In a classically constructed line-up, the lead-off hitter is an on-base guy with some speed. He usually uses all fields when he’s hitting and he’ll wait out a walk. With his speed, he’ll put pressure on the defense and often reach base on rushed throws or careless fielding.
The second hitter handles the bat well, He can usually bunt, makes good contact and rarely strikeouts. He’ll work deep into counts to give the lead-off guy a chance to steal a base. And he often has a knack for hitting behind the runner on a hit-and-run.
Those guys are called the table-setters. After them, it’s the RBI guys, the power, the guys who clear the table.
The success of that construction has been such over the decades of baseball that it’s spawned a phrase familiar to many:
“Get ‘em on, get ‘em over, get ‘em in.”
Similarly, the best teams are always strong defensively up the middle — from catcher, to keystone combo at second and short, to centerfield. If you’ve got guys in those positions that make the plays, you’re going to be tough.
Both strategies have been highly successful for the Bryant Hornets’ baseball program over the years and this season is a great example with a couple of guys that have not only served as excellent table-setters but key elements in the team’s stellar defense “up the middle.”
Logan Allen is the lead-off guy. So far this season for the Hornets, he’s hitting .438 (39 of 89) with 12 walks and five hit-by-pitches. That’s an on-base percentage of .524. He’s also swiped 12 bases and scored 36 runs.
Defensively, Allen patrols centerfield with a range in the gap that allows his cohorts in left and in right to guard the lines more than most.
Dylan Hurt is the second-place hitter. An extraordinary bunter, he leads the team with 10 sacrifices while hitting .288 (21 of 73) with 19 walks, two hit-by-pitches and he’s only struck out nine times.
His role in the up-the-middle defense is at catcher, a position he’s played much of his career. But, as a junior for the Hornets, because of an injury to the projected starter at shortstop and a senior returning starter behind the plate, Hurt manned another of those up-the-middle positions at shortstop for a team that went 28-3.
They’ve been playing together since they were 4 years old and they’ve been involved in a lot of winning over the years. In Babe Ruth baseball, they were key elements in two World Series teams including a Series title as 13-year-olds in 2012 — a squad that included current Hornet teammates Cameron Coleman, Jake East, Jeffrey Hastings, Austin Kelly, Garrett Misenheimer, Aaron Orender, Alex Shurtleff and Diego Vargas.
Both played for the Hornets team that won the 2014 Class 7A State championship. The Hornets were conference champions and State semi-finalists in 2013, conference runners-up and State quarter-finalist in 2015. Bryant is 25-2 this season going into their final two regulation contests with the Class 7A State tourney looming.
And they’ll be returning starters for the Bryant Black Sox Senior American Legion team this summer, a team that they’ve had a hand in helping go 116-22 over three seasons with State titles each year, a run to the Regional finals in 2014 and the Regional Final Four last summer. They also helped a Black Sox Junior Legion team win a State title in 2014.
So it was fitting that the two longtime teammates shared a special day on Thursday when they both signed national letters of intent to continue their baseball and academic careers under scholarship at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith.
“They’re about as fundamentally sound as any players we’ve ever had defensively,” declared Bryant head coach Kirk Bock. “Both of them have really come on offensively. Logan could always run. That’s going to give him a chance. As far as small ball both of them are excellent. And they’re starting to come around with the offensive approach other than just the short game.”
Hurt, the son of Darren and Denise Hurt, is the youngest of three brothers with Devin and Ozzie, who all have excelled at the game, following in their father’s footsteps. Currently, Ozzie is a star shortstop at UAFS in his senior season.
“I was always interested in Fort Smith because my brother went there for two years,” Dylan Hurt acknowledged. “The coaches started talking to me a couple of years ago. I knew it was the place I wanted to go from the start.
“I was considering going the JUCO route but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go to Fort Smith,” he added.
Asked what Ozzie told him about the school, Dylan added, “He said he loved it. He said it’s been the best four years of his life and there’s no better place to go.”
Allen, the son of Mike and Kristin Allen, mentioned that another former teammate at Bryant put in a good word for him.
“I actually didn’t start talking to them until this year,” he related. “I think Brandan Warner (a senior at BHS last year) when he got up there, started talking me up then the coach reached out to me a few weeks back and it went from there.
“I was looking at OBU and a couple of other D-II schools,” Allen related.
What tipped the scales toward UAFS for him?
“Honestly, it probably had to be Dylan,” Allen allowed. “I get to go up there and play with Dylan. I have a roommate already set up and everything.”
An indication of the Lions’ need of a catcher like Hurt is that Warner, a splendid third baseman, was moved behind the plate earlier this season, his first at UAFS.
“They think they want me to play (catcher) next year so I hope I can,” Hurt said.
“They’re getting a multi-talented baseball player,” Bock said of Hurt. “He can play anywhere. I think he’ll settle in behind the dish. I would venture to say he may have a chance to play for four years behind the dish.”
Regarding Allen, Bock said, “They’re going to get a guy that can play all three spots in the outfield. He can hit early in the order and he can steal bags.”
“I’m sure I’ll stay in the outfield,” Allen said. “They haven’t really talked much to me about (their plans). Maybe I’ll get to play up there next year. I don’t think they’re very, very deep in outfielders, which is better for me.”
“They’ve got two quality guys,” Bock asserted.
Asked when he started thinking he might have a chance to play in college, Allen said,
“Since last year, my junior year. I started getting a little bigger and it went from there.”
When asked the same thing, Hurt said, “I just love the game and I knew I wanted to play it after high school. Sophomore year when the (UAFS) coach started talking to me, I realized I actually could go play.”
He added that he plans to go into Education with designs on being a coach. Allen is looking at studying Biology.