Bryant edges Conway
EDITOR’S NOTE: In this time of COVID-19, with no sports action, BryantDaily.com will be posting past stories of Bryant athletics either posted on BryantDaily.com (from 2009 to the present) or published in the Bryant Times (from 1998 to 2008).
By ROB PATRICK
Hunter Nugent froze for a moment. He had to. Justin Wells’ lined shot to the right side of the infield was low enough to be caught and Nugent couldn’t tell right away if it was where someone could reach it.
After all, there was one out in the bottom of the seventh inning of the 3-3 game and if the ball had been caught, Nugent didn’t want to be doubled off second to end the Bryant Hornets’ potential game-winning opportunity.
But, as it turned out, it was a moment that cost him. The ball got through and out to Conway right fielder Tyler Mattox in a hurry. The speedy Nugent got the green light from his coach Terry Harper at third, challenging Mattox to make a clean pickup on the ball and a throw that was on target.
Mattox executed. Even though the ball got there well ahead of him, Nugent’s slide nearly evaded Conway catcher Richie Irvin. He was, however, called out.
It was just the second out of the inning though.
Wells, alertly, had taken second on the throw to the plate and that proved crucial. Travis Queck came on to run for him and when Bryan Griffith cracked an 0-2 pitch between short and third, Queck had a better view and took flight.
Again, he got the green light at third from Harper as Conway’s Andy Lee came up with the ball. For a moment, it looked like the same result might occur, in fact, as Lee came up throwing.
But Queck’s better jump and the fact that Lee’s arm didn’t match Mattox’s allowed Queck to slide headfirst across homeplate just ahead of the throw as his teammates flooded out of the dugout in celebration. The top-ranked Hornets’ 4-3 win over the rival Wampus Cats had a State Tournament atmosphere; appropriate because both teams are headed to the post-season and still vying for seeding as the regular season entered its final week.
The Hornets, with the win, retained sole possession of first place in the AAAAA-Central Conference standings. The loss may have confined Conway to fourth behind second-place Little Rock Central and third-place North Little Rock.
Bryant lefty Travis Wood improved to 9-0 on the season with his rout-going performance on the mound. Wood allowed three runs on five hits, walked two and struck out 14.
One of those five Conway hits was a long home run by Irvin in the top of the sixth, tying the game.
The Wampus Cats made a bid to take the lead when Matt Hall followed with a single then stole second base. But Wood bounced off the mound to field a bunt by Jordan Moix, firing to third to erase Hall.
Moments later, Wood picked off Moix at first then struck out Grant Garlington to get out of the inning.
Wood also contributed three doubles to the Bryant offense including a two-bagger to get the winner rally started and ending a stretch in which Conway’s Brandon Solberg had struck out six in a row. Nugent came on for Wood as a courtesy runner.
Griffith’s game-winning single was his second hit of the contest and Bryant’s eighth.
Early, the game was taking on the appearances of one of those frustrating affairs in which opportunities are missed. The Hornets stranded two runners in scoring position in the first off Conway starter Carter Lance. In the second, a one-out single by Richie Wood went for naught.
The game was still scoreless going into the bottom of the third when Bryant’s Dustin Easterly reached base on an errant throw to first by Moix at short. Todd Bryan followed with a walk and Travis Wood was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Wells got a run home with a grounder to second but even though Griffith walked to load the bags again, the Hornets could get no more.
Wood issued a walk to Matt Baker to lead off the fourth then retired the next two as Baker swiped second. Moix, however, delivered Conway’s first hit and first run with an RBI double to left-center. And, on the next pitch, Garlington singled to center to give Conway a 2-1 lead.
Richie Wood walked to open the bottom of the fourth after narrowly missing a home run down the left-field line. With Korey Hunter at the plate, Lance threw to first trying to keep Wood close 12 times. Finally, when he delivered a 2-2 pitch to Hunter, Wood took off only to have Hunter pop out. Before Wood could get back, he was doubled up.
Travis Wood came back to strike out the side around a two-out single in the top of the fifth. In the home half, Todd Bryan stroked a single to open the inning and Lance was pulled in favor of Solberg, who was Conway’s ace last season as a sophomore but had missed much of this year for various reasons.
On Solberg’s first delivery, Travis Wood scorched a double down the left field line that chased Bryan home with the tying run. An out later, Griffith smoked a one-hopper off of Solberg that ricocheted to Baker at second. Griffith beat it out for a hit and when Baker’s throw to first was wild Nugent, running for Travis Wood, was able to score to give the Hornets a 3-2 lead.
After that Solberg began his stretch of strikeouts and Irvin tied it.
The win improved the Hornets to 26-2 (with forfeits for and against, 25-1 on the field), 9-1 in conference play going into Friday’s game against Little Rock Parkview.
Conway dropped to 18-7 and 6-5.