By Rob Patrick
Hit or be hit.
The Bryant Hornets racked up eight hits Thursday night. Combine that with how many[more] times they were hit by a pitches (six) and walked (five) and you’ve got a whopping 19 base-runners.
And the Hornets took enough advantage to ease past the Little Rock Central Tigers, 11-0, in a 7A/6A-Central Conference contest at Buddy Coleman Field.
The win secured Bryant’s continued hold on second place in the conference with the league’s top seed to the Class 7A State Tournament the reward if they can maintain the position. Russellville, which blasted Cabot 10-0 and bested North Little Rock 5-2 on Thursday, remains in first place with one league loss. But the Cyclones will play in the Class 6A State tourney. Conway (6-3) remained a game behind Bryant (7-2) with a 4-0 win over Little Rock Catholic.
The Hornets are scheduled to play Catholic’s Rockets today, weather permitting, at Lamar Porter Field.
Senior Jordan Taylor fired a four-hit shutout at Central (with fifth-inning relief from Tryce Schalchlin) and, at the plate, went 3 for 3 with two runs batted in for the Hornets. Tyler Green had two hits and two knocked in while Trevor Ezell got on base all three times with a pair of RBIs.
“We finally put all three phases of the game together,” commented Hornets head coach Kirk Bock. “Except for the first hitter for them, we played defensively pretty good. I thought we played hard and J.T. did a very good job. We did a good job swinging it especially in the (third) inning. Everything just kind of fell into place.”
Bryant scored eight runs in the third inning but the tone may have been set in the first. Central, which had beaten the Hornets at Bryant, 8-6, earlier this season, made a bid to grab the early lead on Thursday. If they had, the whole tenor of the game may have been different.
The uprising started with the lone Bryant error, which allowed Daniel Imbro to reach base. Tray Bell followed with a single through the hole into left and, an out later, Brandon Schmidt lined a single to center that was hit too hard (and charged too well by center fielder Chase Tucker) to allow a run to score.
Taylor doused the fire by picking off Jonathan Thompson, the courtesy runner at first for Schmidt. And, after an intentional walk to Joey Abraham, got out of the inning by inducing a comebacker off the bat of Kevin Garner.
In the second, Central got a one-out single from Michael McMurray and, with two out, Imbro was hit by a pitch but Taylor struck out Bell to keep it scoreless.
Bryant’s big third began with Ezell becoming the third batter hit by a pitch from Schmidt, the Central starter. Green followed with a liner to left for a single to bring up Tyler Nelson at the top of the order.
Central played for the sacrifice, but Nelson showed no sign of it on the first pitch, a strike. The Tigers relaxed a bit on the second pitch and Nelson squared and got down a great bunt towards third. Schmidt hustled to it but second baseman Alex Morgan was late covering the bag so Nelson beat it out for a single to load the bags.
On a 2-1 count, Ozzie Hurt slapped a liner to right for an RBI single to break the ice.
An out later, Taylor ripped a single to center to make it 2-0 with Dylan Cross at the plate.
Never shy about taking one for the team, Cross came into the game having been hit by pitches 17 times this season. On a 1-0 count, he was hit again — the first of two times in the game — forcing in a run. And when Hayden Lessenberry was hit for the second time in the game a pitch later, it was 4-0.
Schmidt unleashed a wild pitch with Hayden Daniel at the plate allowing Marcus Wilson (in to run for Taylor) to sprint home. He was then lifted in favor or Noah Burks.
Daniel popped out to center but Ezell singled to left then Green ripped his second hit of the inning into the gap in left-center to knock in two more to cap off the uprising.
The Tigers made another bid to score in the bottom of the third. With one out, Schmidt walked and Abraham doubled to right-center. Garner followed with a bouncer to Josh Pultro at first. Pultro made the play at first as the lead runner, Thompson, held. But Abraham, expecting Thompson to head home, was nearly to third. Pultro fired to Hurt at second prompting Thompson to break for the plate. But Hurt met the ball and fired home to Lessenberry who tagged Thompson out for an unusual inning-ending doubleplay.
The Hornets tacked on in the fourth when Pultro walked with one down and Taylor knocked one off the base of the way in left for a double. Cross was hit again to load the bags and, with two down, Wesley Akers and Ezell drew RBI walks. Green hit a shot to third in a bid for his third hit but it was speared by Abraham to end the inning.
Taylor needed just 10 pitches to get through a 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the fourth. He then singled in a run in the top of the fifth after Nelson had walked and Hurt had sacrificed him to second.
Schachlin came on for Bryant and issued a lead-off walk to Imbro but retired the next three including Schmidt on strikes to end the game.
BRYANT 11, LITTLE ROCK CENTRAL 0
Hornets ab r h bi Tigers ab r h bi
Nelson, ss-lf 3 2 1 0 Imbro, ss 1 0 0 0
Hurt, 2b 2 1 1 1 Bell, c 3 0 1 0
Pultro, 1b 3 1 0 0 Harvey, cr 0 0 0 0
Taylor, p-3b 3 0 3 2 Booth, cf 3 0 0 0
Wilson, cr 0 2 0 0 Schmidt, p-1b 2 0 1 0
Cross, dh 2 1 0 1 Thompson, cr 0 0 0 0
Lessenberry, c 1 0 0 1 Abraham, 3b 1 0 1 0
Caldwell, cr 0 1 0 0 Garner, rf 2 0 0 0
Daniel, rf 2 0 0 0 Alexander, dh 2 0 0 0
Akers, ph 0 0 0 1 McMurray, 1b-lf 2 0 1 0
Ezell, 3b-ss 1 2 1 2 Morgan, 2b 2 0 0 0
Green, lf-cf 3 1 2 2 Crossland, lf-p 0 0 0 0
Tucker, cf 0 0 0 0 Burks, p 0 0 0 0
Schalchlin, p 0 0 0 0
Totals 20 11 8 10 Totals 18 0 4 0
E—Nelson. DP—Bryant 1, LR Central 2. LOB—Bryant 6, LR Central 7. 2B—Taylor. SB—Green. S—Hurt.
BRYANT 008 21 — 11
LR Central 000 00 — 0
Pitching ip r er h bb so
Taylor (W) 4 0 0 4 2 4
Schalchlin 1 0 0 0 1 1
Schmidt (L) 2.1 7 7 4 1 2
Burks 1.2 4 4 3 4 1
Crossland 1 0 0 1 0 1
HBP—Cross, Lessenberry 2, Ezell, Taylor (by Schmidt), Cross (by Burks). WP—Schmidt.