Photos by Rick Nation
Pitching can make all the difference.
Bryant’s Blaine Knight tossed a three-hit shutout in game one then Blake Patterson, Alex Shurtleff and Jason Hastings combined on a five-inning no-hitter as the Hornets’ swept a 7A/6A-Central Conference doubleheader against the Siloam Springs Panthers, 5-0 and 15-0, at Bryant High School Field on Friday night.
While that quartet of hurlers was limiting Siloam Springs to three hits over 12 innings, combining on 17 strikeouts and two walks, Panthers’ pitchers were issuing 21 walks with three hit batsmen.
In the first game, the Hornets managed three hits but none of them came into play in their run-scoring innings. Lefty Raiff Beever, the lone senior on the Siloam roster, was dueling with Knight over three innings.
Bryant mustered a run in the bottom of the third when Beever struck Connor Tatum then unleashed a wild pitch. Tatum stole third and, after Drew Tipton was hit by a pitch, Jason Hastings got a squeeze bunt down.
In the fourth, Beever walked Patterson to start the innings. He tried to pick Patterson off first but the throw got past first baseman Josh Hunt. Patterson sprinted to third on the play.
Beever, who hadn’t issued a walk over the first three frames, proceeded to walk Brandan Warner and Trey Breeding. The lefty only managed one strike to the three Hornet batters.
Right-hander Zac Bolstad relieved and surrendered a sacrifice fly to Garrett Misenheimer then uncorked a wild pitch to get Warner home, making it 3-0.
Tatum got a nice bunt down to try to squeeze in Logan Allen, who was in as a courtesy runner for Breeding, the Bryant catcher. But Bolstad, the starter at shortstop for the Panthers, made a strong play on the bunt, throwing just in time to catcher Dodge Pruitt.
Bolstad ran into trouble in the fifth. He issued a one-out walk to Hastings who advanced on a passed ball and took third on a wild pitch. Evan Lee walked and stole second to set the table for Patterson who drilled a fly to deep center to get Hastings home. Lee would score on a wild pitch.
Meanwhile, Knight got on a roll in which he set down eight in a row. Siloam managed four base-runners and Knight picked off two of them. The Panthers’ best scoring chance was in the second when the Bryant right-hander issued a one-out walk to Chandler Cook.
After Cook stole second, he advanced to third on Matt McSpadden’s grounder to second. But Knight fanned Hunt on three pitches to get back into the dugout.
Knight, who fanned nine, notched two in the top of the third. In between, Cole Reed squibbed one that got past Knight when it stayed down over the mound. Shortstop Jake East got to the ball behind the mound but his throw was too late to get Reed.
Moments later, however, Knight picked Reed off first.
In the fourth, Bolstad yanked a solid single to left but, after Knight struck out Dawson Armstrong, he picked off Bolstad too.
The only other base-runner for the Panthers came in the top of the seventh when Bolstad blooped a single to right. But Knight struck out the next two batters and ended it on a roller to Patterson at first.
Lee and Patterson had singles in the first for the Hornets. Tatum had the third hit to lead off the bottom of the sixth against Chance Junkermann, the third Siloam hurler.
“I thought, the first game, we didn’t play as hard as we should have,” commented Hornets head coach Kirk Bock. “Their tempo was slow and our tempo was slow. Once Blaine started picking up his tempo, he started doing better and then everything started clicking. It wasn’t Blaine’s fault. The team tempo just wasn’t there. But when we started picking it up, we did better.”
In the nightcap, the only Panthers base-runners came in the second inning. Beever reached second on an error and took third on a grounder to Dylan Hurt. Patterson, who struck out five in three innings, set down McSpadden and, after a walk to Hunt, retired Kyle Comisky on three pitches.
Patterson retired the side in order in the third then Shurtleff needed just five pitches to work a 1-2-3 fourth. Hastings finished it out by striking out the side in the top of the fifth.
Cook, the Panthers’ starter on the mound, walked Tipton then got Hastings to pop to second. The right-hander had a battle with Lee at that point. After fouling off three 3-2 pitches, Lee earned the ball. Patterson fouled off a 3-2 pitch before taking a free pass to load the bases.
Warner worked the count to 2-2 before drilling a shot into the gap in left for a two-run double.
Warner would finish the game 2 for 2 with three runs batted in and a walk with three stolen bases. Lee and Misenheimer also had two hits with two RBIs apiece.
Though courtesy runner Seth Tucker was thrown out trying to get to third on Warner’s double, the inning continued with a walk to Breeding. Warner stole third and scored on Misenheimer’s rip between the shortstop and the second-base bag.
With Jake East, who was in for Breeding, at third, Tatum got a bunt down and beat it out for an RBI single to make it 4-0.
In the second, walks to Tipton, Lee and Patterson led to Cook giving way to Armstrong. Tipton and Lee would wind up scoring on wild pitches as Warner and Breeding drew walks. Misenheimer picked up another RBI with a walk then Tatum walked to make it 8-0.
Junkermann returned to the mound and got out of the inning at that point.
In the third, however, Lee doubled down the left-field line. But, when he tried to stretch it to a triple, he was thrown out. Patterson was struck by a pitch on a 1-2 count and Tucker came on to run for him. Tucker stole second and scored on Warner’s double down the right-field line, making it 9-0.
Breeding game a 3-1 pitch from Junkermann a ride but it was flagged down in deep center by Reed.
The Bryant bench got into the action in the fourth. After Misenheimer singled and Tatum walked, Nick Kehrees blooped a single to right to load the bases with one out. Hastings lofted a fly to left that would’ve brought Misenheimer home even if it hadn’t been dropped. With the bases loaded, Lee pulled a two-run single to right.
With Hastings at third, Cameron Coleman beat out an infield hit to get Hastings home. After Aaron Orender walked to fill the sacks, Austin Kelly smacked a two-run single to cap off the scoring.
The Hornets finished with 10 hits to go with 14 walks and a hit batsman.
“We took what they gave us,” Bock noted. “I felt like we did a really good job at that. There was just a couple of balls we didn’t square up that I thought we probably should have. Base-running, I didn’t think we did a very good job. We’ve got to do better.”
The Hornets make their annual trip to the Tampa, Fla., Spring Training Tournament today. They’ll return to conference play on Tuesday, March 31, against Little Rock Catholic at Lamar Porter Field.