Photos courtesy of Jimmy Jones/Jones Sports Media
Even though the Bryant Hornets already had at least a share of the 6A-Central Conference championship and was assured of the number one seed to the 6A State Tournament in Fort Smith, head coach Travis Queck insisted he and his team did not want to back into a league title.
They made sure of it in no uncertain terms on Tuesday as they pounded out an 11-0 win over the North Little Rock Charging Wildcats to secure the outright crown.
Aiden Adams fired a three-hit shutout, fanning six without a walk. Thanks to his catcher Ryan Riggs throwing out a would-be base-stealer, the senior lefty faced two over the minimum.
Austin Ledbetter had two hits and drove in three while Riggs added two knocks.
“North Little Rock, there’s no way they came in thinking we were going to swing it that way,” said Queck.
In the previous meeting between the two teams, the Hornets eked out a 3-1 win at North Little Rock. Plus, the Hornets were coming off a 1-0 loss to Cabot on Friday in which they were held hitless for the first five innings.
“I’m proud of our guys for taking the challenge presented to them from last Friday to today,” the coach commented. “They put last Friday behind them and executed. It took an at-bat to see what really worked.”
Actually, Turner Seelinger, in his first at bat, got things going for the Hornets with a two-out triple in the bottom of the second. He scored on a wild pitch.
“Turner got us going by hitting the ball in the right-center alley,” Queck said. “Guys want to pitch us backwards and see how slow they can get it. At what point we’re going to have to sit back — which is a great plan — we’re going to have to make an adjustment. And I thought the guys did a good job.”
Adams, who started the previous meeting with the Charging Wildcats and had to battle through for the win, was much sharper this time. All three North Little Rock hits were singles, one was an infield hit.
“The key was getting him back on the bump,” said Queck. “He actually texted me this weekend, telling me he saw some things he was doing that he could correct. I agree with him. It was the same thing that I’d been saying to him during his ‘pens. He saw it and he saw what the results were and made the adjustment. He came out and threw strikes. He did what he needed to do, which was miss barrels. It was a great outing for him.”
Bryant’s eight-run third blew open the game. Riggs started it with a double. Noah Davis sacrificed him to third then Ledbetter drove an RBI double to right to make it 2-0.
Conner Martin reached on a third-strike wild pitch. With J.T. Parker at the plate, North Little Rock lefty Jaeden Willis unleashed another wild pitch allowing Ledbetter to score.
Parker walked then so did Garret Wilson.
Caleb Bryant relieved for the Cats and got a strikeout before Seelinger hit a fly to right that got caught in the wind. North Little Rock’s Wesley Bird struggled to get a bead on the ball and eventually dropped it. Both Parker and Wilson scored as Seelinger reached second.
Lawson Speer was hit by a pitch to bring Riggs back to the plate. He ripped a single up the middle, driving in Seelinger and making it 7-0.
Davis was struck by a 2-2 delivery and the bases were loaded.
Jordan Kelly became the third North Little Rock pitcher and he was greeted by Ledbetter, who yanked an RBI single to left that drove in two more, capping off the outburst.
Adams pitched around a one-out single to Gage Sorensen in the top of the fourth. In the home half, the Hornets tacked on a pair of runs to make it a run-rule difference.
Parker drew a lead-off walk and, with one out, Grant Johnson singled up the middle. Parker went to third and after Logan White, returning to run for Johnson, stole second, Seelinger picked up an RBI with a groundout and Speer doubled in White to made it 11-0.
Adams retired the Cats in order in the top of the fifth, fanning the last two batters.
The Hornets finish conference play with a 12-2 record. They’re 21-3 overall with a trio of non-conference games scheduled to keep them sharp ahead of their State Tournament debut on Friday, May 14. They’ll travel to Russellville on Thursday to play Bentonville West at Arkansas Tech University. On Saturday, they host Sheridan. They’ll have Senior Night on Monday, May 10 against Lake Hamilton.