Four-run seventh provides winning edge for Hornets in second Florida game
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MAITLAND, Fla. — Though Javier Baez proved to be everything he was professed to be for the[more] Arlington Country Day Apaches of Jacksonville, Fla., he could not single-handedly carry his team to victory Wednesday. With two-run singles by Dylan Cross and Tyler Brown, the Bryant Hornets snapped a 4-4 tie with a four-run top of the seventh and right-hander Jordan Taylor made it hold up despite a threat in the bottom of the seventh.
The 8-4 win for the Hornets made them 2-0 in pool play at the Florida League High School Invitational Tournament. On Thursday, the Hornets will face the East Ridge Knights of Clermont, Fla., also 2-0 in pool play.
Baez, a pre-season pick for the Rawlings Sporting Goods All-America team, went 3 for 3 with two home runs and three batted in. It was the second game in a row that Baez homered twice. The Apaches lost to East Ridge on Tuesday, 6-4.
“He was the real deal,” stated Hornets coach Kirk Bock. “He’s a first-round guy. He had 15 scouts out there before the game working him out. I don’t know how many were there during the game. Their catcher was the best I’ve seen in my life. He’s already committed to Georgia. Their coach said eight of their guys that started had already committed, even the second baseman who’s a sophomore. And the one that hasn’t was the shortstop (Baez).
“They had a freshman pitcher they brought in that was throwing 92-94 (mph),” he continued. “Those guys were unbelievable. Every one of them could throw. They could all run, they could all swing it. I don’t know that I’ve seen many college teams that have that much talent, one through nine.”
Besides Baez, however, Taylor allowed just three hits and two walks while striking out 10 in the route-going effort.
“He was the perfect guy for that game,” Bock stated. “He was able to throw a curveball for a strike. He didn’t throw any fastballs in the zone until it got late and, at that point, that 82 mile per hour fastball looked like it was 92. It was change-up, hammer (curve), change-up, hammer, then bam, he’d just blow it past them.”
He also contributed two hits to the offense, as did Cross and Landon Pickett.
Bryant held a 4-3 lead going into the bottom of the sixth when Baez belted his second homer to tie the game.
“He’s the best hitter I’ve seen, I’m telling you,” Bock asserted. “The first one he hit out was a fastball that was up and way out but he pulled it. It went out of the yard at the 385 marker and it hit — they’ve got another baseball field behind it — it went over the third-base dugout and hit the first-base bag. It was every bit of 550 feet. The second one he hit was a lot harder than the first one. I mean it probably got 16 foot off the ground and it just kept going. It got out of there in a second and a half.”
To start Bryant’s game-winning uprising in the top of the seventh, Lucas Castleberry reached safely on an error. Tyler Green came on to run for him and Pickett shot a single to left. When Tyler Nelson drew a walk, the bags were full for Cross, who cracked a 2-2 delivery for a single to drive home Green and Pickett to make it 6-4.
With one out, Evan Jobe was hit by a pitch to load the bases again. After Marcus Wilson came in to run for Cross, Brown looped a single on a 1-2 pitch that fell in for a single. With the runners going on contact with two down, both Nelson and Wilson scored to make it 8-4.
In the bottom of the inning, Taylor recorded his 10th strikeout but a single by Jean Carlos Cintron gave the Apaches hope. An error allowed Jose Marin to reach. With one out, Arlington had runners at first and second. But Taylor got Ronnie Rios to hit a looping liner to Ozzie Hurt at second. Hurt doubled off Cintron at second with a flip to Nelson covering from short to end the game. The two batters that had driven in all four of the runs for the Apaches were left standing on deck (Bernardo Bonifacio) and in the hole (Baez).
“Ozzie had two doubleplays,” Bock noted. “The first one he had, he dove up the middle and made an unbelievable catch, a line drive. He caught it and threw off his knees, back to first to double the guy off. The last one, the guy (Rios) chinks one up the middle and Ozzie dove towards the bag and caught it on the backhand. He flipped it back to second to Nelson to end the game.”
Arlington starter Eric Rivera issued one-out walks to Brown and Taylor in the first but got out of the inning. Taylor, in turn, struck out the side around a two-out single by Baez.
Bryant took the lead in the second. Nelson singled and Cross sacrificed him to second. Josh Pultro was hit by a pitch and Jobe walked to load the bases. Chris Joiner picked up the RBI with a sacrifice fly. Brown followed with a sharp grounder to third that resulted in an inning-ending force.
Taylor struck out two more in a 1-2-3 second and the Hornets threatened in the third with a single by Taylor and a double by Pickett but Rivera escaped.
The Apaches took the lead in the third. Cintron walked to start the inning then took second on a passed ball. Harold Suriel sacrificed him to third then Rios walked. The Hornets got a chance to get out of the inning when Cintron was picked off third.
After Rios took second, Bonifacio singled him in to tie the game 1-1. On the next pitch, Baez blasted his first homer to left to make it 3-1.
Taylor rebounded by striking out Bryan De La Rosa, the Apache catcher, to end the inning.
The Hornets loaded the bases again in the fourth when Pultro was hit by a pitch again, Jobe doubled and Joiner walked but, after Tyler Burress relieved for Arlington, all three were stranded.
The Apaches went down in order in the bottom of the inning and the Hornets rallied to regain the lead in the top of the fifth. A walk to Castleberry opened the frame. Pickett was hit by a pitch then, after Burress gave way to Ethan Walker, Nelson drew a walk to set the table for Cross who cracked a double to drive in two. With the game tied, Pultro stroked a single up the middle to give the Hornets the lead.
Taylor pitched around an error in the bottom of the inning. Cintron reached on the play and, with one out, tried to steal second only to have to go back to first when Rios, who was at the plate, interfered with Cross’ attempt to throw to second. Taylor struck out Bonifacio and the Hornets came to the plate in the top of the sixth.
But Walker worked around a two-out single by Taylor and, in the bottom of the inning, Baez tied it with a lead-off homer.
De La Rosa followed with a single but the Hornets turned a doubleplay as Austin Marzolph bounced to Hurt at second. Marzolph, a second-team pre-season all-America selection, was 0 for 3 in the game with a strikeout.
The Hornets improved to 9-2 on the season with the win.