LITTLE ROCK — The Bryant Black Sox Junior American Legion team advanced to the championship of the 16U Five Tool Showcase Tournament held in Conway and Little Rock with an 8-1 win over Bullpen Baseball Academy of Ellisville, Mo., on Sunday morning.
They were set to play the Arkansas Prospects-Fullerton, based in Sherwood, in the title game on Sunday afternoon.
The Sox, who have been getting splendid starting pitching throughout the tourney got more against Bullpen as Peyton Dillon, Noah Davis and Hayden Thompson combined on a four-hitter.
“The staff has done real well all weekend,” acknowledged Sox manager Ozzie Hurt. “You get another good start out of Peyton then Noah comes in and did what he does then Hayden, there at the end, looked electric.”
Dillon pitched into the fourth, surrendering two knocks, one on the infield. He fanned four and faced the minimum through three frames as the Sox turned a pair of doubleplays, and another runner was thrown out trying to steal by Bryant catcher Ryan Riggs.
In the fourth, an infield hit, and an errant throw allowed a runner to reach second. A wild pitch as Dillon was striking out the next batter, had a runner at third. Davis relieved and, on a 1-2 pitch, surrendered an RBI double as Bullpen scored its lone run.
Davis got the next two batters to pop out to J.T. Parker at second to end the inning.
“We didn’t want him to throw over 40 (pitches),” said Hurt regarding lifting Dillon. “I think he ended up with 43. The whole plan behind that was we got a lead and we wanted to pull him, so he could throw a couple of innings in the next game if we needed him to. And it worked out.”
By that time, the Sox had built a 7-0 lead. Their patience at the plate continued to be a benefit to the offense.
In the bottom of the second, Ryan Riggs drew a lead-off walk and Parker sacrificed him to second. While Will Hathcote was drawing a walk, a wild pitch allowed Riggs to reach third. So, with runners at the corners, the Sox worked the squeeze play and Logan White got the bunt down to get Riggs home.
Dakota Clay followed with a ringing double to left that brought Hathcote around to make it 2-0.
In the third, Davis singled up the middle and Dillon drew a walk. Again, the Sox executed the short game as Riggs bunted them to second and third.
A big inning ensued. Parker lashed a two-run double down the line in left and, after Hathcote walked, White blooped a single down the line behind first, loading the bases. Clay walked to force in a run then Blaine Sears smacked a single to right, driving in a pair to make it 7-0.
It looked like the Sox would get more when Lawson Speer drilled one to left-center. With runners on the move, it was somehow flagged down on the warning track. The return throw to the infield resulted in the third out.
The Sox made answered Bullpen’s run in the home fourth. Dillon was hit by a pitch then Riggs drew a walk. They worked a double steal then a balk allowed Dillon to score to make it 8-1.
Meanwhile, on the mound, Davis worked around a two-out double in the top of the fifth and Thompson retired the side in order in the sixth with some help from Dillon at third who made a nice play for the second out.
Sears finished with two of Bryant’s six hits. He singled with two down in the bottom of the fifth then Speer reached on an error, but both were stranded.
Asked if he was pleased with the team’s approach after having a long talk with the players after Saturday’s win, Hurt said, “They responded very well. The energy was better. The focus was better. If they play like that, they’re going to be just fine.”