FORT SMITH – Two UAFS baseball players will play for an American Legion Baseball World Series Championship beginning Thursday at Keeter Stadium in Shelby, N.C.
Catcher Dylan Hurt and center fielder Logan Allen, who both will be sophomores this season, are playing for their hometown Bryant (Ark.) Black Sox, who are one of eight teams competing in the World Series.
Bryant (39-7) will play Lewiston (Idaho) in the first round of pool play at 3:30 p.m. (central time). Bryant and Lewiston are a part of the four-team Stars Pool that includes Hopewell (N.J.) and Randolph County (N.C.). Shrewsbury (Mass.), Midland (Mich.), Creighton (Neb.) and Henderson (Nev.) make up the four-team Stripes Pool.
Thursday and Friday’s games will be broadcast online on ESPN3, while the Saturday–Tuesday games will be broadcast on ESPNU. The championship game is scheduled for Tuesday at 6 p.m. (central time).
Live statistics and updated tournament information will be available at Tournament Central.
“We are really looking forward to playing,” Allen said. “We felt like we should have had the opportunity to go last year but didn’t. This is our opportunity, and we are looking forward to proving ourselves.”
Former UAFS shortstop Ozzie Hurt, Dylan’s older brother, coaches the Black Sox along with his dad, Darren, and Jerry East. Ozzie Hurt said he likes the team’s chances of winning the championship.
“We’re set up fine,” said Ozzie Hurt, who was a three-time Gold Glove shortstop during his four-year collegiate playing career at UAFS. “If we win the first two games, we have a really good chance of winning it.”
Hurt and Allen were part of last spring’s Lions team that made history by setting the school record for wins during the NCAA Division II era (35), earning the program’s first bid to the NCAA Division II National Tournament and finishing a program-best second in the South Central Region Tournament.
“I talked to them (Tuesday) night, and they said it felt like they hadn’t even gotten off the bus (from last May),” UAFS coach Todd Holland said. “I said that’s what happens. You keep on winning, and you keep on playing. … It’s going to be hard to find two guys as good as they are with their experience playing there on TV this weekend.”
Bryant advanced to the American Legion Baseball World Series by winning the Mid-South Region Tournament, which consisted of eight teams from Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana (two), Mississippi, Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri.
The Black Sox went 5-1 in the region tournament, beating Ada, Okla., 3-0 in the winner-take-all championship game on Sunday at Kirsch-Rooney Stadium in New Orleans, La. It was the second time Bryant played Ada in the tournament. The Black Sox suffered their only loss of the tournament to Ada 5-4 in extra innings on the third day of the tournament.
It’s been a long stretch of baseball for Hurt and Allen, who began their collegiate season on Feb. 2, but Hurt said it’s been a fun spring and summer.
“I think I counted it up the other day, and I’m like on my 90th game catching. It’s crazy,” Hurt said. “It’s fun, and it’s what we want to do. We’re glad to be here.”
During that six-game stretch in the region tournament, Hurt batted 0.375 (9 for 24) with four doubles and three RBIs and had four stolen bases. Allen, who was the Heartland Conference Freshman of the Year this past spring, batted 0.280 (7 for 25) with one double, two triples and two RBIs and had four stolen bases.
“I’m doing okay,” said Allen, who was MVP of the state tournament. “I really didn’t hit the ball that well in the region, but I did a good job during the state tournament.”
Bryant earned its berth in the region tournament by winning the Arkansas American Legion AAA State Tournament, rallying back through the loser’s bracket to beat defending state and World Series champion Texarkana twice – 13-4 and 8-6 – to win the state title on July 30 at Hendrix College in Conway, Ark. It was the fourth state title since 2012 for the Black Sox.
“Dylan and Logan have been a big part of it,” said Ozzie Hurt of the team’s successful season. “It’s not just their play on the field, either. Their leadership and how they go about things has really made a difference, too.