This time, it’s Bryant moving on
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.