By Madison McEntire
JACKSONVILLE — The Bryant 11-year-old All-Star team fell one win short of their fourth straight Cal Ripken State tournament crown by dropping a well-played 4-2 game to Little Rock Junior Deputy at Jacksonville’s Excell Park on Sunday, July 1. Earlier in the day, Bryant had forced the “if” game by defeating Little Rock 7-1. They had set up the showdown with Little Rock with an 18-2 win against Sylvan Hills on Saturday afternoon.
Team member are Logan Catton, Cade Dupree, Coby Greiner, Will McEntire, Ryan Lessenberry, Hunter Mullings, Ty Jackson, Jacob Shepard, Jacob Coppock, Brock Bariola, Triston day, and Sawyer Webb. They are managed by Michael Catton with help from assistant coaches Phillip Dupree and Madison McEntire.
Both Bryant and Junior Deputy advance to Regionals at Gulfport, Miss., starting July 20.
Little Rock 4, Bryant 2
Bryant batted first and failed to put the ball in play as Catton, Bariola, and Coppock each struck out. McEntire started on the mound for Bryant.
Little Rock struck first in the bottom of the first when its leadoff hitter singled hard off the wall in center field. A grounder to short moved the runner to second and then a flyball to left was hauled in by Mullings for the second out. After fouling off two pitches with a 1-2 count, Little Rock’s cleanup hitter drilled a ball down the line that nipped the third base bag and went to the corner for a double to make the score 1-0. McEntire then got a fly to Bariola in right to end the inning.
McEntire led off the second and was the fourth consecutive Bryant batter to strike out. Dupree then grounded out to short and Greiner popped foul to the first baseman. Little Rock went quietly in their next at-bat when the first two batters grounded to Greiner at short, and after an infield single near the second base bag, their nine-hole hitter flied to right.
Bryant threatened in the third but failed to score Mullings popped to second for the first out. Day then lined a single to center and went to second on Lessenberry’s infield single to the shortstop. Catton grounded out on a chopper to the third baseman with the runners moving up on the play. Bariola struck out swinging on a 3-2 pitch to end the inning.
Little Rock upped its lead to 2-0 in the home half of the third. Flyballs to right and center by the first two hitters accounted for two quick outs before Little Rock’s three-hole hitter lofted a long fly to left-center that just clear the fence for a home run. The next batter grounded a single to left before McEntire fielded a pop near the third base line for the third out.
Bryant quickly tied the game in its next at-bat. Coppock led off with a four-pitch walk and went to second on a wild pitch. McEntire bounced a grounder near the second base bag and Coppock moved to third as the Little Rock shortstop made a nice play and threw to first for the out. Dupree stepped in and, with the suicide squeeze play on, bunted the ball out in front of the plate. Coppock scored easily. With two outs, Greiner walked, stole second and took third on a wild pitch as Mullings walked. Day tied the game when he lashed the first pitch he saw into left for a single.
In the bottom of the fourth, McEntire got two quick outs with a grounder to Dupree at third and a roller to Catton at second before allowing a single in the hole to Greiner at shortstop. Little Rock’s nine-hole hitter blooped a 2-2 pitch just over Dupree’s head at third to put two on. A walk loaded the bases before a fly ball to center ended the inning to keep the game tied.
Catton led off the fifth with a first-pitch double on a fly down the left field line. Baroila’s bunt moved him to second. Shepard hit for Coppcok and attempted a bunt with the squeeze play on but the pitch was low and away and he was unable to put the ball on the ground and Catton was tagged out in the ensuing rundown. Shepard struck out to end the inning.
Greiner took over for Bryant on the mound to start the fifth and got a grounder to Coppock at first for an out. Little Rock’s cleanup batter then collected his third hit of the game with a rule-book double when he bounced a ball over the fence in left-center. Jackson hauled in a fly in right for the second out. The next batter grounded into the hole to Catton at short. His hurried throw was late and pulled Coppock from the bag. The runner from second advanced to third and rounded the bag. Coppock fired across the diamond but the throw went past the bag and the runner scampered home to break the tie. The next batter lined a single to center to score another run and make it 4-2. Following a walk, a flyball to Mullings in left ended the inning.
In Bryant’s last at-bat, Jackson led off and was called out looking at a close 3-2 pitch. Dupree lofted a fly to center and reached first when the centerfielder made a sliding attempt but could not come up with the ball. Greiner lined out to second for the second out and then Mullings struck out swinging to end the game.
Bryant 7, Little Rock 1
Greiner was the starting pitcher for Bryant. In the top of the fist he retired Little Rock in order with a fly to left, a comebacker to the mound, and a grounder to third.
In the bottom of the first, Bryant played “small ball” and rattled Little Rock’s defense. Catton led off and doubled on a liner to center. Bariola dropped down a sac bunt, which was fielded by the Little Rock first baseman who turned and fired to an uncovered first base. As the ball rolled into foul territory, Catton came in to score and Bariola advanced to second. Coppock followed with another bunt to third and beat it out as Bariola advanced to third. Dupree was next and laid down yet another bunt. This one went past the pitcher and was fielded by the second baseman, but Dupree beat it out for a hit as Bariola scored and Coppock went to second. Greiner followed with one more bunt down the first base line and reached to load the bases when the pitcher and first baseman both scrambled to field it.
With the bases full, Mullings was allowed to swing away and hammered the first pitch over the centerfield wall for a grand slam to put Bryant up 6-0. Little Rock’s pitcher then settled down to retire Shepard on a grounder to third, strike out Day, and get Lessenberry to ground back to the mound but the damage was done.
Little Rock plated their only run in its next at-bat. Greiner hit the first batter to put a runner on and he went to second on a single to left. A sac bunt moved the runners up and a walk loaded the bases with one out. Greiner worked out of the jam by making a diving grab of a foul pop near the third base line and then getting a groundout to Catton at short.
Bryant quickly got that run back in the bottom of the second. After Catton flied to center, Bariola singled. Coppock walked to put two on. Dupree’s grounder to short forced Coppock at second but the second baseman’s relay to first was wild allowing Bariola to score and Dupree to reach first. Greiner ended the inning with grounder to short but Bryant had pushed the lead back to six at 7-1.
Little Rock threatened again in the third when it opened with two sharp singles, the second of which got by Shepard in center allowing the runners to each take an extra base. Little Rock’s clean-up hitter then smoked a liner right at Catton at short. He fired to Dupree at third to catch the runner off base for a doubleplay. A diving catch by Mullings in left ended the inning.
Bryant went in order in the bottom of the third and Little Rock did the same in the top of the fourth. Catton walked in the bottom of the fourth but was left stranded as the game moved to the top of the fifth where Little Rock made their final attempt to get back in the game. After giving up just one run in four innings, Greiner gave way to McEntire on the mound. A walk and a single quickly put two on for Little Rock before McEntire got a called strikeout. A long fly to center went off Shepard’s glove to load the bases with one out but a shallow fly to center and a pop to Coppock at first ended the inning.
In the bottom of the fifth, Bryant had a chance to add to the lead but came up empty. With one out, Greiner reached on an error by the shortstop and went to second on Mullings single. Shepard bunted the runners into scoring position for McEntire who ended the inning with a grounder back to the mound.
Little Rock went quickly in its final at-bat. McEntire fielded a chopper back to the mound for an out, the next batter grounded to Greiner at shortstop and the final out came on a swinging strikeout on a pitch in the dirt with Lessenberry throwing to first to end the game.
Bryant 18, Sylvan Hills 2
Bryant scored early and often in blowing out Sylvan Hills, plating the maximum of six in the first on a bunt single by Catton and a grounder to right by Coppock and bunt singles by Mullings and Shepard along with a walk, an error and a hit batter. The inning ended when Catton plated the sixth run with a line drive to center, his second hit of the inning.
After Sylvan Hill’s leadoff batter doubled and came in to score in the bottom of the first, Bryant tacked on four more from a walk, two hit batters, and a single to left by Dupree. After getting three quick outs in the bottom of the second, they upped the lead to 15-1. The big blow was a three-run homer to Dupree after Bariola and Coppock reached on walks. Mullings and Shepard also singled and scored with one of them coming in on Day’s single to center.
Webb took over on the mound for Greiner and faced five batters in the third allowing two singles and Sylvan Hills’ second run. In the top of the fourth, Coppock and McEntire walked and moved up on Greiner’s grounder to the pitcher. Mullings doubled on a fly to center to score Coppock and Sheppard followed with a single to center to score McEntire. Webb launched a long fly to left that fell for a hit and scored Mullings to give Bryant an 18-2 run-rule victory.