Photos courtesy of Crissy McEntire
The closest team to the Bryant Hornets in the 6A-Central Conference standings isn’t quite as close after Tuesday night when the Hornets run-ruled the Little Rock Catholic Rockets 12-2 in six innings at Bryant High School Field.
The Hornets, ranked No. 1 in the state, improved to 23-2 overall and 9-0 in league play. The Rockets, who came in two games behind Bryant, dropped to three out with the loss. They’re 10-8 overall, still alone in second place.
“The importance,” said Hornets coach Travis Queck, “one, it’s the next game and, two, it helps us in the standings to set ourselves up. But it doesn’t matter, if we lose our next five. So, we’ve got to do our job right here and take care of Thursday’s B games and then Friday’s varsity and JV with Central.
The Bryant varsity will play at Central on Friday at 5 p.m.
Right-hander Will McEntire went the distance on the mound for the Hornets, scattering six hits and fanning seven.
Logan Chambers went 3 for 3 at the plate and drove in three including the 12thrun that made it a walk-off run-rule win. Cade Drennan, Coby Greiner and Jake Wright added two hits each.
The Hornets threatened in the first when Catholic lefty Henry Coppens walked the bases loaded but also struck out the side, including the last two in the inning. In the second, he eased through a 1-2-3 frame.
“That’s tough,” Queck said. “Seeing guys that throw off-speed pitches for strikes and then they don’t locate half an inning and then come back and locate. So, you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. The guys battled up.
“We were trying to figure out the game,” he added. “They hung in there and got the job done. They nipped at it then exploded in the third inning then two more big innings. The guys did a good job.”
McEntire pitched around a one-out single to Evan Stewart in the first and a lead-off knock by Ethan Fowler in the second. Jack Foster hit a sinking liner that was caught on the fly by second baseman Noah Davis. Folwer, off on contact, was doubled off first.
In the third, Catholic shortstop Miles Montgomery led off with a solo homer. McEntire then retired eight in a row before an error interrupted in the fifth.
Bryant answered Montgomery’s jolt with a four-run uprising in the bottom of the inning, that was helped along by the Rockets.
Chambers opened the frame with a triple to right-center. Davis drew a walk then Austin Ledbetter got a squeeze bunt down. Coppens tried to field it and throw home, but it was not only late, it was wild. Chambers scored, Davis wound up at third and Ledbetter pulled into second.
Both scored when Drennan singled to left, making it 3-1. Jake Wright worked a walk and Coppens gave way to Pierce Althoff, a right-hander. An errant pickoff throw to second by the Rockets’ catcher Jackson Baker, allowed courtesy runner Lawson Speer and Wright to move up a base. So, when Gage Stark launched a flyball to center, Speer tagged up and scored to make it 4-1.
McEntire was helped out in the fourth by a tough catch down the right-field line by Logan Grant on a pop of Robert Bavon’s bat. In turn, the Hornets were shackled by Althoff, who worked around a one-out walk to Chambers.
The string of consecutive outs by McEntire ended with two out in the top of the fifth. Montgomery reached on an error then took second when a pick-off throw got past Peyton Dillon at first.
But McEntire got pinch-hitter William Plafcan to groundout to Chambers at short to keept it 4-1.
Throughout the early portions of the game, the Rockets were trying to slow McEntire down, mess up his rhythm by stepping out or asking for time. A couple of times, timeout was not granted which led to an extended discussion between the Rockets’ manager Dustin Strube and the Homeplate umpire during Montgomery’s at-bat.
The extended conversation, which left McEntire standing and waiting on the mound, wound up firing up the Hornets as much as the Rockets. In the bottom of the fifth, Wright singled to left and went to second when the throw into the infield got away.
Pinch-hitter Ryan Riggs singled to right to bring up Stark. A passed ball allowed Wright to score and Riggs raced all the way to third. Stark’s single to left got him home to make it 6-1.
Stark stole second before Dillon drew a walk and the Rockets changes pitchers again. J-Matt Rogers took over and was greeted by Coby Greiner, who drilled a double into the gap in left-center. Stark scored and, moments later, Chambers drove home two with a single to right, making it 9-1.
In the top of the sixth, McEntire surrendered a lead-off single to Jordan McCuin then another by Evan Stewart. He struck out Bavon but on a two-two pitch, Luke Hindman drilled an RBI double to center.
Queck visited the mound.
“I was just making sure he was okay,” the coach related. “He’d had a long half-inning before that, probably had a little bit to do with him being a little fatigued. I was just checking on him. I wasn’t too worried about the situation in the game. We had a guy ready if we needed to, but I wanted him to know I didn’t want that runner at second to score, to make sure we maintained our five runs. He did a good job battling up.”
In fact, McEntire struck out the last two batters to force the Rockets to strand three.
In the home sixth, Drennan led off with a single. Wright followed with a drive to the base of the fence in deep left-center that allowed Speer, in running for Drennan, to score all the way from first.
Grant was robbed of a hit on a nice bare-handed pickup by Montgomery at short. It got Wright to third and he scored from there on Stark’s second sacrifice fly.
With two away, Dillon singled to left and Greiner singled to center to set the stage for Chambers’ game-ending RBI single to right.