This season has been quite the journey for Five Points Bank. The senior American Legion baseball team won 35 games, captured its first area championship in 27 years, qualified for the state tournament, and was the host team for the Mid-South Regional tournament.
“It was a roller coaster of a ride. We showed everybody we deserved to be here,” said an emotional Tyson Gatto after Hastings’ loss to Bryant in the Mid-South Regional semifinals. “These are my brothers, and I love them. It’s a tough way to lose, but we were right there.”
While the Chiefs did not qualify for the regional tourney by winning the state championship, their opponents all agreed that they were not the prototypical host team.
“We played in the World Series two years ago... and other than that this was the loudest crowd. We couldn’t communicate with our infielders,” said Bryant head coach Darren Hurt. “Big credit to the town of Hastings for coming out. Of course, 99 percent of them were against us, but it was still a lot of fun to see that kind of crowd.”
The Hastings community showed its support for the team, packing Duncan Field during the tournament. But on Sunday, Five Points Bank’s enthralling and dramatic postseason run came to end, just one game shy of the regional finals.
FPB fell 3-2 to the Arkansas state champion Bryant.
“I’m super proud of the team,” head coach Kevin Asher said. “We’re a little short of completing our goal, but we did a lot of things goal-oriented throughout the season. We wanted them to respect the game, love each other and buy in — those are the three goals that they’ll learn more in life than from this loss. We’re very proud of the way they represented their community, represented this program.
“Our maturity level from the beginning of the season to the end is a hundred fold. I can’t be more happy to be the guy that was along the ride with them.”
The Hastings faithful showed up in strong support, providing an energetic atmosphere for its team.
“There’s nothing better (than playing in front of that crowd). That was the most exciting it’s been all year,” Gatto said. “The crowd was unbelievable, props to them for showing up every day and supporting us.”
Five Points Bank entered the seventh inning trailing 3-2, but a leadoff single from Jacob Shaw and a base hit bunt by Gabe Conant put runners on first and second with no out. Leadoff man Ashton Valentine advanced the two runners with a bunt, putting the winning run in scoring position with just one out.
Bryant pitcher Coby Greiner got a big ground out by Jacob Schroeder. The play put two outs on the board and kept first base open, allowing the Black Sox to intentionally walk Hastings’ most dangerous hitter, Mike Boeve.
JT Cafferty stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and hit a well-struck 0-1 pitch well to right field, but the Bryant fielder settled under it and made the catch to seal the 3-2 victory.
“I don’t know (how we did it). Every game has been a one-run game for us,” Hurt said. “Thank God we’ve been on the right end of it. (Hastings) deserved to win as much as we did.”
“We had a great bunt situation and a tough call at first base — we could have had bases loaded but we didn’t,” Asher said. “We just needed a key hit there, and they were smart by walking Mike Boeve. JT put a great swing on the ball, it just didn’t fall in for us. If that falls in we win 4-3. You tip your hat there.”
Hastings starter Tyson Gatto took the mound just three days after starting the Chiefs’ opening game of the tourney. He labored through a few innings, but he was able to bear down and escape multiple jams.
“You kind of expected it to be a gutsy performance on three-days rest,” the FPB coach said. “He gutted out a few situations and we made some key defensive plays that got us out of some jams. But our kids just played sound baseball under pressure.”
Gatto loaded the bases in the top of the first, only to get out of trouble on back-to-back ground balls, the first of which cut down the runner heading home on a force play and the second a double play, handled by Conant at shortstop.
Bryant had runners on the corners with no outs in the third inning and scored a run on a squeeze bunt for the only run Gatto would give up. The Hastings pitcher got out of the inning without any more damage and stranded two more in the fifth inning.
“I had to wiggle a lot. I kept missing high and I missed out. I just had the mentality that I couldn’t let it get too big. I knew these guys behind me had my back and I had theirs,” Gatto said. “You just pitch to contact at that point and not try to do too much.”
Bryant’s 1-0 lead did not last long. In bottom of the fourth inning, Boeve led off the frame with a double and advanced to third on a balk. Cafferty tied the game by driving in Boeve and reaching on an error.
Hastings stranded a runner on third in the inning, but it cashed in on a scoring opportunity in the fifth. Shaw drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on a Conant bunt. A Valentine single and a walk to Jacob Schroeder loaded the bases for Boeve. Five Points’ three-hole hitter hit a ground ball to second but beat out the double play attempt, allowing Shaw to score from third.
The play gave Hastings a 2-1 lead.
The Black Sox wasted no time responding. With Boeve on the mound in relief of Gatto, Bryant led off the sixth with back-to-back hits, followed by a sacrifice bunt. On a 3-2 count, Boeve’s pitch got away from Cafferty, allowing the tying run to score. On the next pitch, Greiner successfully squeezed home Noah Davis for the go-ahead run.
Hastings was sat down in order before having their best scoring opportunity in the seventh. Greiner shut the door on Hastings’ rally and closed the book on its season.
Both of Five Points Bank’s losses in the regional tournament were to Bryant and both were by a score of 3-2. In the five games played during the regional, Hastings outscored its opponents a combined 26-14.
Bryant advanced to a one-game final for the regional title but was beaten by Festus, the Missouri runner-up, 8-3.
As for Five Points Bank’s incredible season, Asher said he could not be more proud of the effort his players gave.
“We knew when we got the regional that we were going to build something special. We knew we had talent but we didn’t know where it would take us. You never know that until you go through the journey,” Asher said. “We went through the journey together. It was a long process and there was a bump in the road here and there, but there was never anything that deterred us from our common goal, which was to win area, play in the state tournament, play for a state championship and maybe play for a regional championship. We were just a little short today... We just got beat by a better team.”
Bryant.........001 002 0 — 3 8 2
Hastings......000 110 0 — 2 4 0
W — Logan Grant. L — Mike Boeve. S — Coby Greiner.
2B — B, Gage Stark; H, Mike Boeve.