By Rob Patrick
Photos by Rick Nation
Scoring opportunities may be few and far between when the teams in the 7A/6A-Central[more] Conference get together this season. It’s an even league again in 2012. So when the Bryant Hornets got handed a scoring chance thanks to a walk and an error in the bottom of the second inning against the Catholic High Rockets of Little Rock Tuesday night, the fact that they came up with three clutch hits turned out to be a difference maker.
Ozzie Hurt, Tyler Nelson and Hayden Lessenberry came up with those big hits to produce a four-run uprising and, with Nelson and Jordan Taylor limiting the Rockets to just four hits in the game, the Hornets extracted a 4-1 win at Bryant High School Field on Tuesday.
It was the fourth win in a row for the Hornets following up a 3-1 trip to Florida over spring break. And with help from Van Buren and North Little Rock, it put Bryant in a six-way tie for the top spot in the conference. The Hornets are 12-2 overall and 2-1 in the league. Along with Van Buren and North Little Rock, Little Rock Central, Conway and Russellville are 2-1.
Catholic, expected to be a contender this season — and could still well be — because of a bevy of strong-armed pitchers, dropped to 0-3 in the league, tied with Cabot behind the other six teams.
The Hornets travel to Van Buren on Friday while the Rockets host Cabot.
“In our league, everybody’s exactly the same,” stated Hornets head coach Kirk Bock. “Whoever wins our league is going to be the team that plays the hardest. Everybody has athletes about the same.”
The Rockets had chances in the first two innings. In the opening frame, Logan Wewers and Matt Morris singled with two down but Nelson struck out Josh Cissell to leave them stranded. In the second, a two-out walk to Mason McKay and a single by Drew Price came to naught when Nelson got Michael Haun to pop to Hurt at second.
Catholic starter Connor Gilmore worked around a hit batsman and his own errant pickoff throw in the bottom of the first. In the second, however, Dylan Cross blooped a single to left. Wesley Akers drew a walk but, after a visit from his coach, Gilmore got the first out. Chase Tucker, trying to sacrifice, couldn’t keep his bunt fair with two strikes. Then he got Hayden Daniel to bounce to third for a force.
But that’s when things started to unravel. After stepping on third for the force, Morris threw wildly to first allowing Akers to take third and Daniel to race to second. That brought up Hurt who nubbed a 2-2 delivery slowly towards third. Morris charged and made a nice play to get to the ball. His throw to first was again off the mark and both Akers and Daniel scored.
With the top of the order up in Nelson, Gilmore fell behind 2-0. On the next pitch, Nelson laced a double beyond the reach of left-fielder Allen Mays in the left-center gap. Hurt scored from first to make it 3-0.
Gilmore and Lessenberry battled to a 3-2 count then the Bryant catcher cracked a liner over McKay at second for a single that drove in courtesy runner Marcus Wilson.
Lefty Patrick Gurley relieved and got Taylor to ground into a force to end the inning.
“We had a great opportunity and we took advantage of that,” Bock acknowledged. “But we actually should’ve scored six runs. We had other opportunities to score after that and we didn’t. But we did what we had to do and that was to win. We got the win.
“I thought we did a good job,” he added. “But, after coming off Florida and doing so well there, we just came out a little flat. We battled. We wanted to win. We just didn’t have the zip that we’ve had.”
In the third, Josh Pultro greeted Gurley with a single, Cross sacrificed him to second and a wild pitch got him to third but Gurley fanned the next two batters to strand him.
In the fourth, Hurt beat out a bunt single with one down and Nelson walked but, again Gurley fanned two to keep the Hornets from adding to their lead.
The fifth opened with Pultro greeting hard-throwing right-hander Taylor Wallace with a single. He stole second and took third on Cross’ grounder but, again was left there.
Meanwhile, Nelson worked a 1-2-3 third then ran into some difficulty in the fourth, walking Cissell and Cole Boardman. Taylor came on in relief and Justin Weigle beat out a slow roller to short to load the bases.
The senior right-hander struck out the next two but then hit Haun to force in a run.
That was all the Rockets would get, however, as Mays bounced out to second to end the inning and Taylor held them hitless the rest of the game. The Rockets’ only base-runners were Boardman, who walked to lead off the sixth but was erased on a doubleplay, and Haun, who reached on a one-out error in the seventh.
BRYANT 4, LR CATHOLIC 1
Rockets ab r h bi Hornets ab r h bi
Haun, cf 3 0 0 1 Nelson, p-ss 3 0 1 1
Mays, lf 4 0 0 0 Wilson, cr 0 1 0 0
Wewers, c 4 0 1 0 Lessenberry, c 4 0 1 1
Getchell, cr 0 0 0 0 Ezell, cr 0 0 0 0
Morris, 3b 3 0 1 0 Taylor, ss-p 2 0 0 0
Cissell, 1b 2 1 0 0 Pultro, 1b 3 0 2 0
Boardman, dh 1 0 0 0 Cross, 3b 2 0 1 0
Weigle, ss 3 0 1 0 Akers, dh 2 1 0 0
McKay, 2b 0 0 0 0 Tucker, rf 3 0 0 0
Ramsey, ph 1 0 0 0 Daniel, cf 3 1 0 0
Pinter, ph-2b 1 0 0 0 Hurt, 2b 2 1 2 1
Price, rf 2 0 1 0 Green, lf 0 0 0 0
Getchell, ph 1 0 0 0
Gilmore, p 0 0 0 0
Gurley, p 0 0 0 0
Wallace, p 0 0 0 0
Total 25 1 4 1 Total 24 4 7 3
E—Gilmore, Morris 2, Pultro. DP—Bryant 1. LOB—LR Catholic 8, Bryant 7. 2B—Nelson. S—Cross. SB—Pultro.
LR Catholic 000 100 0 — 1
BRYANT 040 000 x — 4
Pitching ip r er h bb so
Gilmore (L) 1.2 4 4 4 1 2
Gurley 2.1 0 0 2 1 4
Wallace 2 0 0 1 1 2
Nelson 3 1 1 3 3 3
Taylor (W) 4 0 0 1 1 3
Nelson faced two batters in the fourth.
HBP—Taylor (by Gilmore). WP—Gurley.