Hornets clip Panthers for title
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, BryantDaily.com will continue posting past stories of Bryant athletics either posted on BryantDaily.com (from 2009 to the present) or published in the Bryant Times (from 1998 to 2008).
By ROB PATRICK
BENTON — A.J. Nixon and Matt White each came through with clutch, two-out RBI singles and Jeff Carpenter picked up a save with 2 2/3 innings of shutout relief as the Bryant Hornets edged the rival Benton Panthers 5-3 to claim the championship of the Panthers Invitational Tournament Saturday, Feb. 23.
With the win, the Hornets improved to 4-0 on the season. They had swamped Malvern 10-0 in the tourney opener on Thursday, then overwhelmed Little Rock Central 10-1 on Friday to reach the finals.
Bryant senior catcher Cody Graddy was named the tournament MVP.
Lefty Cody Dreher picked up the win in the title game, working 4 1/3 innings before turning the reigns over to Carpenter with the Hornets clinging to a 4-2 lead.
With runners at the corners, Carpenter induced a grounder to short from Jacob Perry as the Hornets traded a run for an out. He then got Jamie Fugitt to fly to center to end the inning.
With one out in the top of the sixth, Benton reliever Steven Riffle hit Scott Peeler with a pitch. Peeler stole second extending Bryant’s stolen base streak to 21 without being caught this season. An out later, White worked the count to 3-1 then ripped an RBI single to left to make it 5-3.
Carpenter worked around a two-out single by Grant Jordan in the bottom of the inning then allowed a one-out double to John Vanderbush in the bottom of the seventh, bringing up the top of the lineup. But he fanned Josh Charette with a high and inside fastball and got Perry to fly to left to end the game.
The Hornets had scored first in the game. In the opening inning, White lashed a double to right, took third on Carpenter’s sacrifice then scored on a sacrifice fly by Graddy.
Benton tied it in the bottom of the inning with an unearned run. Charette reached on an error, stole second and scored on a single by Perry.
A long solo homer by Drew Kurosaki to lead-off the second gave Benton a 2-1 lead. But, unfazed, Dreher set down the next three without a problem.
Bryant then regained the lead in the third. Littleton’s single was misplayed in left allowing him to reach second. White bunted him to third and he scored on a wild pitch to tie it.
Carpenter then singled. Graddy was hit by a pitch and Derek Chambers reached on an error to load the bases for Nixon who delivered a sacrifice fly.
It was a taut 3-2 game after that. In the bottom of the third, Charette drew a one-out walk and, with two down, tried to make it to third on a single up the middle by Fugitt. But White charged in and fired a strike to Peeler at third to gun him out, ending the inning.
Both starters worked around an error in the fourth. Bryant then tacked on an insurance run in the fifth. Carpenter was hit by a pitch to start the frame. He stole second before Graddy was hit by a pitch. Chambers followed with a liner that was snared by Charette at short. He fired to first catching courtesy runner Zack Cardinal straying too far for a doubleplay.
One out away from getting through the inning unscathed, Benton starter Aaron Moulton, who had drawn some attention from the scouts in attendance, got burned by Nixon who rifled a clutch RBI double to left to make it 4-2.
An infield hit by David Carlisle, playing in his first game since nearly losing his life in an automobile accident last fall, beat out an infield hit to start the bottom of the fifth. Carpenter got Vanderbush to bounce to second but a single by Charette putting runners at the corners motivated Bryant head coach Terry Harper to bring in Carpenter.
In the semifinals, hard-throwing Chance King and Nixon combined to limit Little Rock Central to just three hits in a five inning victory for Bryant. King worked the first three innings allowing just one single, walking a pair and fanning three.
Bryant took a 5-0 lead in the top of the third. White singled and stole a base, then scored on a base hit by Carpenter. He, in turn, swiped a base and scampered home on a single by Graddy. Cardinal, running for Graddy, stole second and took third when Chambers’ bouncer to second was botched. Littleton came through with a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0.
Moments later, Dreher drew a two-out walk, Moseley singled in a run and so did Andrew Norman to make it 5-0.
In the fourth, walks to Carpenter, Graddy and Chambers loaded the bases. Littleton and Clay Jones were then hit by pitches to force in two. Dreher and Moseley followed with back-to-back sacrifice flies to make it 9-0.
An error and a single produced Central’s lone run in the bottom of the fourth as Nixon took over on the mound. He retired three straight to keep it at that.
In the fifth, White and Carpenter walked and, an out later, Chambers was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Littleton who singled in the final tally.
Nixon gave up a one-out single in the bottom of the inning, but the Hornets worked a doubleplay on a comebacker to the mound to end the game.