Hornets’ field work pays off with 11-1 win over Bulldogs

With five games washed out — one at home against Watson Chapel and at least four in a tournament in Waco, Texas — the Bryant Hornets had gone 10 days without playing a game. It was like they started the season but it was just a tease.

When word came that the Texas trip was off, Hornets head coach Kirk Bock started working on getting somebody to play somewhere. Initially, there was a chance the Sox would go to northwest Arkansas. There was even a thought of finding a foe in Oklahoma to play. Finally, Skip Carr, the head coach at White Hall, agreed to set up a game on Monday. It would be played on which ever field — Bryant’s or White Hall’s — that had dried out more. But Sunday night’s storm put a dent in those plans.

Bock set to work to try to get the University of Central Arkansas, with its artificial surface, to allow the teams to play there.

That didn’t work so the coach decided the Hornets would do what they could to get their field ready, moving the game back to 6:30 p.m., to give them more time. Though it was still pretty soggy in the outfield, they got it done and played the game. And it turned out to be well worth the effort as they posted their third run-rule win of the four games they’ve played, 11-1.

“I’ve been involved in those where you work as hard as you could and it backfires on you,” Bock stated. “But these kids were excited about playing. They haven’t played in a month of Sundays. I don’t think it would’ve mattered what the conditions were, they would’ve been extremely upset if we couldn’t get this thing in for some reason. And they did a good job of working on the field. They’re the ones that got it ready.”

Bryant got hitting up and down the lineup, a lot of it from the lower third in the batting order. Seth Tucker went 3 for 3 in the seventh hold, Cameron Coleman added a hit as the eighth batter, and Aaron Orender had two hits in the nine spot. As a trio, they went 6 for 10 with six runs batted in, two apiece. Orender ended the game with a two-run triple, making it a 10-run lead.

“When the lower end starts producing and they can get on base for the upper end, that’s good,” Bock acknowledged.

Garrett Misenheimer and Joey Cates each had two hits as well for the Bryant.

On the mound, aces Zach Jackson and Evan Lee knocked off the rust with two scoreless innings apiece then senior Alex Shurtleff got a chance to pitch in a varsity game for the first time this season after suffering a finger injury in pre-season work. Though he surrendered five hits and the lone White Hall run, he walked just one and struck out three.

“First time out for Shurt and he’s going to get better,” Bock asserted. “He’s just got to get more time, just like all of them do. I thought we were around the zone. Evan and Zach did a really good job. And Shurt was around the zone, which was good. He’ll get stronger.”

White Hall, in much the same predicament as Bryant as far as the storm-induced extended layoff, got four pitchers in the game but the Hornets made starter Layne Hartsfield use 40 pitches to get out of the first. It took John Chavis 36 pitches to get through the second.

The Hornets built a 7-0 lead going into the third then added two runs in the fourth off Cade Canada before winning it in the sixth against Caleb Carr.

Jackson worked the first two innings and pitched around an error, fanning two and stranding a runner at third.

In the home half, Logan Allen walked and took second on an errant pickoff throw. With two down and two strikes, Misenheimer drilled an RBI double to right center. Cates followed with a hot shot to third that was misplayed.

With Misenheimer on third, Cates took off early from first and induced a pickoff throw. Misenheimer headed for home and when Cates beat the relay to second, the Hornets had a 2-0 lead and another runner in scoring position.

Jake East drew a walk then Tucker, on a 2-2 pitch, yanked an RBI single into left. A pitch later, Coleman bounced one up the middle to chase in East to cap the inning.

In the second, White Hall’s Blake Bradshaw slapped a single to left but Jackson induced a groundball to Tucker at second. With the relay from East, the shortstop, in time at first, the Hornets had a doubleplay. Jackson struck out Dylan Cantwell to end the inning.

Allen opened the home second with a walk and a stolen base. He sprinted home when the throw to second hit him or the base or both and rolled into shallow left.

On the next pitch, Dylan Hurt lined a single to right. A walk to Lee was followed by a sacrifice bunt from Misenheimer, the Hornets’ clean-up hitter.

Cates was next and hit a hot grounder to the left of second base. Though shortstop Bailey Smith got to the ball, he did a 360 turn before throwing to first. It was an ill-advised throw that sailed beyond the reach of Canada at first. Jordan Gentry, running for Hurt, scored easily then so did Lee, making it 7-0.

Lee took over on the mound in the top of the third and struck out the first two he faced. Lead-off batter Chase Bryan popped to Tucker at second to make it a quick frame.

Orender greeted Canada to the mound with a single but was stranded. In the top of the fourth, Lee fanned two more to pitch around a one-out walk. His stint on the mound ended with a comebacker.

Misenheimer’s second hit started the bottom of the fourth. Cates got a bunt down and beat it out for his second hit. East bunted as well but a strong throw by Hartsfield, who had moved to catcher, got a force at second.

Bock called for the safety squeeze from Tucker but he fouled off a couple and faced a 3-2 count. But he made up for it by lining a single to center, bringing home Misenheimer. And East scored when Coleman grounded out to second.

Tucker was balked to third, giving the Hornets a chance at closing the game out 10-0 but he was stranded.

Shurtleff went to the mound in the top of the fifth and was greeted with singles by Smith and Cantwell. A wild pitch moved runners to second and third. The right-hander struck out Canada then got Gavin Bailey to tap back to the mound. When Smith made a break for the plate, Shurtleff started the rundown, getting the ball to Hurt, his catcher. He ran Smith back towards third which, by then, was occupied by Cantwell.

So, with two down and runners at the corners, Shurtleff faced Bryan at the top of the order. But, with an 0-1 count, the Bryant hurler faked a pickoff to third, spun and fired to first where Bailey had wandered too far and couldn’t get back.

So the shutout remained intact as the Hornets batted in the bottom of the inning. Carr issued walks to Hurt, Misenheimer and Cates but got out of the jam, avoiding once again the run-rule, which would’ve ended the game.

That gave the Bulldogs a chance to get their run. Bryan led off the sixth with a double. He scored on Carr’s single to right, which drew an errant throw back to the infield.

With courtesy runner Jordan Gober at second, Brewer Owen singled. Gober went to third and, moments later, Owen stole second. But White Hall wouldn’t be able to score again. Shurtleff struck out Hartsfield then Gober held at third on Bradshaw’s grounder to first. A walk to Smith filled the bases but Shurtleff fanned Cantwell to end the inning.

Tucker then opened the bottom of the sixth with his third single. Coleman walked then they worked a double steal to get both in scoring position for Orender who burned the centerfielder with his shot to drive in the two game-ending runs.

The Hornets are set to open 7A/6A-Central Conference play this Friday at Siloam Springs. Since it’s a 6A member of the conference and such a long trip, the teams will play a doubleheader to account for both league contests. On Saturday, the Bryant team heads to Tampa, Fla., for some spring break baseball.

HORNETS-11

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