Relyance Bank advances to title game

The middle of the order for Seabrook Relyance Bank proved invaluable as Relyance defeated Arkansas Pulpwood 4-2 in six innings on Wednesday in the Jim Hill Wood Bat Inviational at Eddie Bryan Field at the Seabrook Family Christian Center.

In a game originally scheduled for Sunday, Relyance’s middle half of the order went 6 for 10 including three RBIs and a run scored to advance to the championship game against Hamburg (15-16’s) late Wednesday night.

“They are hitting the ball real well now,” Relyance head coach Ken Dickson said. “They are right on, they are on every pitch and they are hitting line drives instead of bloopers.

“That’s good right now.”

Hamburg defeated Relyance 6-2 in the championship game. Drake Streeter pitched a complete game and struck out 11. Jakobi Jackson takes the loss after lasting just 3 1/3 with five walks and five strikeouts.

Relyance (12-1) took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first thanks to a bases-loaded single by Joe Moore. It plated Andrew Morgan — who reached on a single — to give Relyance the early advantage.

“These are 14-year-olds playing against 15- and 16-year-olds,” Dickson said. “That’s impressive to me.

“That’s real good.”

Morgan led off the second with a single and Aaron Frazier walked to put runners on first and second. A single by Hayden Arnold loaded the bases before Moore’s go-ahead single.

Arkansas Pulpwood’s Dillon Darden struck out the next three batters to end the inning.

Darden took the loss after tossing four innings, allowing three runs on six hits with nine strikeouts and one walk.

Relyance added two more runs in the bottom of the third.

With one out, Trent Marshall and Jakobi Jackson reached on back-to-back errors. After Jackson stole second, Morgan grounded out to the shortstop for an RBI to give Relyance a 2-0 lead.

Jackson later scored from second on a wild pitch. After three complete, Relyance had a 3-0 lead.

Arnold pitched 5 2/3 innings in the win for Relyance. He allowed two runs on four hits with four strikeouts. He nearly had a complete game shutout but two runs in the sixth forced Dickson to put in Frazier to close the game.

“Right when (Arnold) gets past 57 pitches, is when he usually leaves the ball up,” Dickson said. “I asked him at 57 if he was OK and he said he was.

“You always want to give him a shot at ending it.”

With one out in the top of the sixth, Jaylyn Massey reached on an infield single, and with two outs, Jordan Simple singled to put runners at the corners.

After Simple moved to second on catcher’s indifference, Tommy Tidwell hit a double to plate two runs for Arkansas Pulpwood and cut the deficit to 4-2.

Frazier came in and struck out the last batter to seal the win.

“When it gets to this situation, especially when you are trying to win a tournament, you go ahead and bring your ace in,” Dickson said. “… He strikes out the final out because he’s a starting pitcher.”

Relyance scored an insurance run in the bottom of the fifth on an RBI double by Frazier. Frazier finished the game 2 for 2 with an RBI.

Arnold was 2 for 2 and Moore had a single and an RBI. Morgan was 1 for 3 with a run scored and an RBI.

Relyance advanced to the championship game despite losing their first game of the tournament.

“They have a lot of fight in them,” Dickson said. “They learn that from (Watson Chapel’s) Chad Cope.

“Which is good, because with the way I coach baseball, you better fight or you are sitting next to me.”

At Taylor Field, Nashville defeated Hamburg (17-19’s) 7-1. Nashville will advance to play in the championship game which will be scheduled for a later date.