Bryant stays alive, forces decider with Texarkana
CONWAY — Staked to a four-run lead even before he stepped onto the Hendrix College mound, Bryant’s Aaron Orender never allowed Texarkana to come up with a big inning Saturday afternoon.
Orender surrendered 9 hits, 2 walks and hit 2 batters, but pitched 7 strong innings as the Black Sox routed the Razorbacks 13-4 in the American Legion AAA State Tournament. The two teams will face each other again at noon today in the championship game at Hendrix.
The winner of today’s game will qualify for the Mid-South Regional in New Orleans. The Arkansas state champion will play Tennessee’s state champion at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Orender struck out five and benefited from two double plays as Bryant (32-6) gained some measure of revenge after suffering a 6-1 loss to Texarkana in the winners bracket finals Friday.
“It definitely makes you feel better, especially against a team like that,” said Orender, a 2016 Bryant High graduate. “Having a four-run lead with the defense we have backing me up pretty much means you can win any ballgame.”
Bryant Manager Darren Hurt said Orender did a good job of keeping his pitches close to the batters’ knees.
“He throws a lot of fastballs and he throws a lot of strikes,” Hurt said. “He actually walked more today than
he normally does but he just goes up there and competes. … He’s going to challenge you.”
Texarkana (32-9) had played four consecutive errorless games coming into the contest but were guilty of six errors Saturday, including three in Bryant’s five-run seventh inning. The Razorbacks also left 13 runners stranded.
“We beat ourselves,” Texarkana Manager Dane Peavy said. “Made six errors. You don’t win any game making six errors. We’ve just got to play better defense and pick up some runs when we need to.”
Seth Tucker, Matthew Sandidge and Scott Schmidt drove in two runs each for Bryant, which banged out 11 hits against Texarkana pitchers Kaden Tollett and Austin Stubber. Jake East led Bryant, going 3 for 5 with a double and three runs scored. Tucker and Logan Allen had two hits each.
Texarkana’s Riley Orr went 3 for 5 with a double. Teammates Parker Ribble, John Michael Russ and Cole Boyd each added two hits.
Ribble lined a two-run double to left field in the fourth inning that cut Bryant’s lead to 6-3, but two unearned runs by the Black Sox in the sixth turned the game back in Bryant’s favor.
“Giving up four runs in the first shouldn’t have fazed us,” Peavy said. “We know we’ve got a long game in front of us. We made it 6-3 and should have scored another run. But things happen. They put the pressure on us on the basepaths and that’s what we expect from [Bryant]. We just didn’t capitalize, execute and do the things that we needed to do.”
The Black Sox scored three runs Saturday on sacrifice bunts.
“When you’re playing a game against [Texarkana], you know they’re going to come back,” Hurt said. “They’re going to scratch back at you. … That’s why we did some things to keep adding a run or two. We wanted to make the [lead] as big as we could.”
Bryant batted around in both the first and seventh innings. Sandidge and Schmidt each had two-run singles in the first. Tucker belted out a two-run single in the seventh.
Logan Allen pitched the eighth and ninth innings to complete Bryant’s victory.
BRYANT 5, FORT SMITH 4
Bryant rallied from a 3-0 deficit earlier in the afternoon to eliminate Fort Smith.
Bryant scored all five of its runs in the sixth inning, with Logan Allen’s tworun single capping the scoring. Four of those runs were unearned.
Myers Buck earned the victory despite giving up 13 hits. Buck struck out six and walked one. Boston Heil worked out of a two-on, no-out jam in the eighth inning. Beaux Bonvillain struck out the only two batters he faced to collect the save.
Fort Smith left nine runs stranded, including five in the final two innings.
Dylan Hurt, Alex Shurtleff and Jacob Wright drove in one run each for Bryant.
Max Frazier hit a two-run single in the first inning for Fort Smith. Garrett Carter and Jake Melton also drove in a run each for the Sportsmen (33-11).