Hornets’ pitching highlights sweep at Greenwood

GREENWOOD — In 13 innings over two games, the Greenwood Bulldogs managed to score in just one. In the first contest, Bryant Hornets’ senior lefty Evan Lee fired a two-hit shutout in a run-rule six-inning victory. In game two, Greenwood managed a pair of runs on senior right-hander Alex Shurtleff but stranded the bases loaded, the first three of nine the Bulldogs left on. Bryant rallied for a 7-2 win that included Lee’s third home run of the season, a three-run shot in the sixth to break open a 4-2 game.

Shurtleff turned in a bulldog performance over four innings to pick up the win. Zach “Panda” Jackson worked the last three innings for his first save of the season, getting seven of the nine outs he needed on strikes.

The Hornets improved to 13-1 on the season with their fifth win in a row since their lone loss, a 7-6 decision against Maple Grove, Minn., at the Tampa Spring Training Classic in Florida over Spring Break.

The games were the first two of the 7A/6A-Central Conference slate for the Hornets who travel for a showdown with rival Conway on Tuesday, their first league contest against a fellow 7A member.

Greenwood, now 6-6 and 0-4 in league play (all against 7A teams) takes on its first fellow 6A member of the conference on Tuesday at home against Siloam Springs.

“In the first game, we swung it a lot better,” noted Hornets coach Kirk Bock.

The Hornets had 10 hits in the 10-0 win including a double by Lee and a triple by Seth Tucker as they took advantage of five walks, a hit batsman and a pair of Greenwood errors. They also executed the short game with three sacrifices including one on a squeeze bunt.

“In the second game, we got some timely hits,” Bock said.

Of course, one of those was Lee’s blast. Jake East contributed an RBI triple as well as he and Logan Allen accounted for two of the team’s six hits.

But Greenwood committed two errors and the Bulldogs’ pitchers issued eight walk and hit two batters.

The key for Bock was getting the five-run difference in the second game, to help the Hornets if a tie-breaker is needed down the road.

“We had to carry 5 and when E. Lee hit that jack, it put us up 5,” he acknowledged.

A pair of sacrifice flies helped the Hornets early as they built a 4-2 lead despite having just one hit through three innings, East’s triple.

As for the pitch, both hits Lee allowed in the first inning were of the infield variety. The first one was a grounder just to the right of the second-base back. Tucker, playing second, got to it but Ryan Daggs beat the rap at first.

That actually gave Greenwood its only real scoring threat of the game. Peyton Holt had been struck by a 3-2 pitch moments before. Connor Noland followed with a long drive that Allen ran down in deep center.

After Daggs’ hit, Lee got Cooper VanKooten to pop out to Garrett Misenheimer at third to end the threat.

He’d give up an infield hit on a swinging bunt toward third by Grant Morgan with one out in the second. But he was stranded.

The lefty worked around a two-out error in the third then another miscue in the sixth. The runner in the third was left on but the Hornets turned a doubleplay to erase the base-runner in the sixth.

“Both Evan and Shurt had not-good first innings and it didn’t affect them,” Bock said. “Shurtleff did a good job. That first inning got a little rough on him but the thing he didn’t do? He didn’t panic. He just kept plugging away right there. And there were some bad things that happened in there but he was fine.”

Shurtleff threw 60 pitches over four innings then Jackson needed just 40 to finish up.

“Now we have both of those arms that can come back on Tuesday,” Bock noted, referring to the Conway game.

Allen, Tucker and Jordan Gentry each had two hits in the opener. Lee, Misenheimer and Gentry each drove in two runs.

Bryant took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first against Greenwood starter Blaise Loman. Allen, who was on base in all four plate appearances in the first game and seven of nine for the day, was struck by an 0-2 pitch. With Dylan Hurt up, Allen swiped second. On a bunt and run, he took third as Hurt got the bunt down.

Lee followed and, after working the count to 2-1, picked up an RBI with a squeeze bunt.

In the third, the Hornets cracked five hits and scored four times, often taking Loman’s outside pitches the other way successfully.

The inning began with an infield hit by Tucker. With one out, Allen swatted a single to right. When Hurt singled, the bags were full for Lee who hit a chopper to Morgan at first. With a force available at the plate, Morgan threw home. Hoping to turn a doubleplay to get out of the jam, Jake Smith, the Bulldogs’ catcher, came off the plate before he caught the throw. So Tucker scored to make it 2-0 and the inning continued.

And the Hornets took advantage of the gift. Misenheimer smacked an RBI single to right and, on the very next pitch, Gentry cracked an RBI knock to right.

Austin Kelly, running for Lee, came in when East hit a grounder to VanKooten at second. Going to his right, VanKooten’s only hope of getting an out was a behind-the-back flip to Holt, the shortstop for a force. East reached first safely as Kelly scored to make it 5-0.

In the top of the fourth, Tucker laced his triple to right-center. With the infield hit, Aaron Orender shot a single past Holt who was left frozen after a delinquent try at a back-hand stop.

Holt then booted a grounder by Allen. Hurt sacrifice them to second and third and, after Lee walked, Misenheimer picked up an RBI when he was robbed of a hit by Holt. Orender scored as Misenheimer was thrown out at first.

The Hornets took the 7-0 lead into the top of the sixth. Allen beat out an infield hit and stole second. With one out, Lee doubled him home. Misenheimer walked and, after a pitching change, Gentry drilled an RBI single to center.

Walks to East and Kelly forced in the 10th run.

Holt reached on an error to start the home sixth, breaking a string in which Lee had retired seven in a row and 11 of 12. But Noland’s grounder to Misenheimer at third resulted in a doubleplay, niftily turned by Tucker who made a strong relay to first.

So when Daggs flew to Kelly in right, the game ended with the run-rule.

In the second game, Greenwood flashed some leather in the top of the first as Allen and Lee were both robbed of hits by right fielder Hunter Cardwell and Morgan at first, respectively.

In the home half, Cardwell singled on a 3-2 pitch. Winston Sagely sacrificed but Shurtleff fanned Noland. Daggs followed with a hump-backed liner into left-center that fell in for an RBI single.

A pair of walks followed as Greenwood loaded the bases.

After a visit from pitching coach Stephen Tharp, Shurtleff got a groundball. East got to it but had no play as Morgan beat out an RBI hit. But the uprising ended there when Jamison Griffin tapped back to Shurtleff for the third out.

The lead didn’t last long. In the top of the second, Gentry drew a one-out walk on four pitches. A pitch later, East burned center fielder Jax Burgess with a drive to the base of the wall for his run-scoring triple.

Kelly was plunked by the second pitch from VanKooten. A wild pitch allowed East to score and, after Tucker walked, Orender came through with a sacrifice fly to center, making it 3-2.

Shurtleff retired the first two in the home second before Smith laced a single to right. He appeared to be out of the inning when he induced a grounder from Noland. But an error allowed him to reach, putting runners at first and second with Daggs, the clean-up hitter coming to the plate. The count went to 3-2 then Shurtleff, starting to find command of his wicked slider, got the strikeout.

Lee walked to open the third, stole second and picked up a base on an errant throw. Misenheimer’s sacrifice fly made it 4-2.

Holt single to open Greenwood’s third then Shurtleff issued his third walk. Morgan grounded into a force at second but the Bulldogs still had runners at the corners with one out. Shurtleff proceeded to strike out Griffin and Burgess to end the inning.

He would work a 1-2-3 fourth thanks in part to a sparkling play by East deep in the hole at short to retire Noland for the third out.

Holt, who had taken over on the mound in the fourth and worked around a walk to Tucker and a single by Allen, issued a walk to Misenheimer to start the fifth. With one out, East slapped a single to right but Holt worked out of the jam to keep it 4-2.

Jackson took over on the mound for Bryant in the home fifth. He fanned the first two then gave up an infield hit on a chopper just out of his own reach up the middle. Morgan tapped into a force and the game went to the sixth.

Orender was popped on a 2-2 pitch. With Allen up, he stole second. Allen got a bunt down and beat it out for a single then Hurt bunted on a safety squeeze. When the ball was fielded quickly by Holt, Orender held at third as Allen advanced to second.

That brought up Lee, who worked the count to 2-2 before he unloaded on a breaking pitch for a line-drive homer that capped off the scoring in the game.

Jackson, overpowering the Bulldogs, fanned two more around a walk in the bottom of the sixth. He also got some defensive help from Tucker, who made a nice short-hop play in and to his left, to retire Burgess. Cardwell drew a walk after that but Smtih fanned.

In the seventh, Jackson waded through the heart of the Greenwood lineup, striking out the side to end it in style.

BRYANT-10 BRYANT-GW

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