Falling to Jacksonville Gwatney Chevrolet 9-4 in the first round of the Junior American Legion State Tournament this past Friday, and then fighting back for 7-4 and 4-3 victories over Little Rock and Sheridan, respectively, the Benton Sport Shop Dirtbags are heading the the state championship game after returning the favor to Gwatney.
Sport Shop handled Jacksonville 11-3 on Tuesday at Bear Stadium in Conway and will face the Bryant Jr. Black Sox today at 5 p.m. in the championship round, Sport Shop’s first ever trip to the state finals. Will Bryant undefeated thus far through the state tourney, Benton will have to beat the Jr. Sox twice to take the title.
Dirtbag Ben Cody pitched an excellent game on Tuesday, giving up three runs (one earned) on seven hits and two walks, striking out three in six innings for the win. Reece Rowland pitched a perfect seventh inning, getting one strikeout.
Gwatney actually took a 3-0 lead over Sport Shop, scoring a run in each of the first, second and third innings before the Dirtbags came back with two runs in the bottom of the third. After two ground outs to start the inning, Cole Babcock and Caleb Goines singled, and Junior Acosta walked before an error plated Babcock. Reed Gautreaux followed with a two-out single to left field for the 3-2 deficit.
It remained a 1-run game until the bottom of the fifth when Acosta drew a one-out walk and scored on Easton Dinwiddie’s double to tie things at 3-apiece. The Dirtbags took the lead for good the very next at-bat when Gautreaux singled in Dinwiddie for the 4-3 lead, Austin Hillis’ RBI single made it a 2-run advantage and Jackson Regan scored on an error for the 6-3 lead.
Sport Shop scored five more in the sixth on yet another Gautreaux RBI knock, this time a 2-run single, another Hillis RBI single and a 2-run double from Dawson Goines set the final score.
The Dirtbags outhit Jacksonville 12-7 with Gautreaux giving Benton a 3-for-4 day with two runs and four RBIs. Hillis was 2 for 3 with two RBIs, Dinwiddie 2 for 4 with two run and an RBI and Caleb Goines 2 for 5 with two runs. Dawson Goines was 1 for 3 with two RBIs, while Ethan Matthews and Babcock both added a hit in the win.