Hitting in the clutch, Hornets hammer Zebras in opener
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
Photos courtesy of Phil Pickett
PINE BLUFF — How’s this for clutch hitting right out of the gate?[more]
Four times in their season-opening game against the Pine Bluff Zebras at Taylor Field, the Bryant Hornets produced run-scoring hits after two were out in an inning as they established an early lead and built on it on the way to 10-2 victory.
Chris Joiner, Landon Pickett and Dylan Cross had two hits and two runs batted in apiece. Pickett and Evan Jobe each came through with one of those hits in the clutch and Joiner managed it twice.
“We hit it hard,” noted Hornets head coach Kirk Bock. “We’re getting better and better offensively. As long as we can let that ball get to us, we’re going to end up pretty good.”
Right-handers Dylan Cross and Caleb Milam combined to scatter six hits, each surrendering an unearned run while splitting 10 strikeouts between them. Cross worked the first five frames then Milam worked the last two.
“I thought Dylan did a good job,” Bock commented. “He throws too many pitches. He ended up around 80. We’ve been doing 75-pitch ‘pens so he was well within his range right there. Once he settles down and can start just being more consistent without getting as deep in the count, then he’ll be able to go the distance.”
The coach added that he hadn’t planned on using Milam, who has only recently recovered from a leg injury.
“He’s doing better,” Bock allowed. “He ‘penned Saturday and he was a guy that was on the bench where we wouldn’t have to pull somebody off the field. He could get loose and hot. And he did a good job.”
Cross retired the first six batters he faced then issued one of only two walks he surrendered, this one to Larry Williams. Bailey Hamilton slapped a single to right to send Williams to third but, on a nicely executed play, the inning ended with Hamilton being tagged out trying to sneak into second. Jobe’s throw to cut-off man Tyler Nelson was relayed to Tyler Brown at third who came up firing to Ozzie Hurt at second. He applied the tag.
The Hornets mashed a couple of pitches in the first inning but a strong wind blowing in from center knocked them down for outs.
In the second, Cross singled with two down. Courtesy runner Hayden Daniel beat a pick-off throw to first for a stolen base. Then, on a 1-1 pitch from Pine Bluff starter Ryan Green, Jobe pulled a base hit to left to give his team a 1-0 lead.
Brown cracked a double to the gap in right-center with one out in the top of the third and, with two down, on another 1-1 delivery, Picket laced an RBI single to left to make it 2-0.
The Z’s managed a run in the bottom of the third. Karl DeWalt stroked a double to right and stole third. Cross then picked the runner off third and the Hornets got him in a rundown. But a high throw enabled DeWalt to get back into third safely.
Cross fanned Paul DeWalt to bring up lead-off man Jalen Dabner. On a 1-0 pitch, Dabner got a bunt down and beat Cross’ throw to first as Karl DeWalt scored.
The Bryant right-hander proceeded to strike out Lawrence Baker and Torey Deshazier to end the inning with Bryant’s lead intact.
The Hornets added to that in the top of the fourth. Josh Pultro belted a double to the gap in right-center, hustling into second even though Dabner did a good job of cutting the ball off in the gap. A balk by Green allowed Pultro to take third and, on a 2-1 pitch, Cross executed the safety squeeze for an RBI.
With two down, Hurt’s bouncer to third got into Williams’ chest. He pounced on the ball but threw wildly to first and Hurt reached second. Joiner came up and worked the count to 2-2 before stroking a single to left to chase in the second run of the inning, making it 4-1.
After Cross worked around a one-out single in the bottom of the inning, the Hornets took advantage of Williams, who came on in relief of Green to start the fifth. Nelson greeted him with a sharp single to right. He was forced at second on Pickett’s bouncer to third but Hayden Lessenberry and Pultro worked for walks to load the bases. A passed ball allowed Pickett to score then Cross pulled an RBI single to left. Pultro, who held up at third as Cross went to second on the throw home, came in on a wild pitch after Jobe was hit by a pitch, to make it 7-1.
Bock called for the safety squeeze again and Hurt got the bunt down and the RBI as Tyler Green, running for Lessenberry the Bryant catcher, raced home. Jobe advanced to third and, on an 0-2 pitch with two down, Joiner delivered again with a shot up the middle to up the margin to 9-1.
Cross pitched around a walk and a hit batsman with two down to keep it that way in the bottom of the fifth then the Hornets got their final run in the top of the sixth. Nelson walked and stole second then Pickett lined a double down the left-field line to chase him home.
“One of the things we were talking about afterward is we’ve got to make that adjustment when that wind’s blowing in our face,” Bock mentioned. “We hit a couple of balls on the screws. They just hung up, especially early. But Landon did a good job hitting flat on that last double down the line.”
Milam struck out the side around a one-out single in the bottom of the sixth. Deshazier, the fourth Pine Bluff pitcher worked the first 1-2-3 inning for the Zebras in the top of the seventh. In the home half, Karl DeWalt pulled Milam’s second pitch for a double to left. He would advance on a passed ball the score on an pick-off throw that got away. Milam wound up fanning two of the last three he faced to close it out.
The Hornets are set to make their 2011 home debut this Thursday against the Watson Chapel Wildcats.
BRYANT 10, PINE BLUFF 2
HORNETS ab r h bi ZEBRAS ab r h bi
Joiner, lf 4 0 2 2 Dabner, cf 3 0 1 1
Brown, 3b 5 1 1 0 Baker, c 3 0 0 0
Nelson, ss 2 1 1 0 Washington, cr 0 0 0 0
Pickett, 1b 4 1 2 2 Deshazier, ss-p 3 0 0 0
Lessenberry, c 2 0 0 0 Smith, lf-3b-p-ss 3 0 0 0
Daniel, cr 0 1 0 0 McDonald, 1b 3 0 2 0
Pultro, cf 3 2 1 0 Williams, 3b-p 2 0 0 0
Cross, p 2 0 2 2 Hamilton, 2b 3 0 1 0
Daniel, cr 0 1 0 0 K.DeWalt, dh-lf 3 2 2 0
T.Green, cr 0 1 0 0 P.DeWalt, rf 3 0 0 0
Akers, ph 1 0 0 0 R.Green, p 0 0 0 0
Milam, p 0 0 0 0
Jobe, rf 3 1 1 1
Hurt, 2b 3 1 0 1
Totals 30 10 10 9 Totals 26 2 6 1
BRYANT 011 251 0 — 10
Pine Bluff 001 000 1 — 2
E—Lessenberry, Williams, Milam. LOB—Bryant 8, Pine Bluff 6. 2B—Brown, Pultro, Pickett. S—Cross, Hurt. SB—Daniel, Dabner, Nelson.
Pitching ip r er h bb so
Cross (W, 1-0) 5 1 0 4 2 5
Milam 2 1 0 2 0 5
R.Green (L) 4 4 3 6 0 0
Williams 1 6 6 3 3 0
Smith 1 0 0 1 1 2
Deshazier 1 0 0 0 0 1
Williams faced one batter in the sixth.
Balk—R.Green, Cross. HBP—Nelson (by R.Green), Jobe (by Williams), Baker (by Cross). WP—Williams 2. PB—Baker, Lessenberry.