This time, it’s Bryant mov­ing on

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - TIM COOPER

CON­WAY — Bryant rode a six-run fourth in­ning to hand de­fend­ing World Se­ries cham­pion Texarkana an 8-6 loss in the cham­pi­onship game of the Amer­i­can Le­gion AAA State Tour­na­ment Sun­day af­ter­noon at Hen­drix Col­lege.

Will McEn­tire pitched six strong in­nings and Lo­gan Allen and Jake East com­bined to drive in five runs as the Black Sox earned their fourth state ti­tle since 2012.

Bryant (34-6) ad­vances to the Mid-South Re­gional in New Or­leans. The re­gional starts Wed­nes­day with Bryant play­ing the Ten­nessee cham­pion at 9:30 a.m.

The sea­son is over for Texarkana (32-10).

Bryant’s vic­tory was the con­tin­u­a­tion of what has been Arkansas Amer­i­can Le­gion’s big­gest ri­valry.

Last year Texarkana bat­tled back through the losers’ bracket and beat Bryant twice for the state ti­tle. In the en­su­ing re­gional tour­na­ment, Bryant won its first three games to qual­ify for the re­gional cham­pi­onship, but lost to Texarkana in a game that could have only elim­i­nated the Ra­zor­backs.

Texarkana de­feated Mis­souri the next day to reach the cham­pi­onship, but a heavy rain­storm forced of­fi­cials to post­pone the game un­til the next day.

How­ever, af­ter more rain left the field un­playable, Le­gion of­fi­cials can­celled the game and named Texarkana the re­gional cham­pi­ons.

Texarkana went on to win the World Se­ries ti­tle, a first for a team from Arkansas.

Now, Bryant is Arkansas’ lone hope of ad­vanc­ing to the world se­ries in Cary, N.C.

The Black Sox beat the Ra­zor­backs for their third vic­tory in a span of 27 hours — all com­ing af­ter they dropped a 6-1 de­ci­sion to Texarkana on Fri­day af­ter­noon — to take home the state ti­tle.

A six-run fourth in­ning turned a 2-1 deficit into a 7-2 lead, with six of Bryant’s nine hits com­ing in the fourth.

“I never had a doubt,” Bryant Man­ager Dar­ren Hurt said. “We knew we had the pitch­ing. If they want to play an­other, I’ve got an­other arm ready to throw. And maybe two. … It’s just what our staff is this year. … We’ve got nine guys who com­pete their tails off.”

Bryant on Sun­day turned to McEn­tire, 16, who is en­ter­ing his ju­nior year of high school.

McEn­tire yielded nine hits, but struck out five and didn’t walk any­body. Texarkana added six more hits against re­liev­ers Bos­ton Heil and Beaux Bonvil­lain, but all 15 of the Ra­zor­backs’ hit were sin­gles.

McEn­tire had thrown a com­bined five pitches in his two pre­vi­ous state tour­na­ment ap­pear­ances, in­duc­ing a dou­ble play and a fly out.

“We had an ex­tremely large amount of con­fi­dence in him,” East said of McEn­tire. “He’s thrown like that all year. He played like an ace.”

The game turned with Texarkana lead­ing 2-1 in the bot­tom of the fourth.

Bryant used a walk and six con­sec­u­tive hits to knock out Texarkana starter Patrick Flani­gan.

Ja­cob Wright, an­other Bryant High School ju­nior, put the Black Sox ahead for good with a two-run sin­gle. Allen in­creased Bryant’s lead to 4-2 with a sin­gle, East fol­lowed with a two-run sin­gle and Dy­lan Hurt capped the scor­ing with a run-scor­ing dou­ble.

“A big in­ning can crush the other team’s morale,” said Allen, who was named the tour­na­ment’s

MVP. “That one big in­ning helped us.”

Texarkana had its big in­ning in the eighth, scor­ing four runs on five hits to cut the lead to 7-6. Bryant added an in­sur­ance run in the eighth on an RBI sin­gle by East.

The Ra­zor­backs, trail­ing 8-6, started the ninth with a Matt Good­heart sin­gle, but the rally died when East, the Bryant short­stop, turned a ground ball hit by John Michael Russ into a dou­ble play.

“It just didn’t play out in our hands to­day,” Man­ager Dane Peavy said of his team, which had six more hits but two fewer runs than Bryant. “My team made an ab­so­lute won­der­ful ef­fort. Any time you fall be­hind five runs to a team as good as Bryant, you’ve got to fight to get back in it. And we did a heck­uva job. But hats off to those guys over there. [Bryant] played a great game.”

Allen fin­ished 3 for 4 with two sin­gles and a third-in­ning dou­ble, which pro­duced Bryant’s first run. East, who was 3 for 5 in a 13-4 vic­tory over Texarkana on Sat­ur­day, was 2 for 4 against the Ra­zor­backs on Sun­day.

Hurt, the Bryant man­ager, said adding the in­sur­ance run in the eighth was piv­otal.

“Texarkana got that lead­off sin­gle in the ninth,” Hurt said. “They could have bunted there and done a lot of things to scratch out a run. But Jake gets the hit in the eighth and then starts the dou­ble play in the ninth. Jake had a heck­uva day.”

Good­heart went 3 for 5 for Texarkana. Russ, Beau Bur­son, Kade Gar­many and Tyler More­land all had two hits for the Ra­zor­backs. Gar­many drove in two runs with a sin­gle in the four-run eighth. Parker Rib­ble, Lo­gan Vidrine and More­land drove in a run each.

In other awards handed out Sun­day, Bryant’s Aaron Oren­der was named the tour­na­ment’s top pitcher and the Lit­tle Rock Vipers were the sports­man­ship win­ners.

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