By Rob Patrick
With just a little over a month to play in the 1973 season, the New York Mets were in last place in the East Division of the National League as they had been much of the season.
On Aug. 31, the Mets won a game in extra innings against the St. Louis Cardinals, pulling out of the cellar. The winning pitcher that day was a pint-sized lefty with an irrepressible personality and an out pitch he called a screwgie named Tug McGraw. Long before he became famous as the father of singer Tim McGraw, the Mets closer sparked a late-season surge by repeating incessantly “Ya gotta believe.”
The Mets started winning and believing putting together a 20-8 run that vaulted them into first place. They clinched the Division championship on the last day of the season then beat the Big Red Machine (Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench, etc.) in the playoffs to advance to the World Series.
The power of believing.
You could understand if doubt has crept into the minds of the Bryant Hornets baseball team at this point in the 2010 season. After starting the season 15-1, they fell to 16-8 on Tuesday, April 20, going into Friday’s game against the Little Rock Catholic Rockets at Lamar Porter Field.[more]
Though they may not feel like it right now, these are the same Hornets that downed the Rockets 8-3 earlier in the season. It’s the same team that put together a 15-1 start to the season including late rallies that produced scintillating wins over Watson Chapel, Lake Hamilton (two of the top teams in the 6A-South) and Monticello (one of the best Class 5A teams in the state). They are the first Bryant team to beat arch-rival Benton in years. They are the champions of the 2010 Billy Bock Classic.
They do have a hill to climb now though, just like those New York Mets did in 1973.
With the other results from the evening in the 7A-Central Conference, the Van Buren Pointers lead with a 6-2 record and the Hornets trail everyone with a 2-6 mark now. The other six teams are all 4-4, still in range for the Hornets to catch and pass to get into the State tournament. But the room for error is tightening.
“Ya gotta believe.”
Right at ‘em.
On Tuesday, the Hornets hit the ball. Everyone that came to the plate against the Little Rock Central Tigers’ Daniel Imbro put the ball in play. Imbro struck out no one.
Yet, the Hornets managed just two singles, both by right fielder Caleb Garrett as Imbro and the Tigers made the plays on all those balls hit right at them — and a couple that weren’t exactly — in a 3-1 win that continued the recent frustrations of the Hornets at the plate.
Imbro, who pitched his team past the Hornets at Central last season as a freshman, needed just 79 pitches to complete the game. He walked three and hit a batter. The Hornets stranded six.
Central scored all its runs in the first two innings. In the opening frame, Ivan Tate drew a lead-off walk and advanced to second on an errant pickoff throw. With one out, Will Parham singled him home. Jacob Green followed with a bouncer through the left side for a single and, with two down, Brandon Schmidt drilled a ground-rule double to left to make it 2-0.
With runners at second and third, Bryant starter Caleb Milam struck out Mack Yeary to end the inning.
In the second, Joe Ramm blooped a one-out single to right and Tate drew another walk. Milam recorded his fourth strikeout but, moments later, Parham slapped a single to right to make it 3-0.
Jordan Taylor relieved for the Hornets and struck out Green to end the inning.
Taylor would go on to allow just two hits through the sixth inning while striking out six. He allowed a one-out single to Schmidt in the third and a one-out double by Imbro in the sixth. Ben Wells worked a 1-2-3 seventh for the Hornets as the Bryant pitching trio combined to record 12 strikeouts.
But Imbro retired the first seven Bryant batters before Garrett bounced a single up the middle. He stole second but was stranded.
In the fourth, Garrett Bock was hit by a pitch. Moments later, he appeared to be into second before the tag on a stolen base but was punched out by the field umpire, resulting in a brief argument from Hornets head coach Kirk Bock.
An out later, Chris Joiner drew a free pass and Brennon Bullock reached on an error but Imbro got Brady Butler to ground to third for a force to escape.
In the fifth, Garrett singled again. With one out, B.J. Ellis was hit by a pitch and Hunter Mayall walked to load the bases. Bock bounced to short for a force at second as Garrett scored but, with runners on the corners, Imbro induced a groundout to second from Taylor.
The only other baserunner the Hornets managed was Garrett again in the seventh. With one out, he drew a walk. With Garrett running on the play, the Hornets’ hopes stayed alive as the Tigers had no play at second when Ellis’ grounder up the middle was flagged down by Will Andress. He threw to first to get Ellis.
With Garrett at second, Imbro ended it, getting Mayall to ground to second.
The Tigers, one of those six 4-4 teams, improved to 11-9 overall this season and avenged a 6-3 loss to the Hornets on their field on March 16.
TIGERS 3, HORNETS 1
LR Central Hornets
ab r h bi ab r h bi
Tate, cf 1 1 0 0 Mayall, dh 3 0 0 0
Speed, ss 3 0 0 0 Bock, cf 2 0 0 1
Alexander, ph 1 0 0 0 Taylor, ss-p 3 0 0 0
Parham, 3b 3 1 2 2 Joiner, 2b 2 0 0 0
Green, dh 4 0 1 0 Bullock, lf 3 0 0 0
Hale, lf 4 0 0 0 Butler, 1b 3 0 0 0
Schmidt, 2b 3 0 2 1 Castleberry, 3b-ss 2 0 0 0
Andress, 2b 0 0 0 0 Pickett, ph 1 0 0 0
Yeary, 1b 2 0 0 0 Garrett, rf 2 1 2 0
Mathison, 1b 1 0 0 0 Ellis, c 2 0 0 0
Imbro, p 3 0 1 0 Daniel, cr 0 0 0 0
Morgan, cr 0 0 0 0 Milam, p 0 0 0 0
Ramm, c 3 0 1 0 Brown, 3b 0 0 0 0
Penn, cr 0 1 0 0 Wells, p 0 0 0 0
Gibson, rf 0 0 0 0
Totals 29 3 7 3 Totals 23 1 2 1
LR Central 210 000 0 — 3
BRYANT 000 010 0 — 1
E—Milam, Castleberry 2, Speed. LOB—LR Central 8, Bryant 6. 2B—Schmidt, Imbro. SB—Garrett, Schmidt.
Pitching ip r er h bb so
Imbro 7 1 0 2 3 0
Milam (L) 1.2 3 3 5 2 4
Taylor 5.1 0 0 2 1 6
Wells 1 0 0 0 0 1
HBP—Bock (by Imbro). WP—Taylor.