By Rob Patrick
LITTLE ROCK — Freshman right-hander Daniel Imbro surrended a first-inning home run to Bryant's Kaleb Jobe but he didn't let it shake him. He recorded his second strikeout of the inning to keep it 1-0 then his Little Rock Central teammates scored five times in the bottom of the inning.
That, no doubt, made him even more comfortable.
Imbro proceeded to shackle the Hornets on five hits the rest of the way — four of the them in the final two innings — allowing only one unearned run as the Tigers prevailed, 7-2.
Bryant lost for the second game in a row, the only time this season that the Hornets have suffered back-to-back losses. At 10-5 overall and 5-3 in the 7A-Central Conference, they have dropped into fourth place in the league standings going into a week with two increasingly important home games against league co-leader Little Rock Catholic on Tuesday, April 7, and a Van Buren team on Thursday, April 9, that's suddenly tied with them in the loss column pending its Tuesday game at Central. The Tigers improved to 3-4 in league play with losses that include 1-0 at Bryant and 2-1 against Catholic.[more]
In fact, Bryant has scored two runs or less in just three games this season, both times against Central and in a 3-0 loss to Sheridan early in the campaign.
Jobe slugged his second home run in as many games in the first on a 1-2 delivery from Imbro. But Bryant's only other run came in the third when Ben Wells reached on an error, Justin Blankenship sacrificed courtesy runner Jonathan Wade to second, Hunter Mayall's bouncer to short got him to third and a wild pitch scored him as Caleb Garrett got to first on strike three.
Garrett stole second and drew a wild throw that allowed him to get to third but Imbro induced a roller to first from Jobe to get out of the inning.
The Hornets had baserunners in every inning after that but couldn't manage the key hit they needed to score. In the fourth, Brady Butler reached on a third-strike wild pitch that drew an errant throw to first. Imbro retired the next two easily before walking Tyler Brown moments after a pop foul down the left-field line was dropped. Imbro fanned Wells, however, to escape again.
In the fifth, Mayall doubled to center and advanced to third when Garrett reached on another third-strike wild pitch. But the Tigers rolled a double play to keep the Hornets off the board.
By then, the final score was on the board. The five-run first began with a walk to Ivan Tate. Russell Goss got on thanks to catcher's interference to set the table for the heart of the Central batting order. Christian Cooley doubled home Tate. Clayton Booth singled in Goss and Imbro helped himself with an RBI single.
Wells found his stride at that point, striking out Jim Manney and Luke Montgomery. But, along the way, a wild pitch had moved the runners to second and third. So both scored when Joe Ramm slapped a single to right. Wells fanned Mark Murphy but the five spot was on the board.
After the Hornets cut it to 5-2 in the third, the Tigers got that run back in the bottom of the third. With one out, Manney singled, Montgomery walked and Ramm delivered another RBI single before Wells struck out the next two to finish the inning.
But when he was greeted by the eighth Central hit, a single by Goss, to start the fourth, Wells gave way to Jobe. He proceeded to strike out Cooley who was thrown out by catcher B.J. Ellis on the third strike in the dirt. Goss, however, who had taken second on a passed ball during the at-bat, reached third when Cooley was thrown out. Jobe fanned Booth and had a two-strike count on Imbro. After fouling off one two-strike delivery, Imbro slapped a single to right to plate Goss with the seventh run.
The Hornets continued to threaten after that. With two out in the sixth, Brennan Bullock singled and Tyler Brown doubled but Imbro got the third out on a pop to shallow right that second sacker John Makris ran down.
In the seventh, the Hornets made a bid to manufacture a big comeback like the one that felled Conway earlier in the season. And when Justin Blankenship led off with a walk and Mayall singled up the middle, it looked like it might happen. But, on a pitch in the dirt with Garrett at the plate, Blankenship tried to take third only to have Cooley pounce on the ball and make a short-hop throw to Montgomery who picked it as Blankenship slid into his glove for the first out of the inning.
Garrett went on to beat out a slow roller to third as Imbro's pitch count reached 110. Jobe followed with a shot down the first base line that looked like it might've been fair. Mayall scored and Garrett raced to third only to have the homeplate umpire rule it foul. Back at the plate, Jobe smoked a liner to center but right at Booth for the out. Imbro finished off the win by getting Butler to fly to center.
LITTLE ROCK CENTRAL 7, BRYANT 2
ab r h bi ab r h bi
Mayall, dh 4 0 2 0 Tate, lf-cf 2 1 0 0
Garrett, cf 4 0 1 0 x-Goss, rf 4 2 1 0
Jobe, 3b-p 4 1 1 1 Cooley, c 4 0 2 1
Butler, 1b 4 0 0 0 Gresham, cr 0 1 0 0
Sawyer, ss 3 0 0 0 Booth, cf-lf 4 1 1 1
Bullock, lf 3 0 1 0 Imbro, p 4 0 2 2
Brown, 2b 2 0 1 0 Andrews, cr 0 1 0 0
Wells, p 2 0 0 0 Manney, 1b 3 1 1 0
Wade, cr-3b 1 1 0 0 Montgomery,3b 2 0 1 0
Blankenship,rf 1 0 0 0 Gresham, pr 0 0 0 0
Ellis, c 0 0 0 0 Ramm, dh 2 0 2 3
Makris, 2b 1 0 0 0
Murphy, 2b 2 0 0 0
Speed, ss 0 0 0 0
Totals 28 2 6 1 Totals 28 7 10 7
x-reached on catcher's interference.
BRYANT 101 000 0 — 0
LR Central 501 100 x — 7
E—Ellis, Montgomery, Cooley 2, Tate, Butler. DP—LR Central 1. LOB—Bryant 8, LR Central 7. 2B—Cooley, Mayall, Brown. HR—Jobe. SB—Garrett, Butler. S—Blankenship.
ip r er h bb so
Wells (L, 2-2) 3 7 3 8 3 6
Jobe 3 0 0 2 0 5
Imbro (W) 7 2 1 6 2 8
Wells faced one batter in the fourth.
Balk—Wells. HBP—Ramm (by Jobe). WP—Imbro 3, Wells, Jobe. PB—Ellis.