Hornets score twice in last at-bat to down White Hall, reach Bock Classic finale
EDITOR’S NOTE: Because the look back at each day in Bryant athletic history has been so favorably received during the time when there was no sports during the COVID-19 shutdown, BryantDaily.com will continue posting past stories of Bryant athletics either posted on BryantDaily.com (from 2009 to the present) or published in the Bryant Times (from 1998 to 2008).
By Rob Patrick
WHITE HALL — A pitcher’s duel between Bryant’s Jordan Taylor and White Hall’s Zach Barr turned into a seesaw battle over the final inning and a half Friday evening.
Neither starter got the win but Taylor made sure he wouldn’t get the loss with a clutch RBI single to tie the game 3-3 in the bottom of the seventh, setting the stage for Landon Pickett to drive in the difference-maker.
The Hornets’ 4-3 win secured a spot in the championship game for the eighth annual Billy Bock Classic at Taylor Field on Saturday. They’ll be after the third Classic crown in the last four years and second in a row.
Trailing 2-1 going into the bottom of the sixth, the Hornets rallied to tie. Tyler Nelson’s second double high off the fence in right-center got the uprising started. It proved to be the final batter for Barr, the Bulldogs’ ace who has already committed to play at UCA next year. Right-hander Adam Law came on and got Hayden Lessenberry to bounce to short, getting Nelson to third. Josh Pultro’s shot up the middle for a single, got him home.
In the top of the seventh, pinch-hitter Mason Rush got a seeing-eye bouncer through to center despite diving attempts by Nelson from short and Ozzie Hurt from second. Michael Acosta sacrificed Jeremy Sprinke, who re-entered to run for Rush, to second. Dylan James, who had hit the ball hard three times but twice right at Bryant fielders, got behind 1-2 in the count before stroking a liner to left-center for an RBI single that put the Bulldogs back on top 3-2.
Taylor, who struck out 11 batters and walked just two, was up over 100 pitches at that point. Bryant head coach Kirk Bock brought on Caleb Milam who struck out both batters he faced to send it to the bottom of the seventh.
Bock was asked if he thought about pulling Taylor before the start of the inning.
“I didn’t even think about it,” he replied, “because I knew what they couldn’t hit and I knew what he could throw. The first hit could’ve gone either way. It was just a dribbler just out of our reach. (James) is a good, solid hitter. He did a good job on what J.T. was trying to do to him. His pitch count was up there a little bit so once they took the lead, I had a fresh arm to go with.”
The Hornets had the top of the order up and Chris Joiner fought off a pair of two-strike pitches from Law then cracked a liner up the middle for a single. With Tyler Green on to run for Joiner, Tyler Brown came up to sacrifice. He got the bunt down and when Law slipped down trying to get to it, he had a hit and the Hornets at the potential tying and winner runs on base.
Law was replaced by big right-hander Josh Guy and Taylor came to the plate. For five pitches, Taylor tried to sacrifice. With Sprinkle, the shortstop, playing in the hole and the Bulldogs’ obviously planning to run the “wheel play” to try to get the out at third, the count went to 3-2.
On two occasions earlier in the game, Bock had his batters bunting with two strikes and both were successful. But this time, he let Taylor swing it and he smacked a single just to the left of the second-base bag for a game-tying single.
“We were bunting,” Bock acknowledged regarding a possible two-strike bunt. “I thought about it but right there at the last minute I decided not to. Once I saw the shortstop really (cheating over toward third). If he had been back, we were going to bunt the baseball. Once I saw him over, it just opened up the middle.”
Hayden Daniel, running for Brown, raced to third on the throw to the plate and Taylor hustled into second. Dylan Cross was sent to first with an intentional walk to load the bases and set up a force at every spot but, on Guy’s first pitch to Pickett, the game-winner whizzed past him up the middle.
White Hall had taken a 2-0 lead in the opening inning as every other batter doubled. James got the first one and, with one down, Guy knocked one off the fence to make it 1-0. With two away, Jacob Holland cracked a two-bagger down the line to make it 2-0.
After that, Taylor started a string in which he retired 12 in a row before Acosta reached on an error with two down in the bottom of the fifth. He pitched around that then worked out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the sixth.
“J.T. did a good job,” Bock commented. “He kind of settled down after the first inning and he found a way to get them out. He did a good job of just hitting his spots a little better. In the first inning, he was leaving things over the plate and it hurt him. But he did an excellent job.”
Barr, meanwhile, worked around a walk and a hit batsman in the first. He hit Lessenberry with one out in the second and, on a pair of wild pitches, courtesy runner Marcus Wilson got to third only to be stranded.
Joiner reached on an error to start the third and, after stealing second, went to third when Brown bunted him over on an 0-2 count. On a safety squeeze, Barr fielded Taylor’s bunt too efficiently for Joiner to score. Cross bounced out as Barr escaped again.
The Hornets broke through, however, in the fourth. Pickett shot one off the fence but was held to a single by White Hall centerfielder Scott Scifres. Though he advanced on a passed ball, he had to hold up on Nelson’s drive to right-center, advancing when the ball hit halfway up the 20-foot fence.
With runners at second and third, Lessenberry drew a walk to load the bags. An out later, Evan Jobe’s sacrifice fly got the run in.
Barr pitched around a one-out walk in the fifth then gave up the lead-off double in the sixth and was replaced.
White Hall’s home sixth began with Taylor fanning Scifres. Guy walked, however, and Barr singled to right. A walk to Holland loaded the bases but Taylor struck out Nathan Lee and got pinch-hitter Clay Cannon to hit a chopper that Nelson flagged down up the middle. His throw to first ended the threat and set up the dramatic finish.
The Hornets take a 7-1 record into Saturday’s finale. Originally set to be played at 4:30 p.m., Bock was hoping to have the game time moved to 11:30 a.m., so the team could start its trip to Sanford, Fla., for the 2011 Florida League High School Invitational Tournament during spring break.
HORNETS 4, BULLDOGS 3
White Hall ab r h bi Bryant ab r h bi
James, 3b 4 1 2 1 Joiner, lf 4 0 1 0
Scifres, cf 4 0 0 0 T.Green, pr 0 1 0 0
Guy, 1b-p 3 1 1 1 T.Brown, 3b 2 0 1 0
Barr, p-rf-1b 3 0 1 0 Daniel, pr 0 1 0 0
Hale, cr 0 0 0 0 Taylor, p-ss 2 0 1 1
Holland, dh 2 0 1 1 Daniel, cr 0 0 0 0
Lee, c 3 0 0 0 Cross, dh 3 0 0 0
H.Brown, rf 2 0 0 0 Pickett, 1b 4 1 2 1
Cannon, ph 1 0 0 0 Nelson, ss-2b 3 1 2 0
Law, p 0 0 0 0 Lessenberry, c 1 0 0 0
Smith, rf 0 0 0 0 Wilson, cr 0 0 0 0
Sprinkle, ss 3 1 0 0 Pultro, cf 3 0 1 1
Rush, ph 1 0 1 0 Jobe, rf 2 0 0 1
Acosta, lf 2 0 0 0 Hurt, 2b 0 0 0 0
Bryan, 2b 0 0 0 0 Milam, p 0 0 0 0
Totals 27 3 6 3 Totals 24 4 8 4
White Hall 200 000 1 — 3
BRYANT 000 101 2 — 4
No one out when winning run scored.
E—Sprinkle, T.Brown. DP—White Hall 1. LOB—White Hall 6, Bryant 10. 2B—James, Guy, Holland, Nelson 2. SB—Joiner, Daniel. S—T.Brown, Acosta. SF—Jobe.
Pitching ip r er h bb so
Barr 5 2 2 3 3 6
Law (L) 1 2 2 3 0 0
Guy 0 0 0 2 1 0
Taylor 6.1 3 3 6 2 11
Milam (W) 0.2 0 0 0 0 2
Barr faced one batter in the sixth.
Law faced two batters in the seventh.
Guy faced three batters in the seventh.
HBP—Taylor, Lessenberry (by Barr). WP—Barr 2. PB—Lee.