Hornets reach finals of Panther Invitational
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 — Cody Walker beat a relay throw to first to avoid an inning-ending double play in the bottom of the eighth inning, allowing Jake Jackson to score the winning run in the Bryant Hornets’ wild 7-6 win over the Sylvan Hills Bears on Thursday, Feb. 28, at Panthers Field.
The win, which improved the Hornets to 4-0 on the season, lifted them into the championship of the Panther Invitational Tournament on Saturday, March 1, against the host team.
Bryant opened the tournament on Monday, Feb. 18, with a 9-1 win over the Malvern Leopards.
Jeremy Burge, who pitched 3 1/3 innings of one-hit shutout relief, picked up the win on the mound for Bryant. The right-hander, the third Hornets’ pitcher of the evening, got the final out with the bases loaded in a crazy fifth inning in which the Bears took a 6-4 lead.
The Hornets tied the game with two runs in the bottom of the fifth when Walker was hit by a pitch and scored from first on a long double by David Guarno who then raced home on a single by Trent Daniel.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Hornets loaded the bases with one out on singles by Jackson and Kaleb Jobe. Tyler Sawyer was then hit by a pitch to bring up Walker who fought off an 0-2 pitch from Sylvan Hills reliever Hunter Miller, slapping a roller toward second.
The Bears’ D.J. Baxendale charged the ball but bobbled it initially. Though he made a quick flip to shortstop Justin Treece for a force, Treece’s relay to first wasn’t in time.
Daniel finished with three hits in the game, Jackson had two including a solo homer in the bottom of the fourth that had Bryant up 4-1.
Sylvan Hills managed just two hits in the game, just one that got out of the infield but, with some aggressive base-running and four ill-timed errors by the Hornets, had a chance to win. The Bears swiped seven bases.
“Usually the best part of our game is defense and pitching,” noted Bryant head coach Terry Harper. “We had some good pitching but we didn’t get much defense. And in the second and third innings when we had runners at second and third both times with no outs, we got one run out of it. That could’ve changed the whole game. But the sign of a good team is being able to win when you play bad.
Ace lefty Trent Daniel retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced, pitching around a one-out error in the third. He fanned five along the way. He actually struck out four in the fourth but a pair of walks and a passed ball on a third strike allowed Sylvan Hills to get a run.
The Hornets took a 2-0 lead in the second when Daniel doubled, Jordan Knight beat out an infield hit and Justin Blankenship singled in courtesy runner Anthony Raby. Nick Suggs slapped a single to right center to plate Knight. But despite the fact that the Hornets had runners at second and third, no one out and the top of the batting order coming up, they could get no more as Bears starter Chris Daulton wriggled off the hook.
In the third, Walker was hit by a pitch and advanced to third when Guarno’s tap back to the mound drew a wild throw. With one down, Knight hit a bouncer to short that allowed Walker to score.
After Sylvan Hills got on the board in the top of the fourth and Jackson got the run back with his one-out solo homer to left, the top of the fifth commenced with Clint Thornton bouncing a single into left for the Bears’ first hit. He swiped second the Jordan Sparks drew a walk. Daniel retired the next two batters with a grounder to second plating a run to make it 4-2. The Bryant lefty then had a 1-2 count on Miller who then hit a bouncer to short that Walker couldn’t come up with cleanly as another run scored.
With Daniel over the 90-pitch mark, Harper brought on right-hander Drew Ransdell. Miller swiped second and drew a wild throw allowing him to take third. A walk was then issued to Baxindale bringing up T.C. Squires who took a ball then appeared to swing at Ransdell’s second pitch as pinch-runner Tyler Van Schyock took off on a steal of second. When play resumed, the home plate umpire set the count at 2-0 bringing Harper out of the dugout to protest. When he asked for an appeal to the field umpire on whether Squires swung or not, the home plate umpire refused, heightening Harper’s ire.
After another pitch, Harper visited the mound to talk to his infield, though, he mainly wanted to visit further with the umpire when he came out to break up the meeting.
When play resumed, Squires got hold of a Ransdell delivery and ripped it down the left-field line. Though it appeared to be inside the foul line for a two-run double, the home plate umpire called it foul, raising the shackles on Sylvan Hills head coach Denny Tipton. Even Harper tossed up his cap in disbelief.
Eventually, the runners were sent back to second and third and Squires walked to load the bases.
Harper made a pitching change to Burge who induced a grounder to third that was booted allowing Miller to score the tying run.
Jake Chambers followed with a grounder into the hole that Walker flagged down but his only play was a throw to try to get the force at second and the base runner beat the rap as Van Schyock scored to put Sylvan Hills ahead.
That infield hit was the last for the Bears but the scoring wasn’t done. Thornton hit a tap to third that Tyler Sawyer charged. He fired home to try to get the force but the homeplate umpire ruled that catcher Kaleb Jobe didn’t have his foot on the plate when he caught the throw and Squires was ruled safe to make it 6-4.
More arguing ensued.
Burge finally got the final out, however, when he got Sparks to ground out to Blankenship at first, leaving the bases full.
“I thought the kids hung in there through the adversity,” Harper said. “They did a good job. They didn’t get too wrapped up in the emotions of the game — maybe once or twice — but it’s a tough situation. I’m proud of them. Like I told them, they get to hit and I get to talk.”
The Hornets then tied it back up in the bottom of the inning and the game settled into a duel between Miller, the third Sylvan Hills pitcher, and Burge.
The Hornets threatened in the seventh with a two-out single by Daniel and, after a stolen base, an intentional walk to Knight but Miller got out of the it by fanning Blankenship.
Meanwhile, including the final out of the fifth, Burge retired seven in a row before giving up a lead-off walk in the eighth to Chambers who proceeded to steal second. He was forced back to first, however, when Thornton was called out for interfering with Jobe’s throw. Burge then induced flies to Knight in center off the bats of Chris Perez and Treece to end the inning and set up Bryant’s game-winning uprising in the home half.
Bryant 9, Malvern 1
Sawyer and Preston Adami combined to limit the Leopards to four hits and an unearned run while the Hornets cracked 11 hits to take advantage of 10 Malvern walks.
Jobe, Guarno, Daniel and Knight each had two hits, highlighted by Guarno’s three-run triple in the game-breaking fourth inning.
Malvern took a 1-0 lead in the second on a single by Patrick Lewallen, a stolen base and a wild throw then a base hit by Rashaad Huell.
Sawyer worked through four innings without giving up another hit and Adami relieved in the fifth. He began with a walk and an infield hit but his teammates turned the second of their three doubleplays in the game to get him out of the jam. He worked around a walk in the sixth and, after another free pass in the seventh, the Hornets ended the game with a 5-4-3 twin-killing.
Bryant took the lead with a three-run third. Jobe cracked the first of his two doubles to lead off the inning. Sawyer singled in courtesy runner Brennan Bullock to tie the game. Walker drew a free pass and, after a pitching change, Daniel walked to load the bases. A wild pitch allowed Blankenship, running for Sawyer, to score.
A walk to Knight loaded the bases again then Ransdell lifted a pop on the infield. With the infield fly rule in effect, the ball dropped. Though Ransdell was out, Walker was able to sprint home with the third run of the inning.
In the fourth, Jackson singled but was thrown out trying to steal. Walks followed, however, to Jobe, Sawyer and Walker to set the table for Guarno who crushed a drive over the center fielder’s head to clear the bases. Moments later, he scored on an infield hit by Daniel to make it 7-1.
The Hornets tacked on two more in the sixth on a single by Guarno, a double by Daniel and a base hit by Knight.