Photos courtesy of Paul Dotson
It may have just been happenstance. Certainly, the circumstances lined up the right way.
After struggling to get bunts down on Friday night in a nine-inning humdinger against conference rival Little Rock Catholic — admittedly against one of the best pitchers in the state — the Bryant Hornets laid down five bunts for successful sacrifices, including two squeeze plays, plus two more that went for hits on Saturday afternoon in a non-conference contest against the Little Rock Christian Academy Warriors.
Behind solid work on the mound from junior lefty Beaux Bonvillain, the Hornets improved to 22-2 on the season with a 7-2 victory over the Warriors, now 16-6, who are coached by Guy Brown, who once played for Bryant head coach Kirk Bock at Harrison.
Bonvillain scattered six hits and walked no one while striking out three. He overcame five Hornets’ errors — though at least two of them were tough chances on infield chops — by picking off two base-runners and forcing the Warriors to strand seven.
Though hardly an excuse that Bock would accept, the Hornets might not have been as focused for the non-league game as they’d been the night before.
Offensively, the Hornets had 10 hits including two each from Logan Allen, Dylan Hurt, Jordan Gentry and Joey Cates. Evan Lee extended his hitting streak to 16 games with an RBI single up the middle in the bottom of the sixth.
Cason Tollett led Little Rock Christian with two hits and an RBI.
Bonvillain worked around a two-out error in the opening inning. In the home half, Allen lined a single to left-center and Hurt followed with a bad-hop single that might’ve been a double-play ball had it not for the ricochet that got it past shortstop Luke Van Dover.
That brought up Lee who, despite being the team’s top hitter with a .483 average coming in, squared around a placed a sacrifice bunt. Not only did it move Allen and courtesy runner Austin Kelly up a base but when Warriors’ pitcher Carter Wade threw errantly to first, Lee was on, loading the bases for Garrett Misenheimer, who added to his team-high RBI total of 24 with a groundout to second.
Gentry fouled off a pair of two-strike pitches then whacked an RBI single to right, making it 2-0. A pitch later, East executed the squeeze to get Lee home.
Little Rock Christian gamely countered with runs in the second and third to trim the margin to 3-2. In the second, Tollett and Fisher singled. Bonvillain fanned Van Dover then got Brock Ferguson to hit a grounder into the hole at short. East ranged far to his right to make the play and his only hope for an out was at third. He tried to rush the throw and it got away allowing Chase Daril, who was running for Tollett the Warriors’ catcher, to score.
Fisher wound up at third and Ferguson at second on the play with just one out. But Bonvillain got Bennett Shoptaw to fly to Cates in right and lead-off man Adam Wright to sky to Allen in center to keep it 3-1.
In the third, Jack Lee reached on an error only to be picked off by Bonvillain. But Dylan Hays doubled to left — though a tremendous relay from Evan Lee to East to Seth Tucker at second nearly nabbed him sliding in.
East robbed Joe Hampton of a hit as Hays moved to third. But Tollett singled in the run to make it 3-2. Daril stole second to get the potential tying run in scoring position but Bonvillain fanned Fisher to preserve the lead.
The Hornets had been unable to capitalize on a walk to Tucker, an error and a sacrifice in the second. In the third, Misenheimer drew a pass to lead off but the Warriors turned a doubleplay to keep it 3-2.
Van Dover reached on an error to start the fourth. He was forced on a nice play by Bonvillain when Ferguson tried to sacrifice. The lefty then picked Ferguson off at first. Shoptaw drilled a fly to deep left but Evan Lee chased it down, making a running catch in front of the wall.
Aaron Orender singled up the middle to start Bryant’s fourth. With one out, Cates lashed a single off the glove of Shoptaw up the middle. Orender raced to third and when the throw came from the outfield too late to get him at third, Cates hustled into second.
With two strikes and two down, Hurt sliced a liner to right for an RBI single to make it 4-2.
Neither team scored in the fifth. In the sixth, a two-out error then a single by Van Dover had two runners aboard for Little Rock Christian before Ferguson grounded to Misenheimer who turned it into force at second to end the threat.
The Hornets then put up three insurance runs in the home sixth. Tucker led off and reached on an error. He stole second and Cates bunted, beating it out for a single. Allen’s bunt when for a hit as well, driving in Tucker. Hurt bunted to move Cates to third and Allen to second for Evan Lee, who drilled a 2-0 pitch up the middle for an RBI single.
And, for good measure, Misenheimer got a bunt down on a squeeze play getting Allen home to set the final score.
Adam Wright beat out an infield hit with one down in the top of the seventh but that was all the Warriors could muster as Misenheimer assisted on all three outs in the inning.
The Hornets return to conference action on Monday with the long trip to Siloam Springs for a league doubleheader against the 6A Panthers.