May 7 in Bryant athletic history: 2010

Bryant head coach Kirk Bock talks with his infield and battery early in Thursday's game at Cabot. (Photo by Phil Pickett)

Hornets edge Panthers in wild 14-inning marathon to clinch State bid

EDITOR’S NOTE: In this time of COVID-19, with no sports action, will be posting past stories of Bryant athletics either posted on (from 2009 to the present) or published in the Bryant Times (from 1998 to 2008).

By Rob Patrick

CABOT — Matt Neal waited a long time for his chance. In fact, it didn’t come until the third-to-last game of his senior year.

Chances are, he’ll never forget it.

He’s not the only one.

With three scoreless innings of relief, Neal picked up his first varsity victory in his first significant varsity stint on the mound — he’d faced one batter during his junior year — to conclude a wild 9-8 win in 14 innings for the Bryant Hornets over the Cabot Panthers on Thursday night.[more]

Matt Neal (Photo by Rick Nation)

The victory, Bryant’s fifth in a row, along with Little Rock Catholic’s 5-4 win over Russellville, clinched a trip to the Class 7A State Tournament for the Hornets, who just two weeks before were mired in last place trying to bust out of a six-game losing streak. Bryant improved to 21-8 overall and 7-6 in the 7A-Central Conference with, believe it or not, a chance to share in the league title with a win in their home finale on Monday, May 10, against North Little Rock.

The Charging Wildcats, after all the smoke cleared on Thursday, found themselves alone atop the standings in the wacky Central. Bryant, Catholic, Conway and Van Buren — all State bound — are tied for second a game behind. The final State bid from the league will come from results on Monday with Little Rock Central going in with a one-game edge on Cabot and Russellville.

The State tournament begins Friday, May 14, at Burns Park in North Little Rock.

It’s been an even season in the 7A-Central and Thursday’s marathon at Cabot’s Conrade Field certainly seemed appropriate in that regard.

The game had more twists and turns than the big yellow rollercoaster at Magic Springs. Bryant won despite the fact that Cabot had 15 hits, was issued 16 walks, had a hit batter with three Bryant errors. That’s because a quintet of Hornets pitchers forced them to strand a whopping 24 baserunners, making it an extremely disheartening loss for the Panthers, whose chances for State took a major hit.

They didn’t have a single 1-2-3 inning.

With 16 hits, five walks, three hit batsmen and two Cabot errors, the Hornets stranded 15 themselves.

Neal allowed three hits, walked one and struck out three after coming in with the score tied 8-8 in the 12th. The biggest play may have been in the 13th when, with the bases loaded and two down, he picked a runner off first to get out of the jam.

Head coach Kirk Bock turned to Neal after ace Ben Wells, the Hornets’ fourth pitcher, was touched for two-out, two-strike RBI single by Justin Goff in the bottom of the 11th that erased Bryant’s 8-7 lead.

“Unbelievable,” stated Coach Bock. “I told him (in the 11th) that Wells wasn’t going to throw another (inning). ‘If they tie it up then you’ve got to go.’ He got in the dadgum ‘pen and he just stepped it up. I don’t think I could’ve pried him off that mound. We had other options but Matt Neal deserved that. He’s been working for four years for that right there. I’ll never forget that young man.

“This is the most exciting game I think I’ve ever been involved in in 21 years,” he continued. “Just back and forth, just slugging it out and, I hate to say it, but probably the most unlikely person — a guy that’s never pitched a varsity inning — got it done. He did a tremendous job.”

“I was kind of scared,” Neal admitted. “I was just thinking I’ve got to go out there and just throw strikes. I just threw what the coach told me to throw.”

Neal followed Blake Davidson, Jordan Taylor, Dylan Cross and Wells to the mound. Cross, a sophomore, worked a gritty 4 2/3 innings, pitching in and out of trouble every step of the way. He allowed just two hits and struck out six but issued nine walks, the last of which came with two out in the bottom of the 11th after the Hornets had taken the 8-7 lead. Wells took over and, after a passed ball allowed the runner to get into scoring position, worked the count to 3-2 on Goff. The Panthers’ pinch-hitter fouled off a tough pitch before slapping his game-tying single to right.

In the end, Garrett Bock’s swollen pinky finger provided the difference.

Cabot ace Matt Evans was within a strike of sending the game to the bottom of the 14th tied 8-8. But, on a 3-2 delivery with two down, he hit Tyler Brown with a pitch. He then got two strikes on Caleb Garrett before the Bryant junior outfielder slapped a single to right.

That brought up Hunter Mayall, who had four hits in the game to that point and, despite the fact that the open base was third, the Panthers sent Mayall to first with an intentional walk for the second time in the game.

The count ran to 3-2 on Bock. A fastball came in high and tight and hit Bock on that pinky forcing in Hayden Daniel, who was running for Brown at third, snapping the tie.

Cabot argued that the ball had hit the knob of the bat and should’ve been a foul ball but an appeal to the field umpire brought them no satisfaction and the play stood.

Evans got Jordan Taylor to fly out to left to end the inning.

In the bottom of the 14th, Cole Nicholson, whose pitching in relief of starter Andrew Reynolds had played a big role in Cabot’s getting it that far, led off with his third hit, a single to center. But Neal got Joe Bryant to bounce to Lucas Castleberry at third for a force at second. He then induced a fly to center by Evans, the Cabot lead-off man. And when Reynolds grounded to Taylor at short for a force, the Hornets had the victory.

“You know, right before that 14th inning, I got them in here and I was talking about all the times we’re in that weightroom and we’re doing those one-legged squats and they’re trying to break down and quit and I was smoking them,” Coach Bock related. “I’d say, ‘It’s going to come back and it’s going to help you.’ Well, it did tonight. Because all that stuff is a mindset and all this was was a mindset. It was just whoever broke. We happened not to break. We wobbled a couple of times but we didn’t break.

“It’s certainly one of the biggest wins that I’ve ever had,” he added. “Just unbelievable. I can’t say enough about those kids. I think we used everybody but four kids.”

Bryant had taken a 1-0 lead in the third inning off Reynolds when Mayall singled, Bock sacrificed him to second, Taylor sent him to third with a single and Chris Joiner delivered a sacrifice fly.

Davidson surrendered a double to Evans in the bottom of the inning. He stole third and scored on a single by Reynolds. Powell Bryant followed with a double but, with the infield in, Taylor made a diving stab at short, held the runner at third and threw the batter out.

An intentional walk to Ty Steele loaded the bases to set up a force at every base. Davidson, however, had a pinch runner at first picked off. The runner started for second but it was occupied. So, with an eye on the runner at third, the Hornets just needed to run the player to second where he would be out because two runners can’t occupy a base together. But an ill-advised throw sailed into left field and two runs scored, giving the Panthers a 3-1 lead.

Davidson kept it at that by retiring the next two batters and stranding a runner at third.

The Hornets answered with one of their biggest outbursts in a while. A walk to B.J. Ellis started the top of the fourth. Brown sacrificed Daniel, in as the courtesy runner, to second. Garrett singled sharply up the middle with Daniel reaching third then Mayall was issued an intentional pass to load the bases as Nicholson relieved Reynolds.

Bock came through with a two-strike bouncer up the middle for a two-run single that tied the game. Taylor followed with a base hit that put the Hornets ahead. And when the ball was misplayed in the outfield, runners advanced to second and third.

Joiner’s bloop single drove in a run and, after he stole second, Brady Butler came through with a ground-rule double after being down in the count 0-2 and working it back to 3-2.

Davidson pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth but when he issued a lead-off walk in the fifth, Taylor came on. Another walk, a force out and a sacrifice fly by Nicholson cut the lead to 7-4.

Meanwhile, Nicholson found his stride and, after giving up a two-out double to Mayall in the top of the fifth, retired 14 in a row before Ellis singled with out out in the 10th. A wild pitch and a groundout to short got Daniel to third then Garrett drove a ball to deep left only to have it hauled down to end the inning.

Evans relieved in the 11th.

Cabot had tied it in the sixth. Evans singled and, with one out, a hard grounder towards second that looked like it might be result in an inning-ending doubleplay, took a bad hop past Ozzie Hurt then split the outfielders in right-center for an RBI triple for Powell Bryant. Tyler Erickson doubled him home then scored on a two-out bloop double down the left-field line by Justin Tyler that tied it.

A sparkling play by Brown on a bad-hop at third off Brandon Surdam’s bat ended the inning.

Cross took over in the seventh and escaped after walking the bases loaded with out out. He fanned Bryant and got Erickson to line to Garrett in right.

In the eighth, two more walks and a passed ball had runners at the corners with one out but Cross induced a fly to right by Nicholson and a grounder to second by Joe Bryant to escape again.

He retired the first two in the ninth before issuing a walk on a 3-2 pitch to Powell Bryant. Erickson singled and Steele walked to juice the bags again. But Cross struck out Tyler on three pitches to strand all three.

Cabot threatened in the 10th too. Nicholson singled with one out and, after taking second on a wild pitch, moved to third on Joe Bryant’s long fly to Bock in center. Evans walked but Cross got Reynolds to sky to Brennan Bullock in left.

The top of the 11th began with Mayall greeting Evans with a single. He was forced at second when Bock’s bunt went right back to the pitcher. Taylor lined out to third then Joiner rolled one down the line. Steele raced in and made a nice play but his hurried, off-balance throw was in the dirt and skipped past Erickson and into the right-field corner. Bock scored from first and Joiner wound up at third.

Evans then hit Bullock and walked Butler to load the bases but minimized the damage by retiring Ellis on a grounder to second.

After Cabot tied it back up in the bottom of the inning, Evans eased through a 1-2-3 12th. Neal pitched around a lead-off single by Nicholson in the bottom of the 12th, striking out two.

A two-out double by Joiner in the 13th led to the dramatic home half. Neal had retired the first two then issued a walk to Steele who had fouled off a pair of tough 3-2 deliveries. The Bryant right-hander got two strikes on Goff but a bouncer through the right side kept the inning going. And when Surdam reached on an error, the bases were loaded.

The count went to 2-2 on Nicholson when Neal faked to third and whirled on first catching Surdam late getting back as Butler snuck in behind him to take the throw.

Calls for a balk by the Cabot coaches and fans went unheeded.

“I wasn’t expecting it,” Neal said of the call from the dugout for the pickoff play. “I just did what I was told and we got him out.”

There may be more heroics from Neal and his teammates to come but for the senior hurler, down the line, say 8 or 10 years, when he happens to hear Bruce Springsteen bellowing the chorus to “Glory Days”, May 6, 2010, will no doubt come to mind.


Hornets Panthers


Mayall, dh 6 2 4 0 Evans, ss-p 7 2 2 0

Wilson, pr 0 0 0 0 Reynolds, p-c 7 0 1 1

Bock, cf 6 2 1 3 Jacoby, cr 0 1 0 0

Taylor, ss-p 8 0 2 1 Uhiren, cr 0 0 0 0

Jobe, pr 0 1 0 0 P.Bryant, lf 5 2 2 1

Joiner, 2b 6 1 3 2 Erickson, 1b 8 1 2 1

Hurt, 2b 0 0 0 0 Steele, 3b 2 2 0 0

Bullock, lf 6 0 1 0 Graham, pr 0 0 0 0

Butler, 1b 5 0 1 2 Tyler, dh 5 0 1 1

Ellis, c 6 0 2 0 Goff, dh 2 0 2 1

Daniel, cr 0 1 0 0 Surdam rf 7 0 1 0

Brown, 3b 4 0 0 0 Carter, c 1 0 1 0

Daniel, pr 0 1 0 0 Uhiren, cr 0 0 0 0

Pickett, ph 1 0 0 0 Nicholson, p-ss 4 0 3 1

Castleberry, 3b 0 0 0 0 Jacoby, cr 0 0 0 0

Garrett, rf 7 1 2 0 J.Bryant, cf 8 0 0 0

Davidson, p 0 0 0 0 Thompson, 2b 0 0 0 0

Nelson, ss 0 0 0 0

Cross, p 0 0 0 0

Wells, p 0 0 0 0

Neal, p 0 0 0 0

Totals 55 9 16 8 Totals 56 8 15 6

BRYANT 001 600 000 010 01 — 9

Cabot 003 013 000 010 00 — 8

E—Butler, J.Bryant, Ellis, Steele, Brown. LOB—Bryant 15, Cabot 24. 2B—Evans, P.Bryant, Butler, Mayall, Erickson, Tyler, Joiner. 3B—P.Bryant. S—Bock, Brown. SF—Joiner, Nicholson. SB—Uhiren, Joiner.

Pitching ip r er h bb so


Davidson 4 4 2 5 5 5

Taylor 2 3 3 4 1 2

Cross 4.2 1 0 2 9 6

Wells 0.1 0 0 1 0 0

Neal (W) 3 0 0 3 1 3


Reynolds 3.1 3 3 6 2 3

Nicholson 5.2 4 4 5 1 8

Evans (L) 5 2 1 4 2 3

Davidson faced one batter in the fifth.

HBP—Nicholson (by Davidson), Bullock, Brown, Bock (by Evans). WP—Davidson 2, Taylor, Nicholson, Cross 2, Evans, Neal. PB—Ellis 2.


  1. Cindy Alpe

    Great game last night HORNETS!!!!!!!!!! That was the most exciting and stressful game I have ever watched!!!!!! You all did GREAT!!!!!!

  2. Sam Chaloner

    The few innings I got to watch after the softball game were some very intense innings. Great job guys.

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