CROSSETT — Small ball works.[more]
Just ask the Bryant All-Stars who were clinging to a 6-5 lead over the Hamburg Stars at the Babe Ruth 15-year-old State Tournament on Saturday.
Better yet, maybe the Hamburg team would be the best to ask after five consecutive Bryant batters bunted successfully in the top of the seventh including three times on squeeze plays as Bryant blew the game open on the way to an 11-6 victory.
Nate Rutherford, the third Bryant pitcher in the game, struck out the side in the bottom of the seventh to close out the victory that sent Bryant to the winners bracket finals on Monday at 1 p.m., against the winner of the Little Rock Junior Deputy-Brinkley game.
Bryant opened the tournament with a 6-3 win over Hot Spring County (Malvern) on Friday when, again, four was a good number. A four-run third overcame a 3-1 deficit that Harrison Dale made hold up with five innings of scoreless relief.
Bryant’s 15’s are Austin Caldwell, Dale, Zach Graddy, Jack James, Tristan Matthews, Austin Miller, C.J. Phillips, Rutherford, Caleb Strain, Korey Thompson, Chris Troilett, Chase Tucker and Blake Yates. Jason Thompson is the manager. Chris Phillips and Jimmy Parker are his assistants.
Bryant’s four-run fifth broke a 2-2 tie. Hamburg scored twice in the fifth and two more in the sixth to make it a one-run game going to the final inning.
Graddy walked to start the seventh. Tucker, attempting to sacrifice to get him in scoring position, got a single for his effort, which started the wave of bunts. Phillips’ bunt single loaded the bases then, with the squeeze on, Troilett got a bunt down for a hit and an RBI. With the squeeze on again, Rutherford got the bunt down and beat it out for an RBI hit.
There was no reason to stop at that point and Thompson came up and worked the squeeze. This time, Hamburg managed to get the out at first but Phillips scored to make it 9-5.
Before the inning was over, Troilett and Rutherford scored as well to set the final score.
Both teams had scored in the first. For Bryant, Miller and Dale singled. James bounced into a force at second then Graddy got Miller home with a sacrifice fly.
In turn, El Dorado used a walk and three hits to tie it in the bottom of the inning before James, the Bryant starter, finished striking out the side.
Bryant regained the lead in the second when Matthews cranked a home run to left-center.
James and the defense made that stand up until Hamburg tied it in the fourth on a single and a double with one out.
Bryant’s game-turning fifth began with a double by Thompson. Miller singled and, with two down, Graddy cracked a double. Singles by Tucker and Caldwell made it 6-2.Hamburg trimmed two runs off the lead in the bottom of the inning before Dale relieved and got out of the inning. Dale surrendered a pair of runs in the sixth, however, before Rutherford came on to force Hamburg to strand the would-be tying run at third.
Bryant 6, Hot Spring County 3
Dale retired the last 10 batters of the game and 15 of the 17 batters he faced after relieving in the third. He struck out nine.
Bryant had taken a 1-0 lead in the first on consecutive doubles by Dale and Graddy. Miller worked around a lead-off single in the bottom of the inning but struggled with his control in the second with three walks. A pair of two-out hits gave Hot Spring County a 3-1 lead.
But Miller got Bryant’s answering uprising started with a double in the top of the third. Dale singled then Graddy smacked a triple to tie the game. Tucker singled him in to put Bryant on top. After Phillips bunted Tucker to second, Caldwell singled him in to make it 5-3.
It was a pitcher’s duel after that. Bryant added an insurance run in the top of the seventh when Phillips was hit by a pitch with one out and scored on a double by Caldwell, who was thrown out trying to stretch it to a triple.
Dale then finished up by striking out two and inducing a game-ending grounder to Phillips at third.