State champs! Tigers battle back through losers' bracket to take title
By Scott Loftis
Question: Who is the best 10-year-old Cal Ripken League baseball team in the state of Arkansas?
Answer: Why, it’s the Carroll County Tigers, of course.
The Tigers made that clear in the recent 10-under state tournament in Springdale, fighting back through the losers’ bracket to reach the championship round. There, the Tigers rallied from an early 5-0 deficit and scored seven runs over the final two innings to defeat Blytheville 8-5 and force a deciding final game. The Carroll County team eliminated any suspense in that game by scoring 15 runs in the third inning to clinch the state crown.
“They’ve played amazing,” coach Brandon Stone said of the Tigers, whose roster is made up mostly of players from the Green Forest area. “I can’t say enough about them.”
The Tigers opened state tournament play with a 12-2 victory over Paragould, then lost to Bentonville 11-6 in the second round.
The seeds for Carroll County’s title run were sown in that loss, when the Tigers made a late run to close the gap against Bentonville, Stone said.
“They had beaten us pretty bad in the district tournament,” he said. “We knew what they could do. That run late kind of gave us some confidence.”
The Tigers kept their hopes alive by jumping out to an early lead on the way to an 8-4 victory over Paragould, then rallied to beat Harrison 6-5.
“Harrison shut us out in the district tournament, 12-0,” Stone said. “We just kind of kept chipping away at them. The kids weren’t intimidated at all.”
Next, the Tigers got a chance at revenge against Bentonville, and they took advantage.
“After two times seeing them, we understand their strategy,” Stone said. “They’re very aggressive on the bases, but we shut down their running game. We just jumped on them and never let up.”
That victory set up the championship round battle with Blytheville.
Stone said the Tigers’ depth was crucial to their title run.
“It was a different player every game that came up big,” he said. “Every game, their confidence just kept increasing. They’re a fun group.”
The fun doesn’t stop with the state title, either. Next, the Tigers will travel to Seminole, Texas, for the Southwest Regional Tournament beginning July 11.
Team members are Jerimiah Bruce, Zeke Harlan, Broan Hartsell, Quintin Hashaqen, Hayden Hatman, Issac Kennedy, Jace Lawrence, Randon Lawrence, Jace Meador, Kasen Robinson, Bryce Smith, Ethan Stone and Ryne Stone. The team is coached by Brandon Stone, Chris Meador, D.J. Harlan and Tim Hatman.