For more photos of this event by Kevin Nagle, go here
HOT SPRINGS — Bryant’s Will McEntire, Scott Schmidt and Coby Greiner combined on a one-hitter but then so did Hot Springs Lakeside’s Remy Bilodeau, Gage Golden, Ethan Bates, Jordan Villas and Brady Prince.
Unfortunately for Bryant’s trio, Lakeside eked out a run while the Rams forced the Hornets to strand four base-runners and lose one at the plate in the last two innings.
The 1-0 loss was the first in a season-opening game since 2013 when Bryant lost its first three games and only the second time since 2000. In 2013, however, the team went on to win 27 of their next 29 games before losing to Rogers in the second round of State.
McEntire, who threw 70 pitches over four innings with seven strikeouts and one walk, was the hard-luck loser because of an unearned run. The only hit of the game for Lakeside was a two-out, two-strike single to center by Justin Scott. He stole second, took third on a wild pitch and scored on an errant throw to first when Prince hit a chopper to the left of third. Hornets’ third baseman Logan Chambers laid out to field the ball but rushed his throw into the dirt at first.
McEntire walked the next batter on a 3-2 pitch then retired the last four he faced.
Schmidt worked a 1-2-3 fifth and Greiner worked around a one-out walk in the sixth. He fanned two and the base-runner, Bates, was thrown out trying to steal by catcher Jake Wright.
“That was a pleasant surprise,” said Hornets head coach Travis Queck regarding the pitching. “I was very pleased with the pitching. We had two errors defensively, one got us. It was a run. We’ve got to clean that up, especially in games like that. For the pitching, for us not to be able help them out in that game is ridiculous.”
But the Hornets’ skipper was not pleased with his team’s work at the plate. Lakeside had a perfect game going through five innings. Schmidt finally got a hit, a double to the gap in right-center to break it up.
Otherwise, the Hornets struck out 11 times, six times looking.
“I take full responsibility for that,” Queck said. “There’s no excuses. The rain’s not an excuse. We’ve had plenty of time to get in those cages and hit. Obviously, we are not focused and that rests on me.”
The coach acknowledged that the home plate umpire had a big strike zone.
“After the first inning, we’ve got to be more headsy about that,” he said. “We’ve got to be smarter and understand, he’s expanded the zone. Six K’s looking? That’s uncalled for. I don’t blame it on the umpire. I blame it on us not being prepared.
“We’ve got guys that have been in it and we’ve got guys that are brand new,” Queck noted. “I’ve got to find a better mix. Even the guys that are returning, I’ve got to find a way to challenge them and get more out of them, more confidence.”
The Hornets threatened to score after Schmidt’s double. With one out, he took third on a passed ball then Queck called for the safety squeeze, a Hornets’ mainstay to get runners in from third with fewer that two outs over the years. Gage Stark got the bunt down but he didn’t get it past Bates, the pitcher. Courtesy runner Logan Grant didn’t read that and took off from third and was tagged out at the plate.
But Stark stole second and took third on a wild pitch. Lead-off man Logan Chambers grounded out to first, however, to end the inning with Lakeside maintaining the 1-0 lead.
In the top of the seventh, Villas relieved and hit Austin Ledbetter with a 3-2 pitch then walked Wright. But he struck out the next two batters. A walk to Greiner loaded the bases for Schmidt.
After a pitching change, Schmidt popped to first to end the game.
The Hornets travel to Waxahatchie, Texas, just south of Dallas, to play over the weekend, starting on Wednesday.