State champion Bryant 13’s roll through tourney unbeaten

MONTICELLO — The group of players that make up the 13-year-old Babe Ruth All-Stars have come close in years past but this year, they did it.

On Wednesday, July 22, they completed a four-game sweep to the championship of the State tournament with a dramatic 5-4 win over the host team.They thus qualified to play in the Southwest Regional tournament in Bentonville which begins Friday, Aug. 7.

Bryant opened the tournament with a 2-1 win over Hamburg on Saturday, July 18. The next day brought a 3-1 win over Lonoke putting them in the winners bracket final against Monticello. Rallying from a 5-3 deficit, Bryant scored five times in the seventh to win 8-5 on Monday. Rainy weather pushed the championship round back to Wednesday with Monticello beating Sylvan Hills to get another shot at Bryant. Monticello hoped to get a win to force a winner-take-all final on Thursday but Bryant thwarted those hopes with its 5-4 win.

The Bryant 13-year-olds, coached by Jason Thompson assisted by Mark Akers and Jimi Easterling, include Wesley Akers, Justin Emmerling, Trevor Ezell, Zach Graddy, Ashton Green, Spencer Kilgore, Jonathan Lyman, Austin Miller, Joe Murdock, Tanner Rich, Ian Shuttleworth, Korey Thompson and Chase Tucker.[more]

Bryant 5, Monticello 4

Bryant built a 5-0 lead before Monticello struck for four in the fifth and got the potential tying run to second. But Lyman, the Bryant starter, got the third out to leave the baserunner stranded.

In the sixth, a walk and a balk had a runner at second with one out. Akers relieved and issued another walk but the lead runner was thrown out by Graddy, the catcher, when he tried to steal third. That proved crucial when the next batter singled to center. With runners at first and second, Akers got the No. 3 hitter to fly out to Tucker in center to end the inning.

In the seventh, Akers retired the first batter but the next two batters coaxed walks to give Monticello hope. A pop up to Thompson at second got the second out then on a drive up the middle, Tucker threw out the runner from first before he could get to second ending the game.

The game had been scoreless through two innings. In the third, Bryant got a run. Lyman singled to left, stole second and, an out later, scored when Thompson’s bunt was misplayed.

In the fourth, Akers walked and stole second, taking third on Rich’s tap back to the mound. Graddy then came through with a single to left to chase him home, making it 2-0.

The third inning began with Tucker reaching on an error. Again Thompson’s bunt was misplayed. Tucker scored on a wild pitch then Green singled in Thompson. Green stole his way to third and scored on another wild pitch as Akers drew a walk.

Monticello’s rally began with a trio of base hits. An error brought in a second run then, when a fly to right was misplayed, two more scored. A stolen base put the tying run in scoring position before Lyman got out of the jam with a one-run lead intact.

Bryant made a bid to add to the lead in the sixth when Tucker walked, Kilgore singled and Ezell drew a free pass to load the bags with two down but Monticello got a strikeout to keep it a one-run game.

Akers singled to start the top of the seventh but Monticello turned a doubleplay.

Bryant 8, Monticello 5

Monticello took a 3-0 lead in the first and Bryant tied it in the second. A two-run third put Monticello ahead and, despite a run by Bryant in the fifth, the lead held until the seventh.

Trailing 5-4, Bryant’s seventh began with a walk to Rich. Graddy and Shuttleworth cracked singles to load the bases, but Rich was forced out at home on a grounder to third by Lyman. Then, on consecutive plays, Bryant squeezed in runs. Tucker got the first run in and reached base on his bunt. Thompson got the second RBI, though he was thrown out at first, giving his team the lead.A walk to Ezell loaded the bases for Green who smacked single to right, driving in Lyman and Tucker, making it 8-5.

Green, who went the distance on the mound, closed it out by retiring the side in order in the seventh on just six pitches.

Trailing 3-0 after the first, Bryant had tied it in the second when, with one out, Shuttleworth reached on a third-strike wild pitch. He stole second and third then scored when Lymon reached on an error. Tucker walked and Thompson got a sacrifice bunt down. Lyman scored on a wild pitch and Ezell smacked an RBI single to tie it.

Monticello regained the lead in the third on a double and a trio of Bryant errors before Green worked out of the jam.

Bryant had threatened in the top of the third when Rich singled and Shuttleworth walked. In the fourth, Tucker singled, was sacrificed to second by Thompson but was thrown out at third on Ezell’s grounder back to the mound.

In the fifth, Graddy walked with one out, advanced on a grounder by Shuttleworth and scored when Lyman’s grounder to short was booted.

Including the last two outs of the third, Green retired 13 of the last 14 batters he faced. He finished with eight strikeouts and just one walk.

Bryant 3, Lonoke 1

Akers had a no-hitter for 5 2/3 innings while Bryant built a 3-0 lead. He gave up a single but the runner was thrown out trying to steal by Graddy. In the seventh, Lonoke picked up a second hit on a lead-off single but a grounder to Green at third resulted in a force at second. After a pop to third, a double brought the lone Lonoke run home. With the potential tying run at the plate, Akers close it out with his eighth strikeout.

Bryant had taken a 1-0 lead in the first when Green reached on an error, advanced to second on a balk, stole third and came home when Akers walked and was thrown out trying to steal second.

Rich and Graddy walked after that but both were stranded.

In the third, Akers reached on a one-out error and Rich smacked an RBI double. He took third on a passed ball and scored on a groundout by Graddy to make it 3-0.

Bryant threatened to add to the lead in the fourth when Thompson singled and Green reached on an error but Lonoke wriggled out of the jam.

Akers, meanwhile, worked around a pair of walks in the first, another in the third (thanks to a doubleplay), and a third-strike wild pitch in the fourth. During one stretch, he retired 10 of 11.

Bryant 2, Hamburg 1

Lyman made two runs in the second hold up for the win. He took a shutout to the seventh when, with two down, an error extended the inning. An infield hit and a single to left produced the run but, with the potential tying and go-ahead runs on, he got the No. 3 hitter to bounce back to the mound to end the game.

He walked one, fanned four and allowed seven hits in the game. A pair of doubleplays helped the cause. He also picked off a runner and Graddy threw one out trying to steal.

Bryant’s two runs came in the second. With one out, Tucker walked and Lyman beat out a bunt single. Thompson bunted them to second and third then Ezell blooped a single to right to drive them both home.

The only other innings in which Bryant put two runners aboard were in the first with a pair of walks and, in the sixth, when Akers singled, was forced out on a grounder to the mound by Rich and Graddy walked. Rich stole third to put runners at the corners but both were stranded.

Before the seventh, Hamburg’s biggest threat came in the third when a hit batsman, an error and a walk loaded the bases with two down. But a grounder to Green at short ended the inning with a force at third.

A pair of inning-opening singles in the fourth gave Hamburg a chance but a tap back to Lyman resulted in a force at third. He then picked off the runner at first before getting the final out of the inning on a fly to Tucker in center.

In the fifth, a lead-off single and bunt hit had Hamburg in business with nobody out and the top of the order coming up. But Lyman induced a pair of pops and ended that threat with a strikeout.

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