PLAINVIEW, Texas — One way or another, a team from Arkansas was going to be playing for the championship of the 2017 Babe Ruth 14-year-old Southwest Regional tournament. And there was a chance both teams from Arkansas would square off for the title since both the Bryant Athletic Association All-Stars at the Ozark Tri-County All-Stars had reached the winners’ bracket final. The winner would be in the title round. The loser would play against the survivor of the losers’ bracket for a chance to get to the championship.
But Monday turned out to be a rough day for Bryant. In an offensive battle, the South Arkansas State champions were out-slugged by the North Arkansas Champions from Brockman, 9-6. With the disappointment from that tough loss in the afternoon still weighing on them, the Bryant Stars returned that night for a survival contest with South Brazoria County, Texas, with a chance to get another shot at Ozark.
This time, it was a pitchers’ duel but, again, Bryant came out on the short end 3-0 as their bid for the Southwest Regional title and a trip to the Babe Ruth World Series ended.
It wasn’t what they’d hoped for, obviously, but finishing third at the Regionals was a tremendous feat.
The Bryant All-Stars, coached by Scott Allison with assistance from Greg Riggs and Matt Orender, include Kannon Allison, Tyler Bates, Dakota Clay, Noah Davis, Will Hathcote, Justin Orender, Ryan Riggs, Blaine Sears, Lawson Spear, Brandon Thomisee, and Josh Turner.
Ozark Tri-County 9, Bryant 5
A five-run second had Bryant ahead 5-2, a lead that lasted until Ozark struck for four in the fourth. Bryant just couldn’t break through again and when Ozark scored three in the bottom of the sixth, it was too big a hill to climb.
Riggs and Clay each had two hits and Davis drove in a pair.
Ozark took a 2-0 lead in the first inning. A hit batsman and a double set the stage but they remained at second and third after the next two batters were retired. The count went to 3-2 on the next hitter so Bryant was a strike away from escaping only to see another double bring both runners home.
Bryant responded in the top of the second. Hathcote waited out a four-pitch walk to lead off then Speer ripped a single to left. Turner worked the count to 3-2 before smacking a double to get the first run home.
A sacrifice fly by Sears tied the game. Turner stole third and, with two down, Allison was plunked by a 2-0 pitch. He stole second and scored right behind Turner when Davis doubled to left. Another two-bagger, this time by Riggs, made it 5-2.
Clay, the Bryant starter after a rain delay as the game was beginning, kept it there with the help of his defense, which turned a doubleplay in the second. But, in the bottom of the fourth, he began to wear down. A pair of walks started the inning but the Bryant hurler regrouped with a strikeout. A single made it 5-3 then a sacrifice fly made it a one-run difference.
But Bryant was just one out from escaping with the lead. That one out proved hard to come by. Three consecutive singles produced two more runs and a 6-5 lead for Ozark.
Allison relieved for Bryant and recorded a strikeout to keep it at that.
Bryant loaded the bases in the top of the fifth. With two down, Clay ripped a single to center. Bates drew a walk and Speer was struck by a pitch. But Ozark escaped unscathed.
Allison pitched around a walk and an error in the bottom of the fifth. In the top of the sixth, Bryant was unable to take advantage of a two-out walk.
Ozark’s three-run sixth included more two-out damage. It was 7-5 when a pair of singles produced the final two runs. On both hits, Bryant was a strike away from getting that third out.
The top of the seventh added to their frustration. Riggs doubled and Clay singled him to third. With one out, Clay swiped second and Speer drew a walk to load the bases but they were unable to get anyone home as Ozark survived.
South Brazoria County, Texas 3, Bryant 0
A pair of Texas pitchers combined on a three-hit shutout as South Brazoria eked out single runs in the first, second and fourth.
Davis, Clay and Bates had the Bryant hits. Hathcote, Sears and Bates each pitched two innings for the arm-weary Bryant staff.
The first run was the product of a bunt single, a stolen base and another base hit in the first. Bryant’s first base-runner was Hathcote who led off the top of the second with a walk but he was doubled up on a lineout to second by Speer.
A walk, a single, a steal of third and a groundout made it 2-0 in the home second.
Bryant didn’t manage its first hit until the top of the fourth. With two down, Clay blooped a single behind third. Bates followed with a base hit up the middle but a force at second on Speer’s grounder ended the inning.
In the bottom of the fourth, a pair of infield hits started things off for Texas. Sears bounced off the mound to grab a bunt and threw to third in time for a force. A double steal put runners at second and third but Sears got the second out on strikes. But, on a double steal, the lead runner scored before Bryant retired the trail runner and it was 3-0.
Bryant made a bid to dig into the deficit in the top of the sixth. With one out, Davis doubled. With two down, Clay walked. Bates followed with a liner that appeared to be headed down the right-field line only to be snagged by the first baseman to end the threat.
After Bates worked around a two-out walk in the home half, Bryant took its last swings in the seventh and was retired in order.
2017 SOUTHWEST REGION BABE RUTH TOURNAMENT
Friday, July 21
Game 1 — Plainview, Texas 26, Picayune, Miss., 0
Game 2 — Denver City, Texas 3, South Brazoria County, Texas 2
Game 3 — Bryant, Ark., 13, Patterson, La., 4
Game 4 — Ozark Tri-County, Ark., 17, Levelland, Texas 4
Saturday, July 22
Game 5 — Tallassee, Ala., 7, Plainview, Texas 4
Game 6 — South Brazoria County, Texas 20, Picayune, Miss., 1
Game 7 — Plainview, Texas 8, Levelland, Texas 3
Game 8 — South Brazoria County, Texas 3, Patterson, La., 1
Sunday, July 23
Game 9 — Bryant, Ark., 5, Denver City, Texas 3
Game 10 — Ozark Tri-County, Ark., 13, Tallassee, Ala., 9
Game 11 — Denver City, Texas 7, Plainview, Texas 6
Game 12 — South Brazoria County, Texas 12, Tallassee, Ala., 2
Monday, July 24
Game 13 — Ozark Tri-County, Ark., 9, Bryant, Ark., 5 (winners’ bracket final)
Game 14 — South Brazoria County, Texas def. Denver City, Texas
Game 15 — South Brazoria County, Texas 3, Bryant, Ark., 0 (losers’ bracket final)
Tuesday, July 25
Game 16 — Ozark Tri County, Ark., vs. South Brazoria County, Texas, TBA
Game 17 — if necessary