively.

When play resumed with hobbled Collins staying in the game, the Browns squeezed in a second tally to take a 4-3 lead. They tried it a second time and the hitter reached as the Lessenberry got to the ball and faked to first and threw to third trying to catch the runner there diving back to the bag.

A third consecutive bunt went to Catton who got to the ball but he fumbled it. Alertly, he picked it back up and whirled on the runner at third, catching him off the bag. The Sox ran him down for the second out of the inning.

But, with runners at first and second, the Browns made it 5-3 with a bloop single to center that fell just beyond the reach of Clontz, the shortstop, and well in front of Drennan charging in from center.

Catton ended the inning with a strikeout.

Dillon led off the top of the fifth with a single then McEntire drilled a double to right that chased Dillon home. Dupree walked and, on a wild pitch, McEntire took third. With Jacob Coppock entering as a pinch-runner for McEntire, Drennan hit a bouncer to third. Coppock was caught in a rundown and tagged out. Lessenberry followed with another grounder to third that resulted in a third-to-first doubleplay to end the threat.

Catton fanned two on the way to the only 1-2-3 inning of the game in the bottom of the fifth, setting up the frustrating finish.

Bracket play for the tournament was set for Sunday. The Sox are set to play at 1:30 p.m., at Lakewood.

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