Win vs. Cabot puts Bryant in State
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The Bryant Hornets officially clinched a spot in the Class 7A State Tournament on Tuesday, April 24, with an 8-3 win over the Cabot Panthers, coupled with Conway’s 11-4 victory over Pine Bluff. The win was the second this season over Cabot and lifted the Hornets into third place in the 7A-Central Conference with a 7-5 record, a game behind second place Little Rock Central. They improved to 14-10 overall going into the final two regular-season games against league rivals North Little Rock and Central.
“I am really proud of how our kids have stepped up and risen to the challenge,” declared Hornets head coach Terry Harper. “No one outside of our circle thought we would have a chance this year and the kids are proving them wrong. We still have a chance to get the number 2 seed and a bye in the state tournament.”
Ace lefty Trent Daniel scattered five hits and gave up just two unearned runs over six innings to pick up his team-high fifth win of the season. Tyler Sawyer relieved after Daniel gave up a lead-off walk in the seventh. Cabot added a third unearned tally but Sawyer closed it out with the help of the Hornets’ second doubleplay of the game.
Offensively, the Hornets were opportunistic. Joey Winiecki sent 3 for 4 and Tyler Pickett continued his hot hitting with a 2-for-3 day. Bryant scored three in the third to take the lead and, after Cabot cut it to 3-2 in the top of the fifth, answered with four in the bottom of the inning to take control of the game.
“I thought that we capitalized on some miscues by Cabot and took advantage of them every chance we were given,” Harper commented. “I really thought the kids were very aggressive on the bases, which put a lot of pressure on Cabot and it paid off.
“Trent has proven he can be a big game pitcher and did a very good job,” he added. “He has the ability to be as good as any pitcher we have seen this year.”
Daniel and Cabot’s Colin Fuller had dueled in the previous meeting between the two teams at Cabot with the game going to the seventh tied 2-2 before the Hornets, with a big hit by Sawyer, prevailed 5-2.
This time, Daniel had to pitch around a walk and a single in the first and a pair of base hits in the second while Fuller gave up a hit and a pair of walks in the first without giving up a run before working a 1-2-3 second.
In the third, Logan Lucas led off for Cabot with a base hit but, on a hit-and-run, Drew Burks fouled out to first baseman David Guarno. With Daniel alertly covering first, the Hornets doubled up Lucas.
In the bottom of the inning, Winiecki singled with one out and, with him on the move, Pickett delivered a base hit up the middle. Winiecki dashed to third and drew a late throw. Pickett was heads-up and hustled into second. Jake Jackson then drew a walk to load the bases for Cody Walker.
On a 1-2 pitch, Walker sent a tap to the left of the mound. Fuller scrambled after it and tried to rush a throw to the plate with the speedy Winiecki bearing down on catcher Shayne Burgan. The throw was beyond Burgan’s reach and not only Winiecki but Nick Suggs, running for Pickett, came home.
Moments later, Fuller unleashed a wild pitch that allowed Jackson to score the third run.
In the top of the fifth, Daryl Murphy led off with a single. With one out, Fuller drew a walk after a nine-pitch battle with Daniel. Lucas grounded into a force at second but was able to beat the relay to first to keep the inning alive. A walk to Drew Burks loaded the bases but Daniel appeared to be out of the inning when he got clean-up hitter Sam Bates to hit a high hopper to Jackson at second.
But Jackson, at first, looked to second to get a force and no one was there. He tried to turn and throw to first in the same motion and the throw evaded Guarno. Both pinch-runner Matt Williams and Lucas scored to make it 3-2.
And the Panthers had a chance to take the lead with runners at second and third. But Daniel got Burgan to fist a soft liner that Jackson snagged to end the inning and preserve the Bryant lead.
Pickett instigated the Hornets’ response with his second hit. Suggs came on as the courtesy runner and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Jackson then came through with a shot up the middle for a base hit that moved Suggs to third. Walker then drew a walk to load the bases for Guarno who cracked a high fly to center that seemed deep enough for a sacrifice fly. Suggs tagged but Cabot’s Corey Wade unleashed a strike to the plate and, despite a collision, Burgan held on to complete a doubleplay.
And when Sawyer hit a slow roller towards short, it appeared that Fuller and the Panthers might be out of the inning. Bates charged the ball and made a nice pickup but his throw was in the dirt and Burks couldn’t dig it out. Jackson scored and, running all the way, Walker made it too, bumping the lead to 5-2.
When Daniel was hit by the next pitch, Fuller gave way to lefty Sean Clarskson. Ryan Wilson greeted him with a base hit up the middle. Wade tried to make another big play at the plate as Sawyer came around third but the throw was not there in time. Burgan, seeing Daniel racing for third, relayed a throw there but was wild with it, allowing Daniel to score as well, giving Bryant a commanding 7-2 advantage.
Daniel followed up by setting down the Panthers in order in the top of the sixth.
In the bottom of the inning, Winiecki singled to center then, on a hit-and-run, sprinted all the way to third on Pickett’s ground out to short, beating Burks’ throw to third. Winiecki’s speed paid off again when he was able to beat a throw to the plate on a grounder by Jackson.
Cabot’s seventh-inning run came after the lead-off walk to Wade, a base hit by Fuller and an error loaded the bases. Burks grounded into the doubleplay as Wade scored. Sawyer then got Bates to ground to Walker at short to end it.