File photo by Kevin Nagle
NORTH LITTLE ROCK — For the fourth game in a row, the Bryant Hornets fell behind. But, for the third game in a row, they won.
At Saturday’s non-conference set-to with the Central Arkansas Christian Mustangs at Burns Park, the Hornets put together a four-run second, highlighted by Logan Chambers’ two-run triple and never looked back on the way to a 7-2 victory.
Senior right-hander Myers Buck, just two days after signing to play at Ouachita Baptist University next year, overcame the rocky start, and didn’t allow another run through five innings. Will McEntire, a victim of one of those rugged starts on Thursday against Fort Smith Northside, came back to fire two scoreless in relief.
Over five frames, Buck allowed four hits, walked three and struck out six. Only one of the two CAC runs was earned. He also helped his case at the plate where he drove in a run with a sacrifice fly and doubled and scored in the two-run sixth that helped secure the victory.
Chambers also doubled and drove in another run late with a bad-hop single that wound up being misplayed. Coby Greiner went 2 for 2 with a sacrifice bunt and a sacrifice fly, knocking in a pair. And Jake Wright continued his hot hitting. After breaking out of an extended slump earlier in the week, he had two more hits on Saturday. He’s 5 for 10 over the last three games, all Hornets’ wins.
The victory improved Bryant to 16-5-1 this season with another non-conference encounter on Monday at home against Star City before three consecutive road 7A-Central Conference games, starting with Little Rock Catholic on Tuesday at Lamar Porter Field.
The Mustangs, now 11-8, this season, came out fired up to take on the Class 7A powerhouse Hornets. And when Bryant was unable to score in the top of the first despite Chambers’ lead-off double, they came to the plate full of fire.
Hugh Miller led off with a double and Jacob Hale pushed a bunt towards third for a hit. Miller scored on Jake Paddie’s grounder to short. Eli Garrison drew a walk but, it looked like Buck was out of the inning when he got Rhett James to ground to Scott Schmidt at second. He got the force at second with a toss to Greiner the shortstop. But, when Greiner’s throw was errant, Hale scored from second.
Buck came back to strike out Blake Fairchild to end the inning.
Down 2-0, the Hornets countered in the top of the second. To open the frame, Bryant’s Austin Ledbetter ripped a liner back at CAC’s starting pitcher John Dalton. It struck him in the leg and ricocheted to James at third with enough mustard that he was able to throw Ledbetter out at first.
But Dalton could not continue. Callum Hathcock relieved and got Wright to hit a grounder to first. But Hathcock was late covering and Garrison, the first baseman, had to try to beat Wright to the bag. With a head-long lunge, he made it close, but Wright was ruled safe as the home crowd protested vehemently. Asked to check with the homeplate umpire, the field umpire did indeed, and the call stood. It had appeared that, with his dive, Garrison was slowed down by the dirt allowing Wright to cross the bag before he got to it.
A pitch later, Hathcock plunked Brandon Hoover. A four-pitch walk to Logan Catton loaded the bases.
Though he had been given all the time he needed to warm up because of the injury, the Mustangs’ right-hander appeared to have not quite gotten fully loose.
Buck was the next batter and delivered a sacrifice fly to deep center to make it 2-1. That’s when Chambers mashed a drive off the fence in left-center for his two-run triple to put the Hornets ahead.
Greiner laced an RBI single to left and it was a 4-2 Hornet lead.
In the bottom of the inning, Buck issued a one-out walk to Levi Smith, but the Hornets turned a doubleplay to end the inning.
And the emotion that the Mustangs opened the game with began to slip.
In the third, Buck walked Miller. With one out, he advanced to second when Schmidt robbed Paddie of a hit, throwing him out at first.
The Hornets then worked the relay to perfection when Garrison lined a single to left. Ledbetter charged and fired to Hoover, the cut-off man to the left of the mound. Miller, rounding third expecting to score, stopped. Hoover threw to Catton at third and the Hornets got him in a rundown with Wright, the catcher, eventually tagging him out to end the inning.
Buck then retired six of the last seven he faced, fanning four. Miller’s two-out single in the bottom of the fifth was the lone base-runner.
Meanwhile, Hathcock had settled down and the game went to the top of the fifth, 4-2. Greiner singled up the middle then advanced to second on a balk. Schmidt sacrificed Greiner to third and Matthew Sandidge delivered a sacrifice fly to deep left. It was 5-2.
In the top of the sixth, Hoover reached when his grounder to short was booted. With one out, Buck plugged the gap in right-center for a double. Chambers followed with a sharp grounder to second that came up on Miller at the last second. He trapped it against his body but then it got away, a bad-hop single.
Hoover, who was off on contact, scored and, moments later, Greiner drilled a long drive to center for a sacrifice fly as Buck tagged and scored to make it 7-2.
McEntire pitched around a two-out walk in the home sixth. In the seventh, Troy Flowers singled up the middle and Zane Rainwater came in as a courtesy runner. With Smith at the plate, Wright threw behind Rainwater at first. Realizing he was caught, Rainwater headed to second. Hoover turned to make a tag and kept turning to make a throw that was on the money to Greiner who applied the tag in time for the first out.
Smith wound up slapping a bloop double to right just inside the line. But McEntire got Petre to groundout to short before ending the game with a devastating curveball that Miller waved at for a strikeout.