Hornets’ sweep includes Bock’s 600th win

SILOAM SPRINGS — For any high school baseball coach to reach 600 wins is remarkable but to have a man and his son both reach that pinnacle — well, it’s downright extraordinary.

After his late father Billy Bock (whose name is almost automatically preceded by “Legendary” when he’s referred to in print) reached 641 wins in his high school coaching career. And, on Monday, his son Kirk, in his 25th season as a high school head baseball coach, joined him in the rarified air of the 600-win club when his team, the Bryant Hornets swept a 7A/6A-Central Conference doubleheader over the Siloam Springs Panthers.

It was a long trip that paid off nicely.

To start the season, the Hornets needed to win 24 games for Bock to reach the milestone. They picked up their 23rd and 24th (out of 26 games this season) by downing the Panthers 12-1 and 8-3.

“It’s been a long time,” the coach said afterwards. “And a lot of good players.”

Bock is in his eighth season at Bryant after coaching at Harrison, Van Buren and Mountainburg. He led Harrison to a State title and has guided the Hornets to three with an eye on a fourth this year if all goes well.

On Monday, lefty Evan Lee pitched a one-hitter in the opener, striking out 10. Logan Allen and Jordan Gentry each had three hits with Allen knocking in five runs. Gentry drove in two. (With hits in both games, Lee extended his hitting streak to 18 games.)

In game two, the Hornets snapped a 2-2 tie with three runs in the fourth and three more in the fifth but, fully aware that Siloam Springs had rallied from a 7-0 deficit to beat a very good Little Rock Catholic team 8-7, Bock was trying tot he end to get his team to keep adding runs as they nursed their lead late in the game. The Panthers scored to cut it to 8-3 in the bottom of the sixth. And they had runners at first and third with one out before Bryant got out of the inning.

When the first two batters, Jordan Gentry and Jake East, reached on walks to start the top of the seventh, the coach had Aaron Orender sacrifice them into scoring position. But Eli Hawbaker, the third Panther pitcher of the game, got out of the jam.

And a bulldog effort by right-harder Alex Shurtleff kept Siloam Springs at bay as he picked up his 10th strikeout in the bottom of the seventh and his teammates turned a game-ending double play.

“Especially in a small yard, nothing’s for sure,” Bock said, referencing the field which was marked at 335 feet deep down the lines but also to straightaway center. “Once you give guys some momentum, they can take it from you.”

The park had to give some of the Hornets flashbacks to their earliest days of baseball at Bryant’s Ashley Park as time after time, trains rolled past the Siloam Springs park beyond the outfield fence as they do beyond the fence at the Teeny League Field at Ashley.

The win set up a showdown between the Hornets and the rival Conway Wampus Cats. Bryant will try to avenge its lone conference loss and the only setback of the season against an Arkansas team. The game is scheduled for Friday but, if threatening weather is forecast, it may be moved up to Thursday.

On Monday, Siloam Springs actually scored first in both contests.

In the first inning of the opener, Bryant had loaded the bases but come  up empty. In the bottom half, a walk to Zac Bolstad, a sacrifice by Dodge Pruitt and a groundout from Dawson Armstrong set up Kaleb Francis, who singled in the run.

The turned out to be the lone Siloam Springs hit in the game. Lee struck out six in a row before issuing a third-inning walk to Armstrong. He worked around another pass in the fourth, thus retiring 13 of the last 15 he faced.

After falling behind, the Hornets took advantage of two of the Panthers’ eight errors in the game to plate five runs. Walks to Jake East and Seth Tucker on either side of an error that allowed Orender to reach, Allen drilled a triple to right center to clear the bags.

Dylan Hurt got a bunt down on the squeeze play and, though it looked like Allen slid under the tag following a high throw from Armstrong, the Siloam pitcher, he was called out.

But Shurtleff, serving as Hurt’s courtesy runner in the first game, stole second and, after Lee walked and Garrett Misenheimer reached on an error to load the bases, Gentry drilled a single down the left-field line to chase home two.

Lee struck out the side in the bottom of the inning and the Hornets’ revved up the offense again. An error allowed Joey Cates to reach base with one out. He took second on an error on a pickoff try then tagged and went to third on Allen’s fly to right. When Hurt walked and ball four got away from the catcher, Cates scored.

After a change of pitchers, Lee sliced an RBI single to left. Misenheimer worked a walk, Gentry singled then Grayson Prince, running for Lee, crossed the plate when Jake East beat out an infield hit.

Lee struck last out the side around a walk in the bottom of the third then, in the fourth, Tucker walked, stole second and scored on Cates’ single up the middle. And when the ball was booted in the outfield, Cates hustled into second.

Allen beat out a bunt single then left early from first with Hurt at the plate. The Panthers ran down and tagged Allen out but not before Cates sprinted home to make it 10-1.

The Hornets made it a run-rule lead in the top of the fifth. Gentry doubled to right-center, East walked and, after Orender sacrificed them to second and third, Cates walked to load the bases for Allen, who came through with a lined single to right, plating two.

In the second game, Siloam Springs loaded the bases in the bottom of the first when Bolstad was struck by a Shurtleff delivery then, with one out, Armstrong and Francis singled to load the bags.

Shurtleff struck out Chandler Cook then battled Kyle Comiskey to a full count. The next pitch fooled Cook who appeared to go around on his swing before checking it. But the home plate umpire said he held up and, upon asking for an opinion from the field ump, the rulings stood, forcing in a run.

Logan Hamilton kept the Hornets off the board until the third when they scored twice without a hit. Cates led off and was plunked. He swiped second, drew an errant throw and hustled to third. He remained there with two out but Lee worked a walk and the duo worked a double steal with Lee drawing a pickoff throw with an early jump.

On the late throw to the plate, Lee wound up at second. Misenheimer drew another walk then so did Gentry to load up the bases. A wild pitch allowed Lee to score, giving Bryant a 2-1 lead.

The first of four errors by the Hornets led to an answering run in the home third. Francis singled in the run. Hurt, however, threw Francis out when he tried to steal second then Shurtleff struck out Cook to send it to the fourth.

The strikeout started a stretch in which Shurtleff and the Bryant defense retired eighth batters in a row before Francis singled with one out in the bottom of the eighth. It was his third hit of the game.

The Hornets’ tie breaking burst in the fourth began with their first hit of the game, a ringing double by Orender to left. Tucker walked and Hamilton, the starter on the mound, gave way to Francis. He walked Cates to load the bases and, though Allen grounded into a double play, the tie breaking run scored.

Hurt singled in a run and courtesy-runner Austin Kelly raced home when Lee belted a triple into the right-field corner.

In the fifth, the Hornets added on. Gentry lashed a double, took third on a wild pitch and scored on East’s sacrifice fly. Singles by Orender and Tucker resulted in Hawbaker getting the call to the mound.

His first pitch hit Cates to load the bases. Orender scored when Allen grounded into a force at second. Again, Allen left early and got in a rundown, staying in it long enough for Tucker to score.

Following Francis’ single to break Shurtleff’s string in the home sixth, Cook reached on an error. With runners at first and third, Hurt had Cook picked off only to have his throw sail. Francis went to third then scored on a blo0p single by Comiskey to make it 8-3.

At third, Shurtleff picked off Cook to take the starch out of any comeback thoughts the Panthers might have been stoking. A strikeout of Josh Hunt ended the inning.

“We’ve got to clean up some things defensively,” Bock said as he looked back over the entire evening. “Offensively, we did a really good job but our pitching really helped us stay in it. Both did a tremendous job, Evan and Alex.”

Lee and Orender each had two hits in the nightcap.

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