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AAA AMERICAN LEGION STATE TOURNAMENT

Blacksox hammer their way to a title

By Tim Cooper

This article was published July 31, 2014 at 3:14 a.m.

BRYANT -- Drew Tipton had been a hot hitter throughout the regular season for the Bryant Blacksox, and Tipton's torid streak continued at the American Legion AAA State Tournament.

Tipton banged out three hits Wednesday -- including a bases-clearing triple -- as the host Blacksox completed their tournament run with a 14-4 victory over the Jonesboro Ricemen in the championship game at Bryant High School.

"Drew's been getting it done all summer," Bryant Manager Darren Hurt said. "He's been one of our more consistent guys at the plate. He can run, and his effort is always there. He's going to go so hard that more than likely he's going to turn a ground ball into a hit.

"That's just the kind of kid he is."

Tipton finished 11 of 22 at the plate in Bryant's five tournament games, scoring 12 runs and driving in 7. Tipton was one of five Blacksox starters to bat better than .364 in the tournament. Bryant (41-4) outscored its state tournament opponents 68-23.

"It depends on how hard [the opposing pitcher] throws, but we go to the plate and let our instincts take over," said Tipton, who scored four runs and drove in four runs with a triple and two singles on a drizzly evening. "We just want to hit the ball where we see it."

Bryant advances to the Mid-South Regional Tournament, which begins Aug. 7 at Burns Park in North Little Rock. The Blacksox will play the Louisiana champion at 4:30 p.m.

Bryant produced 13 hits Wednesday against five Jonesboro pitchers. Hayden Lessenberry and Blake Patterson drove in three runs each, while Dalton Holt and Korey Thompson joined Tipton with three hits each. Lessenberry finished the tournament 10 for 22 with a tournament-high 10 RBI.

Jonesboro's Mason Gibson had two singles Wednesday, giving him a 10-for-21 effort with eight RBI for the tournament.

"Mason had a great tournament for us," Jonesboro Manager Brandon Eller said. "He's had a shoulder injury the last couple of weeks and he couldn't throw as much for us, but he pitched well when we asked him to. Hitting-wise, he hit a home run in his first at-bat against Fort Smith and set the tone for us. He was on fire for us."

Austen Martin drove in two runs for Jonesboro and Dillon Groves had two singles and drove in a run for the Ricemen, but Jonesboro was only 2 for 9 batting when it had runners in scoring position.

Winning pitcher Nathan Rutherford worked 6 1/3 innings, striking out 7 and walking 2. Harrison Dale finished the game, retiring all five batters he faced.

Bryant took a 2-0 lead in the first inning when Patterson belted a single to left.

"That was important, and that's what we talked about," Hurt said. "Anybody who had seen Jonesboro play this week knew you couldn't let them get the lead. If you ever give them the lead, they get fired up and they can go."

Jonesboro (27-16) won three games during the tournament, all by one run, but the Ricemen trailed 11-1 after five innings Wednesday.

"I felt like we were throwing some pretty good pitching and they were still hitting us hard," Eller said. "They're a great team, and we knew that coming into this thing. They've shown that every time we've played them. Hats off to them. They played up to their potential."

Bryant;210;440;03 - 14;13;2

Jonesboro;000;101;20 - 4;10;2

Rutherford, Dale (7) and Lessenberry. Cole, Martin (5), Hydrick (5), Hart (5), Gibson (6) and Groves. W - Rutherford. L - Cole.

Sports on 07/31/2014

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