Kuykendall lifts Hornets in 7th
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
The Bryant Hornets were one strike away from another close loss at the hands of a Top 10 team Thursday. The Sylvan Hills Bears, ranked ninth in the state, held a 6-5 lead with two out in the bottom of the seventh. The Hornets had loaded the bases after having the potential tying run thrown out at the plate. The count went to 0-2 on Kris Kuykendall.
But Kuykendall has fast become Bryant’s most proficient two-strike hitter this season and he came through this time, slapping a single to right that drove in two runs. The Hornets had pulled out a 7-6 win.
It was just what the proverbial doctor ordered for a Hornets team still stinging from a disappointing, controversy-ridden home loss to the rival Sheridan Yellowjackets in AAAAA-South Conference play just two days before. That setback had knocked the Hornets out of a tie for first in the league and facing a vital contest against Benton on Friday.
Beating Sylvan Hills in such dramatic fashion figured to give the team a boost going into Friday’s showdown.
The game had been tied at 5 early. The Hornets scored their five in the bottom of the first and the Bears got theirs in the top of the second. It stayed that way until Sylvan Hills’ Justin Reffner lead off the top of the fourth with a solo homer.
Bear relievers Nick Miller and Dominique Craft made that hold up until the seventh, limiting the Hornets to just one hit along the way.
Bryant starter Josh Caldwell, who went the distance for the win, shut the Bears out the rest of the way. He allowed a single in the top of the fifth and thanks to a sacrifice and a grounder to the right side, the baserunner — Chris Dickens — reached third with two out. Craft slapped a sinking liner to right that looked destined to fall in for an RBI hit. But Bryant right fielder Matt Brown made a diving catch to save the run.
The Bears managed just one other hit the rest of the way.
In Bryant’s seventh, Brandon Fitts led off with a double off the fence in left. He took third on a wild pitch. Billy Landers drew a one-out walk to put runners at first and third.
Craft gave way to Sylvan Hills’ fourth pitcher Sean Pennington who got Bryant’s J.J. Yant to ground back to the mound. Pennington threw to the plate catching Fitts trying to score.
With two down, Pennington hit Michael McClellan to load the bases for Kuykendall.
The Hornets’ opening-inning barrage began with a double to right-center by Tad Beene. He advanced to second as Landers grounded to the right side then scored on a single by Yant.
A single by McClellan and a walk to Kuykendall loaded the bases for Brown, who delivered the second run of the inning with a sacrifice fly. Caldwell followed with his second home run of the season to make it 5-0.
Craft led off the second with a solo dinger. Ryan Parker was hit by a pitch and, an out later, James Wise beat out an infield single. A base hit by Sylvan Hills’ starting pitcher Danny Hurt made it 5-2.
Miller slapped a single to left to load the bases. Dickens followed with a grounder to short. The Hornets tried to turn a double play to end the inning and got the force at second. But the relay to first was wild and two runs scored to make it 5-4.
Dickens swiped second then scored the tying run on a single by Blake Martin.
Martin tried to steal but was thrown out by Yant, the Bryant catcher, ending the inning.
The Hornets threatened in the bottom of the inning as Hurt issued walks to Beene, Yant and McClellan to load the bases with two out but they were all stranded.
They didn’t get a runner past first after that until the tell-tale seventh.