For their 20th win in 22 games this season, the Bryant Hornets put together one of their most complete performances on Monday night. They hammered out 14 hits and played errorless defense behind a combined two-hit shutout pitched by Zach Jackson and Beaux Bonvillain on the way to a 10-0 win in six innings over the rival Benton Panthers.
Seth Tucker had three hits and drove in two runs while five other Hornets contributed two hits each with Evan Lee and Garrett Misenheimer each driving in three runs.
Jackson, who has not given up an earned run now in 34 innings this season, threw three no-hit frames allowing just one base-runner. He fanned five. Bonvillain, in his first varsity appearance since March 31, allowed just two hits over the final three frames, striking out three without a walk.
“Every phase of the game kind of came in for us,” acknowledged Bryant coach Kirk Bock. “The kids did a great job. Before the game went down I could’ve said, ‘If I have to motivate you in this one, you don’t have a pulse.’ I didn’t say anything.”
Jackson struck out the side in the top of the first then the Hornets’ Logan Allen opened the bottom of the inning with a ringing double to left-center that was nearly tracked down with a diving attempt by Benton’s Drew Dyer.
With one out, Lee was hit by a pitch from Benton starter Chase Nix. Allen and Lee then worked a double steal to get both in scoring position for Misenheimer who chopped one towards short. The Panthers’ Drew Chilton charged in to try to get the big hop but couldn’t quite get there. The ball hit under his glove and bounced on out to left. Two runs scored.
Jordan Gentry followed with a single but the Panthers turned a doubleplay to keep it 2-0.
The Hornets didn’t score in the second but added on in every other subsequent at bat as Benton used Jake Croushore, Jack Jumper and Ross Carver on the mound.
“We hit the ball up and down the lineup and we hit some balls hard,” Bock noted. “Early in the game, we had a couple of nubbers, and they helped us. Once they helped us in the first inning and we scored a couple, I think it kind of took the wind out of them a little bit.
“Then Zach did his deal and, when Beaux came in, he did a tremendous job,” he continued. “He was just pitching backwards and that makes his fastball that much better.”
After Jackson worked a 1-2-3 third, the Hornets made it 3-0. Lee drilled a one-out double to right and scored on a single by Misenheimer.
Benton’s first hit was a double to the base of the centerfield wall 398 feet away by Colten Nix with one out in the fourth. He stole third but was stranded when Bonvillain struck out Brinson Williams and Dyer.
Tucker beat out an infield hit into the hole at short to open Bryant’s fourth, He swiped second and took third when Allen reached on an error. Dylan Hurt then got a squeeze bunt down and when Croushore’s toss to Williams at the plate was too late to catch Tucker, it was 4-0.
Allen went to third when Lee bounced into a force at second but Misenheimer picked up the RBI with an infield hit.
Carver singled to open Benton’s fifth but Jumper hit a grounder up the middle that Bryant shortstop Jake East fielded near the second-base bag. He stepped on for the force then fired to first for a doubleplay.
Tucker then made a sparkling play on a grounder off Kyler Nitchske’s bat to end the inning.
East stroked a double to right to open Bryant’s fifth. Aaron Orender’s perfectly placed bunt went for a single then a wild pitch by Jumper allowed East to score making it 6-0.
Tucker singled to right then Joey Cates worked for a walk. Carver came on to relieve and retired the first two he faced before getting down in the count to Lee who scorched a 2-0 delivery over the head of Colten Nix in center for a three-run triple.
Misenheimer had a chance to end the game there but for the only time all game was unable to get the hit as Carver struck him out.
But, after Bonvillain eased through a 1-2-3 top of the sixth, Gentry and Orender singled and Tucker cracked a game-ending double to right.
“We’ve been working the offensive approach hard,” said Bock. “The kids understand it. They buy into it. They can feel it. Now they’re starting to put it together. Again, we’ve got a bunch of kids that don’t have a lot of experience here and they’re getting on-the-job training.”
Bryant’s next game is an even bigger one as they travel to Lamar Porter Field to take on the Catholic Rockets in Little Rock in a 7A/6A-Central Conference battle with State Tournament and conference championship ramifications.
Benton, now 14-5-1, is set to play a 6A-South Conference game against Little Rock Hall on Tuesday before a crucial showdown against Sheridan on Friday in a rematch of the 2015 Class 6A State championship game.