NEA Rangers named tops in state
The NEA East Rangers completed a 22-1 season with a convincing 15-11 victory over Arkadelphia to capture the 8 and under Machine Pitch State Baseball Championship held July 3-8 in Blytheville.
The Rangers advanced to the championship round defeating Malvern 13-5 in the first round before advancing to the finals of the winners bracket by trouncing host Blytheville 13-2 in a game called after four innings. Caleb Dublin, Hunter Swaim and Joel Burrow all had three hits apiece to pace the Ranger offensive attack.
The Rangers won the opener in the championship round with a thrilling 11-10 come from behind victory over Arkadelphia. Trailing 10-7 entering the bottom of the sixth inning, the Rangers were down to their last out when Gavin Gathright and Jacob Tarver laced back to back singles before Dalton Brumley drilled a three-run homer to tie the game. Miles Gifford kept the inning alive with a base hit to left, setting up Brock Birmingham's game winning double over the right fielder's head to win the game.
Arkadelphia came back to claim the second game with an 8-4 win, setting up the deciding third game on Wednesday. The Rangers jumped to an early 5-0 lead in the first inning of the rubber match. Gifford began the inning with a one out single followed by a Birmingham double. Burrow drilled a three run homer before Jacob Tarver completed the first inning onslaught with a two run double, scoring both Swaim and Dublin who had singled.
The Rangers stretched their lead to 15-7 entering the sixth inning before Arkadelphia rallied for four runs, but the come back bid fell short as the Rangers took home the championship.
"All ten kids contributed in a big part all season, especially in the final game," said Head Coach Darrell Birmingham. "Arkadelphia has a very good team but the difference proved to be our defense. We were able to turn three double plays in two games. No balls got by our outfielders. We did an outstanding job defensively the entire tournament. I am very proud of all these kids and am so happy for them. They really deserved this championship."
Other teams competing in the state tournament included Tri-County-Kennett, Jonesboro Cyclones, Prescott, Hot Springs, White Hall, Pine Bluff, and Malvern.
The Rangers roster includes Jacob Tarver, Alex Walsh, Layne Sims, Joel Burrow, Dalton Brumley, Miles Gifford, and Brock Birmingham, all of Manila, Caleb Dublin and Gavin Gathright of Monette and Hunter Swaim of Caraway.
Coaches are Darrell Birmingham, Scott Gifford, and Don Brumley.
The Rangers also won the Rattlers Invitational Tournament in Marked Tree, the Trumann May-Hem Invitational, and the Mid-America Tournament in Jonesboro, outscoring their opponents 154-37 while going 14-0 during the tournaments.
The Rangers claimed the District 4 title by beating Blytheville, NEA Central, and the Jonesboro Cyclones twice.