BENTONVILLE — With rain starting to fall and word coming in that play at the other Class 7A State baseball tournament venue, Bentonville West High School, being interrupted by lightning, it got a little tense at Bentonville High School on Thursday afternoon.
Add to that the fact that neither team had scored through five innings as Bryant’s Beaux Bonvillain and Springdale’s Andrew Roach dueled.
Roach and the Bulldogs had managed just two base-runners. Andre Munoz had battled Bonvillain for 10 pitches before earning a walk. The Bryant senior took a no-hitter into the fifth when, with two out, Will Mueller pulled a clean single to left.
But he was stranded.
The Hornets had opportunities to score in the first and third and fifth, stranding two runners in each frame. To lead off the bottom of the sixth, with the rain starting to fall and the wind kicking up, sophomore Logan Chambers drilled a 2-1 pitch from Roach. A sinking liner headed to right field. Springdale’s Tanner Sargent came after the ball aggressively but it got down in front of him and scooted past him to the fence.
Chambers, thinking triple, got the wave home from Bryant third-base coach Guy Brown. And there might’ve been a play at the plate but the throw from the outfield was too high for the cut-off man to get to. Chambers scored standing up.
Though the next three Hornets would’ve loved to add to that run, Roach set them down in order.
With storms looming on the horizon, however, it seemed almost a blessing. If the game had been postponed, the teams would’ve had to resume it on Friday, which would’ve left them both without their starting pitcher.
But with the run in, Bonvillain returned to the mound and continued his dominance. Facing the heart of the Springdale order, he struck out Ben Roberts, his 13th strikeout of the game. He then got clean-up hitter Michael Harrington to fly out to Seth Tucker in center. Pinch-hitter Bryce Collins popped up an 0-2 pitch and, fittingly enough, Chambers caught it outside of third to end the game.
“It was great,” said Hornets head coach Travis Queck. “The guys came through in the clutch right there.
“We knew what we were getting with the Roach kid,” he noted. “We’ve seen him the last two years. We’d talked about him. He’s a very impressive young man.
“Beaux just did Beaux things,” the coach continued. “He went out and competed. When I started seeing those strikeouts, I kind of got worried. I was thinking about the pitch limit.”
The limit is 110 but Bonvillain used just 99, facing two batters over the minimum.
“You know what?” Queck said of his lefty. “That guy all year has battled. He’s been our workhorse, our bell cow, a guy we can hang our hat on.
“Now, we just have to pick up from there with the next guy in line.”
The Hornets, seeded third from the 7A-Central Conference, advanced to play the No. 2 seed from the 7A-West, Bentonville, on its home field, Friday afternoon at 2:30.
Bonvillain retired the first eight batters he faced in Thursday’s game, five on strikes. After the fifth-inning single, he set down the final seven straight, striking out the side in the top of the sixth.
The Hornets’ first chance to score was in the opening inning. With two down, Jake Wright and Chambers each singled to right but Roach got off the hook with a strikeout.
In the third, there were two down when Cameron Coleman one-hopped the fence in left and legged out a triple. Wright walked and Chambers followed with a worm-burner towards the third-base bag. At the last instant, the ball took a big hop right into the glove of Harrington at third when it looked like he might not be able to do more than knock it down. His throw beat Chambers to first, ending the threat.
The Hornets made some noise in the fifth as well. Pinch-hitter Brandon Hoover bounced a single up the middle then Konnor Clontz sacrificed him to second. With two down, Coleman was intentionally walked. Wright then worked the count to 2-2 before he grounded to Harrington for a force at third to send it to the tale-tell sixth.
Asked if there was any thought of holding Chambers at third on his round-tripper, Queck said, “When I looked up and he was headed to third base and I saw the ball overthrow the cut, there was no doubt. I was screaming and Coach Brown — he’s done a heck of a job over there. He saw it too. I think we were on the same wavelength. And Chambers just executed.
“You can’t fault the kid (Sargent) for not trying,” he related. “But that’s something I hope our kids can learn from, sometimes situations can come back and get you, and maybe it’s just best to keep the ball in front of you.”