Hornets edge Conway in 9
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
SHERWOOD — For the second week in a row, the Bryant Hornets were set to play for a tournament championship. This time, they reached the finals of the Sylvan Hills Invitational by knocking off the Jacksonville Red Devils 13-1 on Saturday evening, then out-lasting the Conway Wampus Cats, 3-1 in nine innings in the icy winds of Monday, Feb. 25.
Bryant would take a 6-0 record into the title game on Thursday, Feb. 28, against either Little Rock Central or Russellville.
The Hornets’ tourney opening win on Saturday night, came just hours after they had defeated the Benton Panthers 5-3 to claim the championship of the Panthers’ Invitational Tournament that afternoon (see related story).
Bryant 3, Conway 1
With strong, gusting winds knocking the chill factor into the 20’s, the Hornets and Wampus Cats dueled to a 1-1 tie through eight innings. In the ninth, Bryant sophomore Scott Peeler came through in the clutch. His two-out, two-run double was the only hit Conway reliever Dennis Jones allowed in 3 1/3 innings. But it was plenty.
Jeff Carpenter retired the Cats in order in the bottom of the ninth to sew up the victory. Carpenter had relieved Kevin Littleton in the sixth and allowed just one hit — a harmless single to Jones with two out in the eighth — during his stint on the mound. Neither Bryant pitcher allowed a walk.
Littleton had to work out a jam in each of the first four innings. The Wampus Cats stranded two runners on base in each of those frames.
Meanwhile, Conway starter were keeping the Hornets’ bats on ice. Bryant didn’t manage a hit against him until Littleton lashed a lead-off double in the fifth.
That looked like a chance for the Hornets to score the game’s first run. Clay Jones pushed a sacrifice bunt toward third base and when Ragan, the Conway catcher, bounced the throw to first the Hornets had runners at the corners and no one out.
Cody Dreher tried to get a bunt down to move Jones to second and, if the ball wasn’t played well, bring in Littleton. But he stabbed through a pitch with a 2-0 count and Ragan whipped a throw to third to pick off Littleton. On the next pitch, Dreher grounded into a doubleplay to end the inning with the game still scoreless.
The Hornets broke the tie, nonetheless, in the sixth. An error allowed Jackson Moseley to reach base. Zack Cardinal came on to pinch run and swiped second, drawing a bad throw that allowed him to reach third.
Stacks, however, fanned the next two before facing the Hornets Cody Graddy who came through with an RBI single to left to snap the deadlock.
In the bottom of the inning, however, Littleton set down the first two only to have Ragan slice a liner to left that got over Dreher’s head as he stumbled and fell. A triple resulted and, a pitch later, pinch-hitter Lance Wilcox laced a double to left to tie the game again.
Carpenter relieved and got Scott Coulter to pop to Littleton in left to end the inning, stranding what might’ve been the winning run at second.
Dennis Jones, who came on to get the final out of the Bryant sixth, and Carpenter dueled after that. The Hornets finally got a break in the top of the ninth when Carpenter tap to third drew a wild throw to first. Derek Chambers was unable to get a sacrifice bunt down but his hit-and-run roller did the same work, allowing Carpenter to get into scoring position at second.
An out later, Clay Jones worked a 3-2 count for a walk then Peeler came through with an opposite-field drive into the left-field corner that chased home both runners.
That’s all Carpenter would need. He retired the side in order, making it a string in which he retired nine of the 10 batters he faced.
Bryant 13, Jacksonville 1
Junior right-hander Daniel Minton allowed just one hit in the five inning win over Jacksonville on Saturday evening. Minton fanned seven and walked four. The only Red Devils hit was a two-out RBI single in the third by Tim Head.
At that point the Hornets led 4-1. They would go on to add three runs in the fifth and six in the fifth to make it a run-rule win.
Graddy had three hits and drove in three runs in the game. Lead-off man Matt White was on base all four times he came to the plate and he scored each time.
White’s first run came in the opening frame. He walked, swiped second and scored on Graddy’s first hit, a single.
After Minton pitched out of a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the bottom of the inning, the Hornets wasted a walk.
In the third, however, White walked again, stole second and third, then scored on a single by Carpenter. Moments later, Carpenter followed him across the plate when Graddy’s hit to center was misplayed. Courtesy runner Zack Cardinal scored from second on an errant throw when Clay Jones hit a little swinging bunt in front of the plate and the Jacksonville catcher tried to throw him out at third.
In the fourth, the Hornets scored without a hit, taking advantage of four Jacksonville errors, a walk, a hit batsman and a balk.
The Hornets then blew the top off in the fifth. Jones singled, Dreher reached on an error the stole second. With one out, Andrew Norman drilled a two-run single that was misplayed in center.
White doubled then Carpenter singled him to third. Though Carpenter was thrown out trying to steal, Graddy delivered his third run-scoring hit, a double to make it 11-1. Chambers reached on an error then followed Cardinal, running for Graddy, across the plate when Littleton sliced a single to right.