It was simple: Bryant (Ark.) Post 298 needed to win the final game of pool play Sunday night to stay alive at The American Legion World Series.
It wasn’t a simple route, but Bryant got it done, defeating Randolph County (N.C.) Post 45 5-0 to win the Stars Division title.
Both teams finished 2-1 in pool play but Bryant’s head-to-head win gave them first place in the division and a 3 p.m. matchup with Stripes runner-up Henderson (Nev.) Post 40 in Monday’s semifinals. Randolph County will face Stripes winner Omaha (Neb.) Post 1 at 7:30 p.m.
Randolph County’s Bobby Weary worked out of a jam in the second. After loading the bases by giving up a leadoff single to Dylan Hurt and walking Alex Shurtleff and Jake Wright, Weary struckout Aaron Orender and got Scott Schmidt to popout and Coby Greiner to fly out to right.
Weary faced another threat in the fourth. Leadoff batter Hurt drew a walk, and after two strikeouts, Hurt reached third on a throwing error when Weary tried to pick him off. But Weary forced a groundout to end the inning.
“When we left the bases loaded early, that wasn’t a good start,” Bryant coach Darren Hurt said. “Bases loaded, no outs and don’t score a run, I wasn’t really happy with the way that inning turned out. And then their pitcher, I thought we were on him early, I thought we were going to stay on him, and then about the third inning, he kind of settled in and he got really tough. There in the middle innings we couldn’t hit him.
“They do such a good job defending the bunt and things like that, which is kind of what we want to do in a lot of situations. We had to get creative on a couple of different things, but the guys executed.”
Bryant finally took advantage of a bases-loaded situation in the sixth. Orender’s groundout scored Seth Tucker, and a single to center by Schmidt drove in Hurt and Wright to make it 3-0.
The Arkansas team added two insurance runs in the top of the seventh when Logan Allen and Jake East scored on a throwing error.
Meanwhile, Bryant’s starter, Will McEntire, allowed just three hits over seven innings to earn the win.
“That kid is going to be the real deal, 16-year-old kid and he’s got a really bright future,” Hurt said. “He’s been doing that, he threw for us like that in the state tournament and the regional and now here; the moment’s never too big for him. What he’s shown us is the bigger the situation the bigger he is for us.”