Shurtleff sinks Sheridan

NORTH LITTLE ROCK – Technically, the Bryant Everett Black Sox didn’t go undefeated in the Junior American Legion State Tournament. Needing to beat the Sheridan Yellowjackets just once, opposed to Sheridan having to beat Bryant twice, the Black Sox routed Sheridan 10-5 in the first state championship game of the night. But, Sheridan lobbied for the first game to be a Bryant forfeit because of an ineligible player. The game was forfeited by Bryant, but Sheridan may have preferred the first loss to what was ahead for the Yellowjackets the second game.

Alex Shurtleff struck out 18 of 21 Sheridan batters to no-hit the Yellowjackets in a 2-0 victory for Bryant Everett’s second consecutive Junior American Legion State Championship.

“It was a very eventful night,” Everett Coach Tyler Brown said. “I’ve never been through anything like that and never want to go through anything like that again. Kind of mixed emotions. On the one hand we have to forfeit the first game, which is unfortunate for a kid who is dedicated to our legion program, never missed a game, and that’s for a guy who’s on both teams. It’s a shame it came down to something like it did to have to forfeit that game.”

Zack Jackson relieved in the fourth inning of Game 1 and he was the player ruled ineligible because of playing an Xtra Innings Showcase in Jonesboro earlier this month. But, Shurtleff had Jackson’s back in the next game as he threw 89 pitches, walked one and hit three batters in the complete-game shutout.

“Then again we did a great job of bouncing back and not giving in to what happened,” Brown said. “Shurtleff threw one of the best performances I’ve ever seen. I honestly believe it is the best performance I’ve ever seen. That’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. I saw a 16-year-old kid go out in the state championship game and strike out 18 of 21 batters. That’s unbelievable. I’ve never seen anything like that.

“The whole team did a good job of staying in it, having energy, a lot of intensity and now we’re state champs for two years in a row and if feels good.”

After a scoreless first inning, the Black Sox would put a run on the board in the bottom of the second. Jordan Gentry walked to start the inning, Aaron Orender sacrifice bunted him to second and Gentry went to third when the Sheridan third baseman tried to catch him at second for an error. Cameron Coleman would hit a deep fly to right field for a sacrifice fly and a Bryant 1-0 lead.

It would remain 1-0 until the bottom of the fifth when left-hander Connor Tatum went the other way for a triple down the left-field line and would score on Garrett Misenheimer’s single to right for the 2-0 lead.

Not that Shurtleff needed that extra run as he struck out the side four times and retired the final 12 batters he faced, 11 of them strike outs. It was Shurtleff’s slider that did the most damage as 13 of his 18 strikeouts came via slider.

“You can’t say enough about that kid,” Brown said. “He’s grinded his way through the whole season. Every time he goes out, he’s going to fill up the strike zone, he’s going to make those guys swing the bat. He threw a no-hitter. If he wouldn’t have hit those guys and walked one, he’s got a perfect game.

“I looked at my assistant Ozzie [Hurt] in the sixth inning and I said they have no idea how to hit him. I told him the game was over right there, not trying to be over confident, that was just the fact of the moment. They couldn’t pick up what he was throwing, he did a good job of hiding the ball, he threw that good slider in there. And it’s on two days rest. Another complete-game shutout. Gutsy, gutsy performance.”

Misenheimer went 2 for 2 with an RBI, Tatum went 1 for 2 with a run, Jake East went 1 for 3 and Logan Allen went 1 for 4 for Bryant’s five hits.

“The season was fantastic,” Brown said. “It was a slow start. I remember the first game we made four errors, yet we still won 20-2. Then I remember us being on a three-game losing streak. We were averaging about five to six errors a game, our hitting was not there. As the season progressed, we added a couple things. We started making less errors and started hitting fastballs. It’s an honor and a privilege to coach each and every one of those kids.”