Clutch hits, solid relief provide winning edge for Bryant

Turner Seelinger and Conner Martin each had clutch two-run singles while Colby Morrow, making his first varsity appearance of the season, held the Little Rock Catholic Rockets down enough for the Bryant Hornets to forge an 8-5 victory at Bryant High School Field on Thursday.

The Hornets, now 10-1 overall and 2-0 in 6A-Central Conference play, only had five hits but proved to be opportunistic, taking advantage of some wildness from the Rockets’ starter Lucas Greer and some defensive miscues. 

“That’s a testament to our guys that we battled around,” said Hornets head coach Travis Queck. “(Greer) is effectively wild. And I don’t mean that in a bad light. The guys got some ability. He’s very talented. We had to get on him. We had to pose a threat at the plate. I thought our guys did a good job.”

In the top of the first, Seelinger, the Bryant starter, worked around an infield hit by Cooper McDaniel when his batterymate Ryan Riggs threw McDaniel out trying to steal second.

With one out in the bottom of the inning, Greer struck Noah Davis with a 1-2 pitch. The count was the same on Austin Ledbetter when he plunked him too. He hit Martin on the very next pitch to load the bases.

But Greer came back to J.T. Parker on a foul pop to his catcher Luke George. With Seelinger at the plate, Greer uncorked a wild pitch that got Davis home and moved Ledbetter and Martin into scoring position at second and third.

Greer came back and had a 2-2 count on Seelinger, who came into the game mired in an 0-for-17 slump. But he pounded that 2-2 delivery into left field for a two-run single that made it 3-0.

Consecutive one-out doubles by Will Bunda and Brady Claypool produced the Rockets’ first run in the top of the second. But Seelinger retired Jackson Daniel on a grounder to Gideon Motes at first then fanned Evan Booe to keep it 3-1.

In the bottom of the inning, Lawson Speer reached on an error, a hot shot to third that Booe couldn’t handle. Jordan Knox worked a walk then Riggs got a bunt down that did better than move the runners up. He beat it out for a single to load the bases.

Greer walked Davis to force in a run then got Ledbetter to hit a sharp grounder to short. Trying to get a force at second and, perhaps a doubleplay, shortstop Reece McWilliams threw wide of second allowing Knox to score. 

With the bags full, Martin did ground into a doubleplay but it allowed Riggs to score, making it 6-1.

In the third, Seelinger began to struggle with his command. He issued a walk to nine-hole hitter Davis Ford. An error didn’t help. He got an out on a force at third on a grounder to Ledbetter. But he walked George to load the bases. Camden Tanner delivered a sacrifice fly to make it 6-2.

But Seelinger kept it there by striking out Burda.

Greer retired the first two in the third then hit Lawson Speer, the fourth batter he had struck. With 69 pitches in, he gave way to Miles Schluterman. He got the final out to send it to the fourth.

Seelinger walked Claypool and, with one out, gave a free pass to pinch-hitter Hank Hatfield. When the count went to 2-1 on Ford, after 71 pitches, 

“Some of it’s mechanics,” Queck said. “He was pulling off a little bit. 

“Then some of it was the mound,” he related. “We’ve got to get that fixed. He was just sliding a little bit on it. We should’ve pulled the tarp and let it dry a little bit, but we didn’t and that kept the moisture inside of it.

“Turner did a great job the first two innings,” the coach asserted. “When he doesn’t have it right there, he’s got to figure it out and come back strong.”

And Queck called in Morrow who completed the walk to Ford to load the bases.

But he struck out McWilliams, the Rockets lead-off hitter, then got out of the inning with no further damage on a hard grounder to Ledbetter at third for a force.

“You know what? Every day is a tryout,” Queck said, regarding Morrow. “And that young man — I couldn’t be more proud of him because he resembles everything that we want in the weight room to practice to attention to detail to wanting to get better.

“He’s proven it in the JV games,” he continued. “On Monday, he threw two or three innings, 30 pitches and was just unhittable. So, he deserved the opportunity. He did a phenomenal job.”

The Hornets took a little of the pressure off in the bottom of the fourth when Riggs singled up the middle and Davis pulled a hit into left. After a wild pitch moved them up to second and third, and Schluterman fell behind Ledbetter 2-0, they sent him to first with an intentional walk, filling the sacks for Martin.

He delivered a two-run single to left that increased the lead to 8-2.

Catholic kept whittling, however. In the top of the fifth, Tanner singled with one out and, after Morrow fanned Bunda, he walked Claypool on a 3-2 pitch. He got ahead of Daniel 0-2, a strike away from getting out of the inning unscathed. But Daniel rifled a single to center to make it 8-3.

The Hornets again appeared to be out of the inning when Hatfield hit a grounder to second. But it got through the wickets allowing Claypool to score.

With runners at first and second, Morrow struck out Ford to end the uprising.

After the Hornets were retired in order in the bottom of the fifth with Claypool robbing Knox of extra bases with a sliding catch in right-center, the Rocker were set down as well. McDaniel singled but was thrown out stealing by Riggs to end the inning.

Schluterman pitched around a one-out walk to Martin in the bottom of the sixth.

Tanner doubled to start the Rockets’ seventh. Morrow then got a strikeout and a groundout. But Daniel singled in a run. Hatfield followed with a hit that sent Daniel to third. When the ball got away after the throw from the outfield, Hatfield tried to get to second only to be thrown out to end the game.

The Hornets host Conway in another conference contest on Friday.

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