March 16 in Bryant athletic history: 2011

Cross, Milam pitch Hornets to conference-opening sweep of Central

EDITOR’S NOTE: Because the look back at each day in Bryant athletic history has been so favorably received during the time when there was no sports during the COVID-19 shutdown, will continue posting past stories of Bryant athletics either posted on (from 2009 to the present) or published in the Bryant Times (from 1998 to 2008).

By Rob Patrick

Photos by Kevin Nagle

Bryant pitchers Dylan Cross and Caleb Milam put the clamps on the[more] bats of the Little Rock Central Tigers and Jordan Taylor busted loose with five hits on the day as the Hornets swept a 7A/6A-Central Conference doubleheader against the Little Rock Central Tigers on Tuesday.

The Hornets, bouncing back from their first loss of the season, buried the Tigers 11-1 in six innings in the opener with Cross allowing one unearned run and a hit along the way. In the second game, Milam fired a four-hit shutout in a 5-0 win.

The games were the first in league play for both teams. Bryant improved to 5-1 overall going into the annual Billy Bock Classic in Pine Bluff starting Thursday. The Hornets take on North Pulaski at 4 p.m., at Taylor Field to begin the tourney.

Bryant racked up 11 hits in the opener including Taylor’s 3-for-3. Landon Pickett and Chris Joiner had two hits apiece with Pickett capping off the run-rule win with his first homer of the season leading off the bottom of the sixth. In all, six different players drove in runs. Taylor, Tyler Nelson and Hayden Lessenberry knocked in two each.

The Tigers committed seven errors in the game.

Cross walked one and struck out five.

In the nightcap, Milam walked three and fanned six. Offensively, Evan Jobe had three hits and Taylor two. Cross and Josh Pultro drove in a pair apiece.

Central’s only run of the day came in the first inning of the evening. With one out, Daniel Imbro drew Cross’ only walk of the game. Clayton Booth then reached on an error. After a passed ball allowed them to move up to second and third, Josh Hale hit a grounder that was mishandled at short allowing Imbro to score.

The Tigers tried to steal a second run with a double theft but the Hornets foiled the effort to end the inning.

And the lead didn’t last long. In the bottom of the inning, the Hornets got to Booth, the Tigers’ starter. Joiner pulled a hard grounder to left for a single to get things started. Tyler Brown sacrificed him to second then Nelson singled him home, lining one to left.

Nelson, who took second on a late throw to the plate, advanced to third on a base hit by Cross. Hayden Daniel came on as a courtesy runner for the pitcher and, when he stole second, an errant throw allowed Nelson to score. Daniel wound up at third before Pickett drew a walk ahead of Taylor’s first hit, shot down the left-field line for a two-run double to make it 4-1.

In the top of the second, Cross began a string of retiring seven in a row. And the Hornets added on a pair of runs in the bottom of the frame. Lessenberry’s grounder drew a wild throw that allowed him to get to second. Marcus Wilson came in to run for him. Jobe’s bouncer to third was booted with Wilson holding at second. Joiner loaded the bags with his second hit.

After Brown tapped to Booth for a force at home, Nelson walked to force in a run. Joiner then scored on an error to make it 6-1.

Neither team scored in the third but, in the top of the fourth, the Tigers got their lone hit, a single to center by Booth with one out. In the home half, the Hornets put together another four-run uprising. An error allowed Nelson to reach. He took second on a passed ball and third on an error. Cross reached on a pitch in the dirt on strike three that allowed Nelson to score.

Daniel again ran for Cross and tried to reach third on a single by Pickett only to be tagged out. But Taylor kept the inning going with a single to right and, after the runners moved up on a groundout by Pultro, Lessenberry singled up the middle to chase them both home, making it 9-1.

Wilson ran for Lessenberry, the Bryant catcher, and scored when Jobe’s grounder to short was misplayed.

It stayed 10-1 until Bryant’s sixth. Pickett led off and got ahead in the count 2-0 before launching his game-ending homer.

In the second game, the Hornets scored all their runs during a second-inninig outburst. After two were out, Taylor got things going with a single up the middle and Lessenberry slapped a single to right. With Daniel on to run for Lessenberry, Pultro drove both home with a long single. A liner to right by Jobe dropped in for a hit with Pultro going to third. He scored on a hit by Joiner and, after Brown walked to load the bases, Cross stroked a single to left to plate two more for the 5-0 lead.

Central managed its first hit against Milam in the top of the third. It was a one-out double by Jace Alexander chasing Matthew McMurray, who had walked, to third. But Milam picked McMurray off of third and retired Alex Morgan. Ivan Tate drew a walk but Milam struck out Imbro to end the threat.

Imbro, the Central starter, and Milam dueled the rest of the way. Milam retired eight in a row before Tate singled with one out in the sixth. Imbro worked around a single by Taylor in the third and a double by Jobe in the fourth. Jobe singled in the sixth as well.

Central made one last-ditch effort to score in the top of the seventh. After Milam struck out Jacob Green, he issued a walk to Brandon Schmidt. Hale lined out to Joiner in left but then McMurray and Alexander singled to load the bases. But Milam got Morgan to bounce to Brown at third for a game-ending force.

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