Hornets surge to 8-2 win to earn share of 7A-Central championship
EDITOR’S NOTE: In this time of COVID-19, with no sports action, BryantDaily.com will be 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
The only thing that’s certain after Monday night is that the Bryant Hornets have earned a bye at the Class 7A State Tournament and along with the North Little Rock Charging Wildcats and the Little Rock Catholic Rockets will have a share of the 7A-Central Conference championship. And, depending on Tuesday’s games (which were rained out on Monday) between Conway and Russellville, and Cabot and Van Buren, it could be a five-way tie for the title.
The Hornets got their share of the title and one of the top two seeds for State with their sixth consecutive win, 8-2, over the Charging Wildcats on Senior Night Monday, while Catholic trounced Little Rock Central 12-2 to earn its bit. North Little Rock came into Monday’s action with a one-game edge on the other four contenders.
Central’s loss opens the door for Russellville or Cabot to earn a State bid at the Tigers’ expense, giving those two teams extra incentive going into Tuesday’s contests. Victories by Conway and/or Van Buren would enable either or both to grab a piece of the league title.[more]
In other words, the 7A-Central Conference standings are going to go down to the last out of the regular season.
Bryant did its part.
With the win, the Hornets are 22-8 overall and 8-6 in league play after they were 2-6 at one point along the way.
“We went from first in the conference to last then back to first and that doesn’t happen very often,” noted Hornets coach Kirk Bock. “The kids feel again like they did at the beginning of the year. They think they’re the best team in the state and I think they are. I think we have a good chance of doing well.
“I think the kids did a great job of going from 2-6 to back up to where they are,” he added. “Very easily, they could’ve just quit. They just started believing in themselves again. We went back to the fundamentals. And it wasn’t our defense and our pitching, we just weren’t squaring it up.”
With 27 playoff points no one can catch Bryant. Conway and Catholic have 21 each, Van Buren 18 and North Little Rock 16. Conway and Van Buren can gain a maximum of five points on Tuesday. Van Buren could still earn the league’s top seed with a win by five runs over Cabot while Conway either loses to Russellville or wins by one or two runs.
On Monday, though the Hornets only managed six hits against North Little Rock’s duo of Will Harris and Brooks Howard, four of those hits drove in two runs apiece — two of them, one by Tyler Brown and another by Caleb Garrett, came with two out in the four-run fourth; two more, one by Hunter Mayall and another by Garrett Bock, came with two out in the four-run sixth.
“Six hits isn’t a lot but they were timely hits,” said Bock. “That’s what we’ve been missing.”
Senior right-hander Ben Wells went the distance on the mound to pick up the victory. He struck out 11 and walked no one while scattering four hits. Both North Little Rock’s runs and two of those hits came in the first inning so Wells worked the final six frames shutting the Wildcats out on two hits, allowing just four base-runners.
“After the first inning, once we got some guys on, I felt good about our chances,” Bock said. “We didn’t in the second inning then the third inning and I thought if we could just break the ice . . . “
Trailing 2-0, the Hornet’s fourth began with a one-out single to left by Chris Joiner, which broke a string of eight straight that Harris had set down after Bock had singled and Jordan Taylor walked with one out in the first.
Harris got within a strike of getting out of the fourth unscathed but his 3-2 pitch grazed Brady Butler. A walk to B.J. Ellis loaded the bases for Brown who cracked a liner just beyond the reach of leaping second baseman Cain Cormier. Hayden Daniel, running for Ellis, reached third and Brown followed him to second to set the table for Garrett who shot the very next pitch into left to make it 4-2.
After Harris regained his form to retire the Hornets in order in the fifth, the sixth began with a grounder to third and a pop to short. But, on a 1-0 count, Ellis was hit by a pitch. And when Brown walked on four straight deliveries, Harris gave way to Howard.
But he walked Garrett to load the bases for Mayall, who blistered a single into center to chase home Daniel and Brown. Garrett Bock then put the capper on the scoring with a drive into left-center for a two-run triple to make it 8-2.
Wells not only didn’t walk anyone, he had just one three-ball count. He closed out the win in the top of the seventh, retiring the side on 12 pitches, just two of which were off the plate.
North Little Rock’s two-run first began with an error that allowed Ryan Scott to reach base. Andrew Hohn followed with a looper just beyond the reach of Bryant shortstop Jordan Taylor for a single. Blake Leisenring sacrificed the runners to second and third for Brittain Ibbotson, who slapped a sinking liner to left for a two-run single.
Wells retired nine of the next 10 batters. The only base-runner during that stretch was Ty Schaller who struck out but got to first on an errant throw. Brown, playing third, had just robbed Cormier of a hit then his throw to first was picked up on a bounce by Butler who was prone as he made the catch with his toe just barely making it back to the bag in time.
Derek Houser beat out an infield hit to break that string with one out in the top of the fourth. Hayden Byrd tapped one in front of the plate that Wells fielded. He tried to get the force at second but Shaquille Hayes, the courtesy runner for the catcher Houser, beat the throw.
Moments later, however, Wells made a pitch in the dirt that bounced off Ellis, the Hornets’ catcher. Hayes took off for third but Ellis gunned him down on a close play for the second out of the inning.
Byrd took second on the play but was stranded when Wells fanned Cormier.
Schaller opened the fifth with a double into the left-field corner but that proved to be the final North Little Rock hit. Wells retired the top three in the Wildcats’ order to strand Schaller.
In the sixth, he struck out Ibbotson but when the third strike in the dirt got into the umpire’s feet and Ellis couldn’t find it, Ibbotson reached. But, after David Hohn tapped to first, Wells struck out Houser and Byrd then eased through the seventh.
If the Hornets retain the top seed, they will open State play at noon on Saturday. If they are second, they’ll open at 2:30 on Saturday.
BRYANT 8, NORTH LITTLE ROCK 2
Charging Wildcats Hornets
Scott, rf 4 1 0 0 Mayall, dh 4 1 1 2
A.Hohn, cf 3 1 1 0 Bock, cf 4 0 2 2
Leisenring, dh 2 0 0 0 Taylor, ss 2 0 0 0
Ibbotson, lf 3 0 1 2 Joiner, 2b 4 1 1 0
D.Hohn, 3b 3 0 0 0 Hurt, 2b 0 0 0 0
Houser, c 3 0 1 0 Bullock, lf 3 0 0 0
Hayes, cr 0 0 0 0 Butler, 1b 2 1 0 0
Byrd, 1b 3 0 0 0 Ellis, c 1 0 0 0
Cormier, 2b 2 0 0 0 Daniel, cr 0 2 0 0
Tackett, ph 1 0 0 0 Brown, 3b 2 1 1 2
Schaller, ss 3 0 1 0 Wilson, pr 0 1 0 0
Harris, p 0 0 0 0 Garrett, rf 2 1 1 2
Howard, p 0 0 0 0 Wells, p 0 0 0 0
North Little Rock 200 000 0 — 2
BRYANT 000 404 x — 8
E—Butler, Ellis. LOB—North Little Rock 5, Bryant 5. 2B—Schaller. 3B—Bock. S—Leisenring. SB—Garrett.
Pitching ip r er h bb so
North Little Rock
Harris (L) 5.2 6 6 4 3 4
Howard 0.1 2 2 2 2 0
Wells (W) 7 2 1 4 0 11
HBP—Butler, Ellis (by Harris). WP—Wells 2.