By Rob Patrick
PINE BLUFF — It’s a rare thing when a baseball player drives in six runs in one game, even[more] more rare when someone does it in one inning. But that’s what Trevor Ezell did for the Bryant Hornets Friday. He started the deluge that turned into a game-breaking 11-run second inning with a blast off the Taylor Field wall in left-center for a three-run double. And he put the finishing touches on the onslaught with a monster 3-run homer the cleared the fence in right-center an off the building beyond it.
The Hornets went on to a 13-2 win in five innings over the Pine Bluff Zebras for their first South Conference win of the season. Now 6-4 overall, they head to a spring break tournament in Tampa, Fla., where they’ll open play on Monday with games against a team from St. Louis and another from Brooklyn, N.Y.
Ezell wound up with three hits, all for extra bases. Tyler Green and Marcus Wilson had two each as Bryant racked up 10 as a team in support of the pitching of lefty Jason Hastings, who surrendered two runs on five hits, walked one and fanned six in his five frames of work.
“We hit the ball a lot harder today,” observed Hornets coach Kirk Bock. “We made adjustments on pitches, which we hadn’t been making, especially that one inning. We took advantage of some mistakes they made and played well.”
Bock tweaked his lineup for the game, moving Green from the nine hole to lead-off (basically changing from the “second lead-off” to the first lead-off. Ezell moved down from lead-off to second.
“It’s the same guys,” Bock noted. “We’re trying to move them around where they’re most productive. But you know it doesn’t matter where they’re at, you’ve still got to hit it and that’s something we hadn’t been doing.”
The Hornets had stranded eight runners and got shutout against Benton on Tuesday then won with just two hits against Van Buren on Thursday.
“This was a breath of fresh air,” Bock said.
Green was robbed of an extra-base hit to open the game but Ezell followed with a two-bagger. He stole third and Hayden Lessenberry drew a walk. A walk to Wilson loaded the bases and, with two down, Harrison Dale was hit by a pitch to force in the first run.
Pine Bluff, which had opened conference play on Tuesday with a 6-5 loss in nine innings at Texarkana, tied it in the bottom of the inning when Aaron McDonald knocked a 2-1 pitch off the wall in right. Demetrius Anderson then singled him home but was doubled off first on Brandon Starks’ pop to Korey Thompson at second.
Bryant’s big inning started with Thompson hitting a high pop to shallow right. Anderson charged in and got there in time but dropped it for an error. Ty Harris followed with a bloop single down the right-field line that Anderson couldn’t get to then Green put down a nice bunt down the third-base line that he beat out for a base hit, though it looked like it might roll foul just as Pine Bluff pitcher J’Marlos Johnson picked it up.
With the sacks packed, Ezell tied into an 0-1 delivery from Johnson and smacked the wall in left-center for a double that cleared the bases, making it 4-1.
Lessenberry singled then Wilson lined a double over Anderson’s head in right to drive in Ezell.
Hastings was hit by a pitch to load the bases and, after Austin Caldwell came in to pinch-run, Harrison Dale dumped a base hit into no-man’s land down the right-field line. Lessenberry scored and when Anderson’s throw evaded shortstop Adam Graham at second, Wilson sprinted home to make it 7-1.
Caldwell and Dale worked a double steal to set the table for Hayden Daniel, who ripped a fly to deep left-center only to have Zebras’ center fielder Walter Ashley flag it down. But it went for a sacrifice fly.
Thompson sacrificed Dale to third then a passed ball allowed him to score. Harris cranked up the carousel again when he was hit by a 2-2 delivery from Johnson. When Green stroked a single to left, Pine Bluff coach Ryan Stinson brought on the lefty McDonald.
On the new hurler’s first pitch, Ezell unloaded for his three-run bomb, making it 12-1.
McDonald got out of the inning despite a walk to Lessenberry and he only allowed one hit after that, a single up the middle by Wilson to start the fifth. The Hornets added a run in the third when Hastings walked, Caldwell came on to run and drew a wild throw on a steal of second. After Dale drew a free pass, Daniel delivered another sacrifice fly, which Ashley again chased down in the gap in front of the wall in left-center.
Hastings, meanwhile, issued his lone walk with one out in the bottom of the second. Ti’Montai Bolden advanced to second on a wild pitch. Hastings struck out Gealander Harris and was within a strike of getting out of the inning only to have Braylen Boyd pull a single through the left side to bring Bolden home.
But Hastings got stronger as the game continued. He worked around an infield hit in the third and a lead-off double to Jordan O’Guinn in the fourth. He then retired the last six batters he faced, four on strikes.
“He left a couple of pitches up but his pace was good, his rhythm was good and he got a lot better as he went along,” Bock commented. “Some of the pitches he got up, they just miss-hit but if they had linked up like (O’Guinn) did, especially with the wind blowing out, there’s no telling what’s going to happen.”
BRYANT 13, PINE BLUFF 2
Hornets ab r h bi Zebras ab r h bi
Green, cf 4 2 2 0 Graham, ss 3 0 0 0
Ezell, ss 4 3 3 6 McDonald, dh-p 3 1 1 0
Lessenberry, dh 2 1 1 0 Anderson, rf 2 0 1 1
Wilson, lf 3 1 2 1 Starks, c 2 0 0 0
Hastings, p 1 0 0 0 O'Guinn, 1b 2 0 1 0
Caldwell, cr 0 2 0 0 Bolden, lf 1 1 0 0
Emmerling, ph 1 0 0 0 G.Harris, 3b 2 0 0 0
Dale, 3b 2 1 1 2 Boyd, 2b 2 0 1 1
Daniel, rf 1 0 0 2 Ashley, cf 2 0 0 0
Thompson, 2b 2 1 0 0 Johnson, p 0 0 0 0
T.Harris, 1b 2 2 1 0
Breeding, c 0 0 0 0
Hurt, c 0 0 0 0
Totals 22 13 10 11 Totals 19 2 4 2
BRYANT 1(11)1 00 — 13
Pine Bluff 110 00 — 2
E—Anderson 2, Starks. DP—Bryant 1, Pine Bluff 1. LOB—Bryant 5, Pine Bluff 3. 2B—Ezell 2, McDonald, Wilson, O'Guinn. HR—Ezell. SB—Ezell, Caldwell 2. S—Thompson. SF—Daniel 2.
Pitching ip r er h bb so
Hastings (W) 5 2 2 5 1 6
Johnson (L) 1.2 11 8 8 2 1
McDonald 3.1 2 1 2 3 0
HBP—Dale, Hastings, T.Harris (by Johnson). WP— Hastings. PB—Starks 2.