NEW ORLEANS — You play to win. Every game.
But, if you’re going to lose one, it’s the one that the Bryant Black Sox dropped on Saturday at the Senior American Legion Mid-South Regional Tournament at Kirsch-Rooney Stadium.
The Sox already had a spot in the tournament finals nailed down after defeating the Tupelo 49ers, the Mississippi champions, on Friday. But, in the archaic bracket used by the American Legion on the Regional level, even the victor in the winners’ bracket final has to come back and play what has been called “the extra game” and, more cynically, “the meaningless game” instead of just advancing to the championship round and awaiting the survivor of the losers’ bracket.
It’s an old College World Series bracket that even the NCAA has done away with.
For the team that has already secured a shot at the title, it’s a bit of an intensity drain.
If Bryant had defeated the Louisiana champion, the Gauthier/Amedee Wombats of Gonzales on Saturday, the Sox would face Tupelo again on Sunday and the 49ers would have to beat them twice.
But, since the Wombats handed the Sox a 6-1 loss, they survive and will play Tupelo at 11 a.m. on Sunday to see which one advances to take on the Sox for the championship and a trip to the Legion World Series in Shelby, N.C.
Tupelo beat Gonzales, 2-0, earlier in the tourney.
It’ll be a winner-take-all final and Bryant, at this point, is the only team guaranteed a spot in it. The Sox will be trying to make it back-to-back trips to Shelby. They finished among the final four last summer.
Saturday’s game was do-or-die for Louisiana and they lived to play on behind the pitching of right-hander, Blaise Foote, who went the distance despite surrendering nine hits to the Sox.
Bryant manager Darren Hurt used four pitchers but only Logan Catton threw too many pitches to not be available on Sunday. Young Noah Davis, who led the Black Sox’ Junior Legion team this summer, closed out the game with his first inning on the mound for the Senior team.
Scott Schmidt started but only threw 29 pitches. Boston Heil came in after Catton’s two frames to throw an inning and a third, using just 13 pitches.
The rest of the staff, except Logan Grant, who tossed a two-hitter at Tupelo on Friday, will be available in the title contest.
The tone was set in the first inning. Logan Chambers led off with the first of his three hits but was erased in a doubleplay, right before Jake Wright cracked a base hit. He was stranded.
In the home first, Brayden Caskey hit a grounder past third for a single but, when he tried to stretch it into a double, Matthew Sandidge threw him out at second.
With two down, Zane Zeppuhar clubbed a solo homer to right. Jack Merrifield extended the inning with a single then Reed Babin doubled him home to make it 2-0.
The Sox, who stranded 10, got a lead-off double from Myers Buck but, when he tried to reach third on Schmidt’s sacrifice attempt, he was thrown out by Foote. Schmidt moved to second on a groundout by Sandidge then third on a passed ball but was left aboard.
Schmidt reached 29 pitches (the limit for returning with no days rest is 30) after retiring the first two in the second then allowed a single to Preston Thrash. Catton relieved and got Caskey on a one-hop comebacker.
Foote pitched around a single by Chambers in the top of the third then weather moved in for the second time that day. The tarp was deployed, and the teams waited for a while.
When play resumed, Catton worked around a lead-off walk and a one-out hit batsman to keep it 2-0.
In the top of the fourth, Buck doubled with one away and Schmidt singled him to third. Sandidge came through with a single to center to make it 2-1. But Foote retired the next two batters to preserve the advantage.
The game-breaking inning came in the bottom of the fourth. Carson Dabadie reached on an error to start the uprising. Jordan Badame sacrificed the runner to second then Thrash sacrificed him to third.
On the next pitch, Caskey singled in Dabadie to make it 3-1. A strike away from being retired, the Wombats picked up a clutch single by William Dunn. Zeppuhar drew a walk to load the bases.
With Merrifield at the plate, Catton tried to pick Caskey off at third. But the throw got away and two runs scored to make it 5-1. Merrifield then singled in the sixth run.
Heil relieved and retired Babin to end the inning.
Chambers singled to open the sixth and Catton’s grounder to third was booted. But neither advanced beyond first and second as Foote retired the next three.
Heil retired the side in order in the bottom of the fifth then Schmidt was hit by the fourth pitch of the sixth inning. Sandidge worked a four-pitch walk. Pinch-hitter Grayson Prince was called out on a borderline delivery as Foote proceeded to strikeout the side, getting Coby Greiner and Chambers swinging.
After Davis eased through the bottom of the inning, the Sox gained a little hope when Catton drew a lead-off walk in the seventh. But, again, Foote escaped to close out the win.
2018 SENIOR AMERICAN LEGION MID-SOUTH REGIONAL TOURNAMENT
At Kirsch-Rooney Stadium, New Orleans, La.
Wednesday, Aug. 8
Game 1 — Tupelo 49ers (29-4) (Mississippi champion) 7, Columbia, Tenn. (Tennessee champion) 0
Game 2 — Bryant Black Sox (43-9) (Arkansas champion) 8, Salina Falcons (35-2) (Kansas champion) 3
Game 3 — Gauthier/Amedee Wombats of Gonzales, La., (32-3) (Louisiana champion) 2, Cape Girardeau Post 63 (Missouri runner-up) 0
Game 4 — Jefferson City Post 5 (24-9) (Missouri champion) 2, Retif Oil of New Orleans (19-5-1) (host team) 1
Thursday, Aug. 9
Game 5 — Columbia, Tenn. 9, Cape Girardeau Post 63 8
Game 6 — Retif Oil of New Orleans 1, Salina, Kansas, Falcons 0
Game 7 — Tupelo, Miss. 49ers 2, Gauthier/Amedee Wombats of Gonzales, La. 0
Game 8 — Bryant Black Sox 3, Jefferson City Post 5 2
Friday, Aug. 10
Game 9 — Gauthier/Amedee Wombats of Gonzales, La. 7, Retif Oil of New Orleans 4
Game 10 — Columbia, Tenn. 4, Jefferson City Post 5 0
Game 11 — Bryant Black Sox 2, Tupelo, Miss. 49ers 0
Saturday, Aug. 11
Game 12 — Tupelo, Miss., 49ers 11, Columbia, Tenn. 7
Game 13 — Gauthier/Amedee Wombats of Gonzales, La. 6, Bryant Black Sox 1
Sunday, Aug. 12
Game 14 — Tupelo, Miss., 49ers vs. Gauthier/Amedee Wombats of Gonzales, La., 11 a.m.
Game 15 — Bryant Black Sox vs. game 14 winner, 2 p.m.