NEW ORLEANS — With the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the sixth, Bryant Black Sox manager Darren Hurt came to the mound to talk to his young right-hander Will McEntire. It looked like Hurt might be ready to make a change. The Sox were clinging to a 3-1 lead over Tennessee champion, Columbia Post 19, and McEntire had done a tremendous job up to that point.
Hurt decided to let his right-hander continue and, though the next batter Jackson Ferguson got a run in by grounding to third sacker Scott Schmidt, who made a tremendous stop to get a force at second, McEntire proceeded to retire the next 10 in a row to finish what he started. The Sox tacked on some insurance and, in a win-or-go-home battle, survived Tennessee, 5-2, at John Ryan Stadium.
The Sox are now one of three teams left in the 2017 Senior American Legion Mid-South Regional Tournament, which will determine a bid to the Legion World Series in Shelby, N.C.
Bryant will play again on Sunday at 1 p.m., against the winner of the game between the Ada, Okla., Braves and the LaPlace Pedal Valve Cardinals, the Louisiana champion, who tangle this evening, weather permitting. (They were in a rain delay at this posting). The Sox will need to win twice to capture the title and the trip to North Carolina. If the Cardinals knock off the Braves this evening, they’ll play Bryant with the winner challenging the Braves for the championship later in the day. If Oklahoma knocks out Louisiana, the Sox will need to beat the Braves twice to win it all.
On Saturday afternoon, McEntire scattered nine hits, fanned six and walked no one, using 107 pitches to go the route. Only one of the runs was earned.
Offensively, Jake East and Logan Allen each had two hits for Bryant. East came through in a big moment. With the game tied 1-1, his two-out single plated two runs to put the Sox ahead to stay.
The scoring started in the second. In the top half, Dylan Hurt doubled and scored on a single by Alex Shurtleff. In the bottom of the inning, an error allowed James Hale to reach base. Hunter Whitwell sacrificed him to second then, with two down, Ferguson singled to tie it.
Noah Brock followed with a hit to put runners at the corners. Columbia tried to steal a run, sending the runner from first early. But East, the shortstop, cut off the throw and fired home in time to nab Ferguson at the plate to end the inning.
Allen singled and stole second with one out in the third but Tennessee starter Luke Flatt got out of the inning unscathed. McEntire then pitched around one-out singles by Jaylen Smith and Cole Flatt in the home half.
The fourth went 1-2-3 for both teams but, in the fifth, Brandon Hoover led off with a double for the Sox. Aaron Orender came in to run for him then Schmidt was plunked by the very next pitch. With one out, Allen was struck by a 1-1 curve that didn’t. That set the stage for East’s big knock on an 0-2 delivery, making it 3-1.
McEntire pitched around a one-out single in the fifth then, in the sixth, surrendered a lead-off single to Matthew Joslin and a one-out hit by Whitwill. James Cook’s base hit to right loaded the bases and brought the manager to the mound.
After the run scored, McEntire got Brock to pop to Schmidt at third to send it to the seventh.
Schmidt’s lead-off single was wasted but, in the bottom of the inning, McEntire and the Sox eased through on a popup and two groundouts.
Seth Tucker led off the eighth with a single up the middle and, with one out, Shurtleff worked a walk. Flatt gave way to Cook on the mound but, with two down, Orender sliced a single to right to load the bases. The new hurler then threw four in a row out of the strike zone to Schmidt to force in a huge insurance run.
That was all the Sox could get but Columbia again mustered nothing in the bottom of the inning.
Allen opened the ninth with a double and East beat out a bunt for hit when the Columbia second baseman was late covering first. With one out, East was on the run from first as Hurt hit a pop to right. With East hustling back to first and the Tennessee right-fielder thinking of doubling him off first, Allen tagged and scored easily. When East was able to get back safely, the Sox had another tally.
In the bottom of the inning, McEntire got Cook to roll out to Schmidt at third then closed it like a champ, striking out the last two.