By Rob Patrick
WHITE HALL — With three pitchers seeing their first varsity action and a fourth making his first start and only his second appearance, the Bryant Hornets out-lasted the Star City Bulldogs, 9-5, at White Hall High School, in the consolation round of the annual Billy Bock Classic.
The tournament concludes on Saturday with the Hornets taking on Monticello at 3 p.m. Monticello out-slugged Pine Bluff 16-11 on Friday. In the winners bracket, North Little Rock defeated Watson Chapel 9-4 and was set to play Cabot a 2-1 winner over White Hall Friday for the tourney title on Saturday.
All four of Saturday's games were set to be played at Taylor Field in Pine Bluff.
In a workman-like fashion, the Hornets advanced, bouncing back from a disappointing 6-3 loss at Cabot on Thursday which not only served as the opener for both teams in the tournament but counted as a 7A-Central Conference contest. Bryant, 5-1 in league play, improved to 7-2 overall with the win over Star City.
Hunter Mayall and Tyler Sawyer led Bryant's 11-hit offensive attack with three each. Hunter Alford and Justin Blankenship had two apiece with Blankenship driving in three runs. Sawyer extended his hitting streak to six games while Blankenship remained red-hot. He's hit .600 over the last three Hornets games.
Sophomore Landon Pickett brought some order to the game as the fourth Bryant pitcher, working 3 1/3 hitless innings, walking one and fanning two, to pick up a save in his varsity debut. Tyler Brown, another sophomore who made his first appearance on the mound, picked up the win in relief of freshman Jordan Taylor. Sophomore Matt Neal also got his first taste of varsity competition in the game. [more]
The Bulldogs drew first blood. In the bottom of the first, Ross Weatherford singled, Landry Strong walked then Sage Gasaway and Brent Noble each singled to make it 2-0.
Taylor steadied himself after that, though, and struck out the next two. Star City wound up stranding runners at second and third.
Bryant answered with a five-run uprising in the top of the second. Brown, starting at shortstop in a juggled Bryant lineup, walked on four pitches then stole second. With one out, Alford blooped a single to right to put runners on the corners. Alford swiped second and Blankenship ripped a two-run single to right, taking second on the futile throw to the plate. Mayall then put the Hornets ahead to stay with a single up the middle, driving in Blankenship.
After Mayall swiped second, Kaleb Jobe drew a two-out walk, Brady Butler reached on an error, extending the inning, and Sawyer ripped one up the middle to chase in two more, making it 5-2.
When Taylor issued a lead-off walk to Bradley Hill in the second, Bryant head coach Kirk Bock brought on Neal. Tyler Martin got a sacrifice bunt down and a wild throw to first not only allowed him to reach safely but Hill circled the bases to make it 5-3.
A walk to Weatherford prompted another pitching change as Brown climbed the hill. Strong beat out a two-strike bunt single to load the bases but Brown picked off Martin at third. Gasaway struck out and, after a walk to Noble loaded the bags again, Hollis Landreth flew out to Mayall in left to end the inning.
The Hornets upped the ante in the third. Lucas Castleberry led off with a walk, took second on a sacrifice by Alford and scored on Blankenship's shot to deep center that hit high on the 20-foot fence and lodged in the droopy netting that provides a hitting background at the field. A ground-rule RBI double was the result. And when Mayall shot the gap in left-center for a two-bagger, Bryant's lead was 7-3.
Brown worked around a lead-off single by Johnny Irwin in the third but ran into some trouble in the fourth. Weatherford beat out an infield hit, Strong singled to right and Gasaway was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no one out. A run scored when Noble grounded into a force at second. Another came home on a wild pitch as Brown struck out Landreth. But an infield hit by Irivin, putting the potential tying runs on base, brought Bock back out with Pickett.
On his first pitch, Heath Halbrook bounced to short for a force at second to end the inning with the Hornets still up 7-5.
Pickett worked a 1-2-3 fifth then pitched around a one-out walk in the sixth after the Hornets had added a pair of insurance runs in the top of the inning.
A walk to Jobe, his third of the game and team-leading 14th free pass of the season, started the uprising. Though courtesy runner Jonathan Wade was thrown out trying to steal, Brady Butler drew a walk moments later and Sawyer singled. With two down, Pickett bounced to short for what looked like it would be a force at third but Martin, the Bulldogs' shortstop, dropped the ball as he drew it from his glove and all hands were safe. With the inning extended, Alford made the Bulldogs pay for their mistake with a shot down the right-field line for a two-run double.
Pickett made that hold up with his work in the bottom of the sixth then, in the seventh, he overcame a one-out error with the help of a fine play at second by Austin Benning. Bradley Hill's bouncer deflected off Pickett to the charging Benning, who threw the batter out at first. Martin then flew out to Brennan Bullock in center to end the game.
BRYANT 9, STAR CITY 5
ab r h bi ab r h bi
Mayall, lf 5 1 3 2 Weatherford, cf 3 2 2 0
Bullock, cf 4 0 0 0 Strong, lf 3 2 2 0
Jobe, c 1 0 0 0 Gasaway, dh 2 0 1 1
Wade, cr 0 1 0 0 Noble, p-c 3 0 1 2
Butler, 1b 4 1 1 0 Boardman, cr 0 0 0 0
Sawyer, dh 4 1 3 2 Landreth, rf 4 0 0 0
Brown, ss-p 4 1 0 0 Irvin, c-2b 4 0 2 0
Garrett, cr 0 0 0 0 Halbrook, 2b-p 3 0 0 0
Taylor, p 1 0 0 0 Hill, 3b 3 1 0 0
Neal, p 0 0 0 0 Martin, ss 3 0 0 0
Castleberry, ss 1 1 0 0 Priest, 1b 0 0 0 0
Pickett, p 1 0 0 0
Alford, 3b 3 1 2 2
Blankenship, rf 4 2 2 3
Benning, 2b 0 0 0 0
Totals 32 9 11 9 Totals 28 5 8 5
BRYANT 052 002 0 — 9
Star City 210 200 0 — 5
E—Jobe, Martin 3, Alford. LOB—Bryant 12, Star City 10. 2B—Blankenship, Mayall, Alford, Butler. SB—Brown, Alford, Blankenship. S—Jobe, Martin, Alford, Halbrook.
ip r er h bb so
Taylor 1 3 2 3 2 2
Neal 0 0 0 0 1 0
Brown (W, 1-0) 2.2 2 2 5 1 3
Pickett (S, 1) 3.1 0 0 0 1 2
Noble (L) 5.2 9 5 10 6 2
Holbrook 1.1 0 0 1 2 0
HBP—Gasaway (by Brown). WP—Noble, Taylor, Brown.