BENTON — In a game as wild as they get, the Bryant Blue League All-Stars rallied to overcome a 10-run deficit and forge a 22-19 win in eight innings over the White Hall All-Stars to claim the Babe Ruth League 14-year-old South Arkansas State championship at Bernard Holland Park on Monday night.
Bryant scored seven times in the top of the seventh the Zach Jackson, the sixth pitcher of the game for the Stars, retired White Hall in order in the bottom of the inning, fanning two.
A three-run eighth, highlighted by Bailey Bowers' clutch, two-out, two-run single, gave Bryant the lead and Jackson once again worked a 1-2-3 frame, fanning one to nail down the victory.
With the win, Bryant advances to Southwest Regional Tournament play on Friday, July 27, in Mountain Home.
The Bryant 14's are managed by Mark Kehrees with assistance from Seth Doxey and Blain Jackson. Team members include Connor Alliston, Bowers, Luke Brantley, Chase Brooks, Daniel Darbonne, Jackson, Nick Kehrees, Zach Knapp, Mike Martindale, Caleb McElyea, Liam Miller and Connor Tatum.
Bryant gained the upper hand initially, scoring two runs in the top of the first. Miller drew a one-out walk and Martindale singled. Brantley grounded to second but, in an attempt to get the force at second, an error allowed both to advance as Miller scored. With Martindale at third, Bowers got a bunt down on the squeeze and the second run scored.
White Hall, however, answered with a 12-run blitz in the bottom of the inning with Bryant using three pitchers before ending the debacle. In the second, the Stars began to whittle on the 10-run deficit. Inning-opening walks to McElyea and Brooks helped. With two out, Miller came through with an RBI single to left to make it 12-3.
Alliston, the fourth, Bryant pitcher, held White Hall in the bottom of the inning and Bryant carved a little more off the margin in the top of the third. The White Hall pitcher helped by hitting Brantley then walking Bowers and Kehrees to load the bases. After a pitching change, McElyea’s sacrifice fly scored Brantley. Brooks walked and, with two down, Tatum smacked a single to right to drive in a run. And when Miller’s grounder to short was booted, Kehrees came home to make it 12-6.
This time, White Hall answered, scoring four times in the bottom of the inning before Tatum came on to get the last two outs. But, once again, Bryant faced a 10-run hill to climb. Four runs in the top of the fourth started the second comeback. Again walks opened the door as Brantley, Bowers and Kehrees earned free passes. Brantley scored on a passed ball after another
White Hall pitching change. Brooks was hit by a pitch to load the bags again and, with two down, Tatum took one for the team to force in a run. Miller came through again with a two-run single and it was 16-10.
White Hall added a run in the bottom of the inning and, after holding Bryant down in the top of the fifth, tacked on two more in the home fifth to make it 19-10.
In the sixth, Darbonne was plunked by a pitch but he was forced at second on a grounder by Tatum. And when Miller’s drive to right was misplayed, Tatum scored and Miller came all the way around as well as Bryant stayed alive, 19-12.
Tatum worked a 1-2-3 home sixth and Bryant’s game-turning seventh commenced. It began with another walk but a force out retired Bowers as Kehrees reached. McElyea reached on an error and a wild pitch allowed Kehrees to score. Walks to Knapp and Darbonne loaded the bases and brought the top of the order back around. The blitz began with a single by Tatum to center. Miller plugged the gap in right-center for his fourth hit of the game and, after Martindale walked, Brantley delivered a run-scoring single. Martindale stole third and scored on a sacrifice fly by Bowers to tie the game at 19.
The Stars had a chance to take the lead when Kehrees walked and stole second to get into scoring position but White Hall’s fourth pitcher of the inning finally ended it.
Jackson took over on the mound and extra innings ensued. And patience paid once again for Bryant as Knapp and Darbonne drew lead-off walks. Tatum sacrificed them to second and third then Miller drew a pass to load the bases. With two down, Brantley worked a walk that forced in the go-ahead run then three pitches later, Bowers lashed a single to right that chased home Darbonne and Miller for the thrilling comeback victory.