April 24 in Bryant athletic history: 2001

Hornets clinch bid by edging Fairview

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CAMDEN — Entering Tuesday’s final day of regular-season action in the AAAAA-South Conference action, in order for the Bryant Hornets to miss out on clinching their first bid to the Class AAAAA State Tournament in Cabot, at least three of the league’s four games had to go just so.

It didn’t seem likely but, as the scenario played out, everything went wrong except the one thing the Hornets themselves had control over. It wasn’t easy nor was it pretty, but the Hornets got the job done, scoring once in the sixth to snap a 6-6 tie and three times in the seventh to forge a 10-7 win that secured second place in the final conference standings and earned them the automatic bid to State that goes to each of the top two regular-season finishers.

It’s Bryant’s first trip to State since 1997.

Despite the fact that the Hornets were facing the last-place team in the league, winning was no automatic thing. Fairview, which came into conference action with a gaudy 13-1 record, has some talent, particularly on the mound. Plus, no Bryant team had ever won at Fairview dating back to a 2-1 loss in their first trip there in 1995 and including that 1997 team that came into the game with a 6-0 conference record.

Had the Hornets stumbled again, they would’ve tied for second with Sheridan which came into the evening as one of four teams tied for third. Bryant would’ve had the advantage in a multiple tie for second but all of the other knotted teams lost leaving Sheridan the only contender standing. Thus the tiebreaker would’ve been head-to-head competition and the Yellowjackets would’ve gotten the nod — and the automatic bid to State — on the strength of their 5-2 win over the Hornets on Apr. 17.

With the win, Bryant (18-8) will have a bye to the semifinals of the conference tournament to be held at the new Hornets Field starting Friday. Though the brackets were not to be officially set until late Wednesday, it figures the Hornets will play their first tourney game Saturday evening.

The middle of the Bryant batting order did most of the damage against Fairview. Dustin Morris, Matt Brown and Beau Hamblin each had two hits and combined to drive in seven runs. Matt White continued to be a catalyst at the top of the order, reaching base three times and scoring in each instance.

The Hornets took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first. White walked and sprinted all the way to third on a sacrifice bunt by Brandon Nichols. Morris singled in the run and later scored on a clutch, two-out double by Hamblin on an 0-2 delivery from Fairview starter Kyle Rogers.

The Cardinals cut a run off the lead in the bottom of the first on a walk, an error, a double steal and a groundout.

Fairview took the lead in the third, knocking Bryant starter Chris Sory out of the box. But, again, a Bryant error undermined Sory’s effort. Bo Smith doubled in two and Seth Johnson doubled him in to make it 4-2.

Yant relieved and after a walk to Nick Weaver loaded the bases got Eric Howard to ground into a doubleplay to get out of the jam.

In the top of the fourth, Cody Graddy walked and courtesy runner Kevin Littleton advanced to second on a wild pitch. With two down, Derik Chambers came through with a bloop double to left-center to make it 4-3.

Yant worked around a lead-off walk in the bottom of the fourth and the Hornets regained the lead in the fifth. Nichols started the rally with a one-out single. Morris walked then base hits by Brown and Hamblin chased them home to make it 5-4. Graddy was robbed of a hit on a high hopper to third. Weaver, Fairview’s third sacker, got a force out at his bag then tried to get the doubleplay with a throw to first but Graddy hustled down the line and beat the throw to keep the inning alive. That gave Matt Lewis a chance to deliver with a two-out, two-strike RBI single to left.

But Fairview tied it in the bottom of the inning. Again, a Bryant error opened the gate allowing Johnson to reach base. Pickett followed with a triple to right center. A sacrifice fly by Rogers made it 6-6.

White singled to start the sixth. Nichols walked then Morris sacrificed them to second and third for Brown. He delivered the tie-snapping run with a sacrifice fly.

In the top of the seventh, a Cards error put Lewis on base. He took second on a wild pitch then Chambers bunted him to third. With two down, Fairview appeared to be out of the inning with Lewis still at third when White popped up. But shortstop Anthony Herndon was unable to hang on to the catch. Lewis scored and White was at first.

Morris and Brown delivered RBI singles to make it 10-6.

Yant retired the first two in the bottom of the inning but then Rogers singled up the middle and Weaver walked. The count went to 1-2 on Howard. Yant’s next pitch appeared to catch so much of the strike zone that the Hornets’ players doused head coach Terry Harper in celebration. But it was called a ball. And when Howard smacked a 2-2 delivery for an RBI double that not only cut the margin to three but enabled the tying run to come to the plate, the premature nature of the celebration suddenly became alarmingly apparent.

But Yant took the tension out of air when he got Anderson to tap back to the mound to end the game.

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