Five-run fifth helps Hornets snap brief skid

CABOT — Through four innings on Friday night, the Bryant Hornets’ recent frustrations looked like they[more] might extend to a fourth straight loss. The Cabot Panthers had built a 4-0 lead and starting pitcher Zachary Patterson had the Hornets shut out without a hit.

But the Hornets erupted for five runs in the top of the fifth and behind three inning of one-hit relief from Jordan Taylor and a solo homer by Tyler Nelson, snapped the skid with a 6-4 win.

The Hornets improved to 21-7 on the season. They finished 7A/6A-Central Conference play at 9-5, third in the standings but second in the seeding for the Class 7A State Tournament.

Bryant visits Lake Hamilton on Monday in a final tune-up for State then opens the tournament in North Little Rock on Friday at 2:30 p.m., against the winner of Thursday’s first-round game between probably West Memphis and Fayetteville.

Patterson had walked a batter in the first, second and fourth innings but forced the Hornets to strand them in the first two incidents then induced a doubleplay ball in the fourth to keep the Hornets blanked.

In the fifth, however, his lead-off walk to Dylan Cross was followed up by the first Bryant hit, Josh Pultro’s single to center. A passed ball moved the runners to second and third for Hayden Daniel, who came through with an RBI single. On the throw to the plate to hold Pultro, Daniel hustled into second.

Still leading 4-1, Patterson recorded the first out of the inning when Tyler Green flew out to right. Trevor Ezell then hit a sharp grounder to second that was misplayed allowing both Pultro and Daniel to score, cutting the lead to one run.

A passed ball allowed Ezell to take second and he raced to third on a bunt hit by Ozzie Hurt. He stole second as Patterson issued a walk to Nelson that loaded the bags. A free pass to Taylor forced in the tying run then Hayden Lessenberry greeted Hayden Vinson, the new Cabot pitcher, with a sacrifice fly that gave Bryant the lead.

Taylor took over for Nelson on the mound in the bottom of the inning and issued a lead-off walk to Bryson Morris. T.C. Carter followed with a sharp single to center. But Taylor fanned Justin Goff and Casey Vaughan and when Riley Knudsen bounced to Nelson at short for a force out, the right-hander had escaped with the lead intact. He would set down the last six in a row to earn the save.

In the sixth, Pultro reached on an error but was thrown out trying to steal. With two down, Green drew a walk and Ezell singled him to third but both were stranded when pinch-hitter Blaine Jackson bounced back to the mound.

But Taylor struck out two in the bottom of the sixth and, on the first pitch of the seventh inning, Nelson ripped his shot to right.

It was just the second homer of the season for the Hornets.

Taylor followed with a single and Drew Tipton came on to run for him. Lessenberry bunted him to second then Cross skied a fly to center for the second out. Tipton attempted for advance on the play but was ruled out for failure to tag up for an inning-ending doubleplay.

In the home seventh, Vinson lined to Nelson at short and, after Morris groundout to the Bryant shortstop, Carter did as well to end the game.

On the mound, Nelson had started effectively, working a 1-2-3 first. In the second, he surrendered a single to Goff and a walk to Vaughan but he retired the next two including Scott Burnett on strikes. Lessenberry then threw out Goff when he tried to steal third, ending the threat.

In the third, however, Cole Thomas singled with one out and Vinson drew a walk. A base hit by Morris loaded the bases for Carter, who singled in the first run.

Nelson came back to strike out Goff but Vaughan’s single to second knocked in two to make it 3-0 before Knudson grounded into a force to send it to the fourth.

In the home fourth, Burnett struck out but Kason Kimbrell singled. Though he was forced at second on Thomas’ bunt back to Nelson, Vinson singled in Thomas to make it 4-0.

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