By Rob Patrick
It’s something that’s becoming a hallmark of the Bryant Hornets baseball program: When given[more] an opportunity through an opponent’s mistake, the Hornets consistently find a way to get something out of it.
Admittedly, it’s not always so but more often than not, if an opponent messes up, the Hornets burn them.
On Monday, the Bryant team returned to action at home after a week-long trip for eight games in five days in Florida, hosting the Monticello Billies. Six pitchers limited the Hornets to six hits but half of those hits drove in runs because those six hurlers also issued nine walks and hit a batter. The Billies committed a pair of errors along the way and Bryant parlayed all that into a 9-2 victory to improve to 13-5 on the season.
The Hornets were set to travel to play South Conference foe Little Rock Fair on Tuesday.
Monticello, using the game to knock the rust off after an idle spring break, could only muster four hits against a trio of pitchers. One of the Billies’ runs was earned.
“It was hard for us to get in rhythm with a pitcher when they’re changing them every inning,” mentioned Bryant head coach Kirk Bock. “They helped us out a lot. But we took advantage of some of that.”
Reflecting on the trip to Florida, Bock said of his team, “The kids competed. They played hard and, for the most part, really, really played smart. We got overmatched a few times with some arms but they found a way to beat them.”
The Hornets won 6 of 7 varsity games during the week with a JV loss to wrap up on Friday.
“It was a great trip,” the coach asserted. “It was a good experience for us. We got better coming out of Florida. Just the environment and seeing the arms that we saw helped us out a lot.”
Against Monticello, Trevor Ezell went 3 for 3 at the plate, driving in a pair of runs. Tyler Green, Hayden Lessenberry and Korey Thompson each had a hit as well.
Lefty Jason Hastings got the start on the mound and worked three scoreless innings, allowing a pair of singles in the second. He walked two and fanned one. Freshman Alex Shurtleff worked an inning then Devin Dupree finished up with three frames of two-hit relief without a walk. He fanned one and picked up the win.
Both of the walks that Hastings surrendered came in the first but in between the Hornets’ keystone combination of Ezell at short and Thompson at second turned a doubleplay. Hastings got out of the inning by inducing clean-up hitter Kameron Griffin to tap back to the mound.
In the second, Walker Jarrett singled only to be picked off first by Hastings. Beau Rush pulled a single into left but was stranded.
Hastings closed out his day of work with a 1-2-3 third that including an eye-popping play in the hole at short by Ezell.
“I thought we played well defensively,” Bock noted. “I think we’ve got the best infield in the state. If you’re going to roll it on the ground, we’re going to get a pair.”
The Hornets would turn another in the seventh after Monticello’s Blake Shirey yanked a bouncer down the left-field line. Left-fielder Marcus Wilson cut the ball off to hold Shirey to a single.
“That was one of the best plays of the day,” Bock asserted. “Marcus cut that ball off down the line and kept the doubleplay in order then the next guy hits into a doubleplay.”
Dupree ended it with a strikeout right after that.
The Hornets put up crooked numbers in each of the first three innings to grab a 7-0 lead. In the first, Monticello starter Cole Connelley walked Ezell, Lessenberry and Wilson to load the bags for Hayden Daniel who drew a pass to force in a run. Hastings followed with a tapper to the right side. As Lessenberry scored, Hastings reached first safely as the ball was booted at second by Christian Paul. When the throw from Paul got away from Griffin at first, Wilson tried to score only to be tagged out at the plate.
Still, the Hornets had a 2-0 lead and they doubled the margin in the second when Thompson cracked a single to greet Griffin, the new Billies’ hurler. An out later, Ezell blooped a base hit to left-center then Lessenberry lined a shot that fell in front of Jarrett in leftfield. Thompson sprinted home and, on the throw, Ezell and Lessenberry wound up at second and third. Wilson’s sacrifice fly made it 4-0.
Against Tucker Ward in the third, the Hornets plated three. Ty Harris was hit by a pitch, Trey Breeding walked and, with two down, Tyler Green ripped an RBI single to left.
Chase Tucker, in as a courtesy runner for Breeding, the Bryant catcher, took third on the play and Green hustled into second as Harris beat the throw to the plate. A pitch later, Ezell laced one to center to drive in two.
Monticello picked up its two in the top of the fourth when Shurtleff got off to a shaky start with walks to Connelley and Griffin. Jarrett placed a bunt down the third-base line that Shurtleff bounced off the mound to field but his throw to first was errant and Connelley was able to round third and score. Griffin, who wound up at third on the play, came home on Rush’s sacrifice fly to make it 7-2. Shurtleff fanned Shirey and got Ward to tap back to the mound to force the Billies to strand a runner at second.
Dupree took over in the fifth and retired the side in order. The frame concluded with a leaping catch of a line drive by Ezell. A one-out single by Griffin in the sixth came to nothing.
Monticello’s fourth pitcher, Cooper Williams retired all six batters he faced. Dakota Adams became the fifth hurler for the Billies in the seventh. Green led off with a hard shot right at third baseman Chris Kelley, who couldn’t handle it cleanly. Green reached safely then sprinted to third when Ezell’s bloop to left-center fell in. With Green drawing a throw, Ezell scampered into second.
With one out, walks to Wilson and Daniel forced in a run. Dupree then hit a tapper between first and the mound that Adams got to, bobbled and recovered in time for the out at first. But Dupree picked up the RBI as Ezell came in.
Adams strained something on the play, however, and, after a pitch to Harris, gave way to Blake Holstead, the sixth Billies’ pitcher. He proceeded to complete the walk to Harris but got Breeding to pop to short to end the inning.
Dupree and the Hornets’ defense took care of the rest.
BRYANT 9, MONTICELLO 2
Billies ab r h bi Hornets ab r h bi
Kelley, 3b 2 0 0 0 Green, cf 4 2 1 1
Naron, dh-lf 3 0 0 0 Ezell, ss 3 3 3 2
Connelley, p-2b 1 1 0 0 Lessenberry, dh 3 1 1 1
Case, cr 0 0 0 0 Wilson, lf 1 0 0 1
Griffin, 1b-p 2 1 1 0 Daniel, rf 2 0 0 1
Jarrett, lf 2 1 1 0 Hastings, p 2 0 0 1
Adams, p 0 0 0 0 Caldwell, cr 0 0 0 0
Holstead, p 0 0 0 0 Shurtleff, p 0 0 0 0
Rush, ss 2 0 1 1 Dupree, p 1 0 0 1
Shirey, c 3 0 1 0 Harris, 1b 1 1 0 0
Gates, cr 0 0 0 0 Breeding, c 3 0 0 0
Ward, cf-p 3 0 0 0 Tucker, cr 0 1 0 0
Pigott, rf 3 0 0 0 Thompson, 2b 3 1 1 0
Paul, 2b 0 0 0 0 Warner, 3b 0 0 0 0
Robinson, 1b 0 0 0 0
Philley, cf 0 0 0 0
Williams, p 0 0 0 0
Totals 21 2 4 1 Totals 23 9 6 8
Monticello 000 200 0 — 2
BRYANT 223 002 x — 9
E—Paul, Shurtleff, Kelley. DP—Bryant 2. LOB—Monticello 4, Bryant 8. S—Jarrett. SF—Wilson, Rush. SB—Ezell 2, Lessenberry, Daniel, Caldwell.
Pitching ip r er h bb so
Connelley (L) 1 2 2 0 5 0
Griffin 1 2 2 3 0 0
Ward 1 3 3 2 2 0
Williams 2 0 0 0 0 0
Adams 0.2 2 1 1 2 0
Holstead 0.1 0 0 0 0 0
Hastings 3 0 0 2 2 1
Shurtleff 1 2 1 0 2 1
Dupree (W) 3 0 0 1 0 1
HBP—Harris (by Ward).