In the first-ever all Saline County regional, the Benton 9-year-olds defeated Bryant in the Cal Ripken Southwest Regional with a score of 4-0 in the final.
Benton’s Peyton Pallette took control of the game early and finished with a complete game one-hit shutout over Bryant, who reached the tournament finals after defeating Little Rock Junior Deputy 6-3.
“They had their ace going. It was a great game,” Bryant coach Clint Hilson said.
“We were really impressed with him and just couldn’t hit him.
Bryant’s only hit came in the fifth inning with a hit up a middle by Trey McKim.
Pallette finished with 13 strikeouts and received the game ball.
“There is no doubt in my mind, when he is focused, he is the best 9-year-old pitcher in the state,” Pigue said.
“I consider Bryant one of the best hitting teams in the state and he just pitched one heck of a game.”
Pigue coaches with Brad Collatt and Doug Pallette.
“We work so well together and are very close. I’m excited about this group of kids down the road,” Pigue said.
“We have a very strong group of 9-year-old boys at our park, I wish I could have suited up 20 kids.
“It means so much more to win this regional on the exact field I played by first baseball game ever, over 25 years ago.”
Pigue said, before the game started he looked around at all the people who showed up to watch these boys represent Benton and this park.
“I looked at Brad and Doug and said ‘this is unreal’,” Pigue said.
“We had mayor David Mattingly standing beside our dugout cheering the boys on and that meant a lot to us.
“These boys played a lot of ball this year, they have played nearly 60 games including league games and won six tournaments including the Tournament of Champions and the Branson Challenge in Missouri.”
In the first inning, Pallette singled and stole second, third and home to give Benton a 1-0 lead.
In the third inning, Ethan Bearden was hit by a pitch and Bearden reached third on Braxton Slaughter’s double. Jaden Woolbright knocked both in with a double to right field to give Benton the 3-0 lead.
In the fifth inning, Pallette reached on a bunt single and Jackson Shelton singled off the center field fence to plate Pallette. Pinch-runner Jaden Ashalintubbi moved to second on Braxton Slaughter’s single.
Woolbright was walked to load the bases. Bryant pitcher Jake Meadors induced a Carson Humphrey ground ball to force Ashalintubbi at the plate and a fielders choice to end the threat.
Bryant defeated JR Deputy in the first game to advance to the regional final, despite the hot conditions.
“The first game was really hot, but we finally got going after a little bit,” Hilson said.
“We knew if we got to the finals, it would be tough.”
In the first game, Gage Stark lasted an inning and a third before Hayden Hilson pitched the rest of the game.
“Give [Benton] credit,” Hilson said. “They played really well and they deserve to win it.”
Hilson said playing back-to-back games might have played a factor in the loss, but “the way he was pitching, I don’t think it wouldn’t have made a much difference.”
Hilson said it was a good turnout and he said he hated to lose but he was glad that it came down to two Saline County teams.
“I’m proud of our season and our players. It has been a long year,” Hilson said.
The Bryant 9s won the state tournament in Lonoke.
The regional final concludes the season for both Benton and Bryant as only the 10-year-olds and 12-year-olds go to the World Series with the Cal Ripken division.