The Bryant Hornets used small ball and the long ball against the Pine Bluff Zebras on Thursday evening and, behind solid defense and pitching, forged a 7-1 win at Bryant High School Field.
Beaux Bonvillain, with seventh-inning help from Ty Medford, earned the win, scattering six hits over six frames with six strikeouts and no walks.
Offensively, the small ball included squeeze bunts by Jordan Gentry and Jake East plus another by Garrett Misenheimer that actually went for an RBI single, which came moments after a sacrifice bunt by Dylan Hurt.
As for the long ball, that was supplied by Evan Lee, who lined a solo bomb over the right-field fence to lead off the fifth.
Misenheimer and Aaron Orender had two hits each while Lee reached base all four plate appearances. Misenheimer drove in three runs.
The Hornets, now 11-1, are ranked No. 1 in the state by Prep Baseball Report and No. 35 in the country by CBS Sports/MaxPreps. They’ll open 7A/6A-Central Conference play with a doubleheader on Friday at Greenwood. Pine Bluff, now 6-4 overall with a 1-1 mark in the 6A-South Conference, returns to league play against Little Rock Hall on Friday.
Two of the Zebras’ first four hitters had singles against Bonvillain but the lefty picked both of them off first. After the second pick, however, a two-out, two-strike single by Xavier Smith was followed by a two-out, two-strike drive to right by Cameron Robertson. Bryant right-fielder Joey Cates sprinted a long way to get a glove on the ball at the line but couldn’t haul it in. Robertson wound up with an RBI triple.
Bonvillain kept it 1-0 when he fanned his mound counterpart Malik Isaiah to end the inning with Robertson stranded at third.
That started a stretch in which Bonvillain and the Bryant defense set down eight Zebras in succession and 11 of 12.
The Hornets went into the third trailing by that 1-0 score but patience against Isaiah, a lefty who changed speeds well, paid off. With one out, Logan Allen, Hurt and Lee drew walks. Misenheimer delivered a solid single up the middle, chasing in two runs.
And when the late relay throw to the plate was off target, Lee pulled into third and Misenheimer advanced to second.
That’s when the first round of small ball commenced. Gentry got a safety squeeze bunt down and when Isaiah’s awkward throw to first was off target, not only did Lee score but Gentry reached safely.
With Misenheimer at third, East got a squeeze bunt down to pick up the RBI, making it 4-1.
Bonvillain pitched around a one-out single to Robertson in the top of the fifth then, on a 3-2 pitch from reliever Corey Jackson for Pine Bluff, Lee unloaded with his second round-tripper of the season.
In the top of the sixth, Bonvillain fanned Braylen Jones then got Roderick Stinson to roll one to Misenheimer’s left. The third sacker charged the ball and rushed his throw a bit pulling Orender off the bag at first.
Brandon Lowe hit a liner to short right-center but Allen charged in and flagged it down. As had been the case in the second, Bonvillain got a strike away from getting out of the inning but Jaylon Deshazier yanked the 0-2 delivery into the left-field corner for a double. Lee got the ball back to the infield in a hurry to keep Stinson at third.
After a visit from pitching coach Stephen Tharp, Bonvillain fanned O’Guinn to keep it 5-1.
In the home sixth, Orender shot his second single to left and Allen was plunked by a Jackson delivery. Hurt got the sacrifice bunt down to move them to second and third. With Lee at the plate, Jackson unleashed a wild pitch that allowed Konnor Clontz (in running for Orender) to score. With Allen at third, Lee walked. Misenheimer squared for the squeeze and bunted the ball to the right side. O’Guinn charged in from first to field the ball but Misenheimer got to first before Stinson, who was rushing over to cover from second. Allen scored easily to make it 7-1.
Medford relieved in the top of the seventh and needed just 10 pitches to retire the side in order. Nifty defensive plays by Misenheimer at third and Seth Tucker at second helped. Medford ended it by fanning Jackson.