CONWAY — Gage Stark and Logan Grant combined for seven hits, Logan Catton drove in four runs and Slade Renfrow no-hit the Batesville Highwaymen through four innings as the Bryant Black Sox advanced to the winners’ bracket final at the Senior American Legion State Tournament with an 11-1 romp on Friday night at UCA’s Bear Stadium.
The Sox will play Fort Smith Sportsman on Saturday at 6 with a bid to the championship round on the line.
Bryant banged out 12 hits, eight of them for extra bases including four triples. Stark had two triples and a double then scored the game-ending run when Grant cracked a double to follow up on his two singles and a triple as he went 4 for 4.
Catton had two hits and a sacrifice fly. His three-run double in the bottom of the fifth blew the game up. Logan Chambers had two hits including a double and a triple. He scored three times and knocked in a run.
“It took us a little white but, I tell you what — we got back to — Catton got back to hitting the ball the other way and guys just got back to doing the things that they’ve shown,” said Black Sox manager Darren Hurt. “We’ve just got to do it more consistently. We had some really good swings. Gage, L.G., Chambers, the list goes on. You just get used to (Chambers) getting two or three hits. It was a good hitting night.”
Renfrow walked three and fanned five. Despite having a no-hitter going, he gave way to Tyler Bates in the fifth. Will Hathcote threw a scoreless sixth.
Renfrow threw just 58 pitches so he will be eligible to pitch again on Monday, if needed.
“I got a little upset with him for the walks,” Hurt admittied. “That’s the only mound visit I had to take. It was just to tell him, ‘These guys can’t hit what you’re throwing, so just throw it over the plate.
“I hated to take him out with the no-no going,” he continued. “We were talking and the magic number we wanted to get to was five. We felt if we could get a five-run lead that we were going to gamble. And we did.
“He understood,” Hurt continued. “He took it well. He went over and told Bates to go do his thing. Tyler was a nervous wreck, but he got through his inning and I thought he threw well. He was just nervous.
“Hathcote looked really good and we had (Blaine) Sears going in the seventh,” he said. “We were going to go with all three of them right there at the end and get them an inning under their belt.”
Bates, Hathcote and Sears helped pitch the Junior Black Sox to a State title.
“They’ve been off a couple of weeks even though they’ve been throwing ‘pens, we just like to see them in some live action,” Hurt explained. “We were going to go to Sears, but I’ll take the walk-off.”
After Renfrow breezed through the top of the first, the Sox loaded the bases in the home half. Chambers led off with a double and walks to Cade Drennan and Stark had the bases loaded for Grant, who beat out an infield hit for the first run batted in.
But Batesville starter Hayden Childers escaped further damage.
In the top of the second, The Highwaymen’s Andrew Pitts and Caleb Blakely worked walks. Catton made a splendid play on a sacrifice bunt attempt by Nick Chaney. The bunt was popped up and hit just in front of Catton, who was charging in from third. The ball took a sideways hop but Catton bare-handed it and fired to first for the out.
Renfrow made that hold up with a strikeout and a pop to Peyton Dillon at first to force Batesville to strand runners at second and third.
Childers kept it close with a 1-2-3 second. In turn, Renfrow pitched around a two-out walk to Hayden Hargrave in the top of the third.
Bryant’s third started with a lined single to right by Catton. Though he was forced at second on Drennan’s grounder to short, a wild pitch had Drennan at second with two out.
Initially, it looked like Stark had popped out in foul territory to Gannon Bailey, the Batesville first baseman. But Bailey dropped it and Stark had a free shot. He made the most of it by ripping a double to right-center, chasing in Drennan. Moments later, Grant beat out a bunt hit to deep short, and when the late throw to first was errant, Stark scored to make it 3-0.
After Renfrow eased through a quick top of the fourth, the Sox tacked on two more. Noah Davis walked and was sacrificed to second by Coby Greiner. Chambers drilled a deep fly to the left-field corner, racing to third with an RBI triple. Catton followed up with a sacrifice fly to right to make it 5-0.
To preserve Renfrow’s availability if the tournament goes to Monday, Hurt brought in Bates in the top of the fifth. He struck out the side but, on the way to doing so, surrendered Batesville’s lone run. Rhett Crafton singled to right-center with one out to break up the no-hitter. Childers walked on a 3-2 pitch and, with two down, Hargrave singled up the middle to get his team on the board.
But the Sox responded with a five-run home fifth. With one out, Stark and Grant blasted back-to-back triples. After Dillon was struck by a pitch, Childers gave way to Chaney on the mound.
On a squeeze play, Davis got a bunt down that he actually beat out for an RBI single, making it 7-0.
Greiner’s second sacrifice put runners at second and third. Chambers was walked intentionally to load the bases for Catton, who drilled on down the right-field line, clearing the bases to make it 10-1.
Hathcote waded through the middle of the Batesville batting order in the top of the sixth and, in the home half, Stark’s second three-bagger was followed by an RBI double by Grant, who might’ve legged out another triple but didn’t have to since Stark’s run ended the game.
Batesville will play an elimination game against Paragould on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. The other losers’ bracket game is at 10 a.m., with Texarkana and Little Rock vying for survival.