Hornets win first game at tournament in Florida
EDITOR’S NOTE: Because the look back at each day in Bryant athletic history has been so favorably received during the time when there was no sports during the COVID-19 shutdown, BryantDaily.com will continue 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).
MAITLAND, Fla. — After an aggravating loss in the finals of the Billy Bock Classic in Pine Bluff on Saturday evening and a 14-hour[more] bus trip to Orlando, Fla., Saturday night and Sunday morning, the Bryant Hornets opened play in the Florida League High School Invitational Tournament with an 8-2 win over the St. John Neuman Celtics of Naples, Fla., today.
Seniors Landon Pickett and Lucas Castleberry each had two hits and right-hander Dylan Cross, back in a starter’s role after a rugged stint in relief on Saturday, went the distance allowing just four hits in the game.
“We played hard, we just kind of played slow,” commented Bryant head coach Kirk Bock. “You can make excuses if you want to, you can say it was the bus trip and all that, we just didn’t play as fast as we need to.
“We didn’t play bad by any means,” he added. “These guys hate losing like I do. They were focused up.”
A four-run fifth put the Hornets in control after they’d taken a 2-1 lead in the third inning. The Celtics were generous with gifts.
Pickett was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. Tyler Nelson drew a walk then Hayden Lessenberry’s tap back to the mound drew a wild throw that allowed Pickett to score. Nelson went to third and Lessenberry wound up on second. After Marcus Wilson came on to run for Lessenberry, the Bryant cather, Josh Pultro was hit by a deliver to load the bags again.
Evan Jobe then made a bid to clear them with a shot that was speared by the third baseman for the first out. It was the second bullet that the senior outfielder had hit with the bases loaded. In the second, he came up with the sacks full and one out. He lined into an inning-ending doubleplay.
In the fifth, Chris Joiner followed with a tap back to the mound for a force at second. But Wilson scored on a passed ball, then consecutive walks to Castleberry, Jordan Taylor and Cross made it 6-1.
St. John Neumann had take a 1-0 lead in the third inning on a walk, a sacrifice and a double. In the bottom of the inning, the Hornets scored twice. With one out, Castleberry walked and stole second. When Taylor bounced out, Castleberry took third. A walk to Cross followed then a passed ball allowed Castleberry to score. Hayden Daniel, in to run for the pitcher, took second on the play then scored on a liner up the middle by Pickett for an RBI single.
The Celtics managed a run in the top of the sixth on a single, a double and a RBI single to left. But Cross struck out the next two batters to strand a pair. He would work around a walk and an error in the seventh to close out the victory.
Cross walked three, hit a batter and struck out five in the game.
“His breaking ball was good,” Bock noted. “It was a little bit of a tight zone. I thought he threw a lot more for strikes than they gave him credit for but he had pretty good movement, he just didn’t have the zip that he has had. But he threw well enough to win and that’s the mark of a good pitcher if you don’t have your best stuff that night and you can still win. He found a way.”
In the bottom of the sixth, the Hornets had added two more to their lead. Nelson and Lessenberry each singled and, after Pultro sacrificed, Jobe was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Joiner’s sacrifice fly scored Nelson then Castleberry cracked a single to right to plate Wilson and cap the scoring.
On Tuesday, the team has an off day. They are set to play the Arlington Country Day High School Apaches of Jacksonville, Fla., on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Apaches boast a pair of Rawlings Sporting Goods pre-season all-American selections, Javier Baez, who was named to the first team and is listed as a shortstop and catcher, and Austin Marzolph, who was named to the second team and is listed as a first baseman and outfielder.