Hornets dig out of early hole to whip Grizzlies

For more photos of this event by Rick Nation, go here

Coby Greiner fired six shutout innings in relief. (Photo by Rick Nation)

Coby Greiner pitched six innings of shutout relief and the Bryant Hornets rallied from a 4-0 deficit to earn a 7-4 win over the Fort Smith Northside Grizzlies in 7A-Central Conference action at Bryant High School Field on Thursday night.

Greiner gave up a lead-off single in the second, but Northside Jake Rincon was thrown out trying to steal by catcher Jake Wright. He then held the Grizzlies without a hit until there were two outs in the top of the seventh.

He fanned four, hit a battle and did not walk anyone, pitching around a pair of error along the way.

Wright started Bryant’s comeback with a solo homer to lead off the second. But the Hornets still trailed until they scored five runs in the bottom of the fifth. Myers Buck, Austin Ledbetter and Peyton Dillon each had doubles to help fuel the outburst.

The victory improved Bryant to 15-5-1 overall and 6-2 in league play. The Hornets are scheduled to play at Central Arkansas Christian Academy on Saturday at 3 p.m., then another non-conference foe in Star City on Monday. They return to 7A-Central action Tuesday at Little Rock Catholic.

In their previous conference meeting on March 13 at Fort Smith, Bryant buried the Griz, 11-0. But since then, Northside has won three conference games and pushed into contention for a bid to the Class 7A State Tournament.

The difference in the team was apparent early. Will McEntire, who has pitched splendidly all season, struck out the first batter of the game but then his deliveries started finding barrels. A chopper up the middle went for an infield hit. He took second on a wild pitch then Jackson Scrivner singled sharply up the middle on a 1-2 pitch to chase the run home.

Bryant catcher Jake Wright hauls down a foul pop. (Photo by Rick Nation)

The count went to 3-2 on clean-up hitter Hunter Linam who was then hit by a pitch. Grant Johnson followed with a double inside the bag at third to make it 2-0.

With the infield in, Bobby Rauch shot a single to the right of Greiner at short, driving in two runs and making it 4-0.

Khaden Washington doubled to put runners at second and third with one out.

To his credit, McEntire kept it to that as he struck out Conley Bone and got Will Zuerker to ground out.

Thirty-two pitches in, McEntire, who entered the game with a miniscule 0.64 earned run average, gave way to Greiner in the second and his teammates picked him up with the rally.

“I tip my hat to Coach (Brian) Fry,” said Hornets head coach Travis Queck of his counterpart at Northside. “From a month ago until now, and watching their scores, I see what’s going on. He’s got those guys believing and they’re fighting, scratching and clawing. When they have their number one on the mound, they feel very confident.

“We just had to withstand the storm,” he asserted. “McEntire did not have his stuff today. He kind of got frustrated. Of course, we had an opportunity to help him out and our defense just wasn’t there. Our defense was not good enough. We can’t get by with that.”

In the bottom of the inning, Griz starter Josh Jordan retired the first two batters but then walked the bases loaded. Fry went and got him, bringing in Joseph Mills to relieve. He got out of the jam with a strikeout to keep it 4-0.

After Rincon’s single, Greiner retired six in a row and nine of the next 10. The only interruption was an error with one out in the fourth. In the fifth, he hit Linam with two away and another error put a pair aboard for Northside. But he struck out Rauch to end the inning.

The only other baserunner Northside mustered was Scrivner who singled with two down in the top of the seventh.

“We like him in that spot,” Queck said of the side-winding Greiner. “He’s a competitor on the mound. He fills it (the strike zone) up, changes speeds, and lets his movement work. He’s very difficult to hit. I’m proud of him.”

On the first pitch of the home second, Wright unloaded, drilling one just inside the foul pole in left for his first homer of the season.

But Mills did a good job of keeping it to that despite the fact that several of the subsequent outs were loud ones.

“Offensively, I thought we squared the ball up all day,” Queck stated. “We had some ‘right-at-‘ems’, some flyballs that carried a little bit more in the wind. We fought and scratched and just didn’t hit the panic button.

“About the third inning, I heard them hyperventilating a little as they were running in,” he related. “I said, ‘Listen, men, they earned everything they got. We’ve got to get one at a time. Keep plugging away at it.’ And they bought into that and they executed.”

In the fourth, Ledbetter muscled a jam-shot for a looping single to center. Dillon sacrificed him to second then Wright, continuing to break out of an extended slump, drilled a single to center to pick up his second RBI.

Brandon Hoover made a bid for a hit with a lined shot that Hyatt, the Northside second baseman, snagged on the way to the bag where he was able to double off courtesy runner K.J. Merriweather.

After Greiner escaped the top of the fifth, Buck opened the bottom half with a shot into the gap in left-center for a rally-igniting double. Logan Chambers got down a perfect bunt right up the third-base line and beat it out for a hit as Buck took third. Greiner, on a safety squeeze, rolled a bunt up the first-base line that Mills got to but fumbled. Buck scored to make it 4-3 and the Hornets had runners at first and second and no one out.

When Mills walked Scott Schmidt on four pitches to load the bases, Northside made another pitching change, going to Scrivner. He was greeted by Matthew Sandidge’s sacrifice fly to deep center, which also allowed Greiner to move to third as Ryan Riggs, running for Schmidt, held at first.

Ledbetter doubled him in then, with the infield in, Dillon parachuted a blooper into no-man’s land behind first base. Riggs scored and, hustling from second, so did Ledbetter to make it 7-4.

“We executed our offense,” Queck said. “Guys just did their job and drove in some runs.

“We drove the ball and we played small ball,” he observed. “That’s what we have to do. When we get in a second-and-third situation and they have to play the infield in, now cheap hits start landing where, if they’re back, they’re going to catch that ball and it’s an out. That’s part of the game. It’s taking advantage and forcing the issue. We’ve got to do a better job at that and they’ve got to understand it. They’re starting to see it.”

With the help of two fine defensive plays by Schmidt at second, Greiner worked a 1-2-3 top of the sixth. Scrivner pitched around a two-out single to Greiner in the bottom of the inning.

In the seventh, Rincon struck out and Hyatt bounced to Dillon at first before Scrivner’s single. The game came to an end when Linam popped out to Ledbetter at short.

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