The 9-year-old Cal Ripken Regional, that was originally played in Hattiesburg, Miss., was rained out July 27. Since the four remaining teams were from Arkansas, the finals were moved to Benton’s Bernard Holland Park. The Benton 9s, coached by Shane Pigue, were the number one seed going into bracket play after 4-0 in pool play and was chosen to host the final two games.
“We set a goal to do that, because not many teams have won regionals for Benton,” Pigue said. “Tim Bennett’s team has won three-in-a-row but no other Benton team has won a regional before.
“It is kind of crazy.”
The Bryant 9s, coached by Clint Hilson, will play the number three seed Little Rock Jr Deputy Saturday at 5:30 p.m. and the winner will play Benton at 7:30 p.m. in the championship game.
“The only thing that concerns me is this heat,” Hilson said. “We played four pool games and then they seed you.
“We have a good chance. The three teams left are all good teams but with the heat it is going to be tough to do.”
The Bryant 9-year-old roster includes: Hayden Hilson, Colton Kilgore, Shane Small, Jonathan Hall, Braydan Lester, Riley Morales, Jake Meaders, Cade Drennan, Rhett James, Trey McKim, Tyler LaRue and Gage Stark. Hilson is assisted by Bill Drennan and Mike Meaders. Bat boy for the team is Justin Hall.
In pool play, Benton defeated Springdale, the North Arkansas State Champions, 8-4, Oak Grove, Miss., 5-3; the Louisiana State Champions Madisonville 12-0 and Westside, La., 10-4. After their undefeated run in pool play, Benton defeated Oak Grove 5-2 in bracket play.
“We’ve had such a great year, winning six tournaments,” Pigue said. “This is my second year around too, because I coached my older boy. “I’ve never had a team with this much success.”
The Benton 9s which was led offensively by Peyton Pallette with .765 average, Jaden Woolbright with a .733 average and Braxton Slaughter with .625 average.
The Benton 9s won the Wally Hall Tournament for their age group and a tournament in Branson, Mo. They are one win away from winning their regional.
Benton’s roster includes: Keaton Collatt, T. Shane Pigue, Jaden Ashalintubbi, Jaden Woolbright, Carson Humphrey, Connor Burrow, Grant Steed, Ethan Bearden, Blake Ferrell, Jackson Shelton and Peyton Hudgins.
Pigue said the 9U bracket for the Wally Tournament was one of the largest in the state.
“The last two years have just been really crazy for Saline County,” Pigue said.
If Bryant wins, the championship game will be between two Saline County teams.
“It would be awesome, and that’s what we are shooting for,” Hilson said.
“I’m really good friends with Shane and we have a lot of respect for another. I think it would mean as much to as it would for myself.”
Bryant received the number two seed after finishing 3-1 in pool play, defeating the Mississippi State Champions 9-0, Bentonville 6-4 and Oak Grove 13-1. They lost to Springdale 6-4.
“The boys that I have are tough as nails and hopefully we will get another regional win for Bryant,” Hilson said.
Bryant won their first bracket game 16-5. L.R. Jr. Deputy also finished 3-1 in pool play and they beat Springdale in bracket play.
Hilson and Pigue have been coaching baseball and football together for the last two years and they play Legion baseball together at Benton. Pigue said he is rooting for Bryant to make it to the championship game, especially since a player on Benton’s team and a player on Bryant’s team are cousins.